George Washington Bridge Trivia

Enjoy local trivia? Then you’ll have fun with these tidbits about the world’s most beautiful bridge!

  • The Hudson River was originally crossed by Native Americans in canoes. Later, early Dutch settlers used rowboats.
  • George Washington, the “father of our country”, actually crossed the Hudson River between Washington Heights in upper Manhattan and Fort Lee in the Palisades of New Jersey over two centuries ago, by boat.
  • 1937 Port Authority Georger Washington Bridge matchbook coverLocal newspapers had fun inventing names for the Hudson River bridge, now called the George Washington Bridge, before it was constructed. Their suggestions? Gate of Paradise, Bridge of Prosperity, Experiment, Prohibition, Pride of the Nation, Public, Bistate and Mother’s Bridge! For an enteresting glimpse into the “Bridge That Never Was”, click here.
  • The George Washington Bridge was opened in 1931. It was designed to have the room and strength to accommodate either a railroad or a second deck or vehicular traffic. The lower level deck was opened on August 29, 1962.
  • On its first day of operation, 55,523 vehicles, 33,540 pedestrians and a man named Martin Solomon on a horse named “Rubio” crossed the Bridge. On the Bridge’s 50th anniversary on October 25, 1981, Mr. Solomon said, “The bridge holds very fond memories for me, for I was a young man then. Give me a horse and I’ll try it again.”
  • Four giant cables, each three feet in diameter, hold the Bridge in place. The cables contain 26,424 wires, each thinner than a pencil. Stretched out, the wires would reach 107,000 miles--nearly halfway to the moon! That 107,000 miles of cables would go around the earth about four times at the equator!
  • The George Washington Bridge’s two giant towers are constructed from 43,000 tons of steel, and top out at 600 feet.
  • In 1935, an aviation beacon was installed on top of the New York tower. It is named the Will Rodgers–Wiley Post Memorial Beacon, after the popular entertainer and aviator.
  • The Little Red Lighthouse made famous in the children’s book by Hildegarde Swift and Lynn Ward in 1942 is located on the New York shore near the Bridge. It was built by the Coast Guard in 1902 to steer grain barges and other vessels away from the shoals of Jeffrey’s Hook. It was no longer needed when navigational lights were put on the bridge. It was saved from the auction block in 1951 and is under the jurisdiction of the New York City Parks Department.
  • 1944 DuBarry magazine adIn 1943, the first women toll collectors were hired temporarily in response to the war effort. They were not police officers and were replaced by police when World War II ended.
  • Also in 1943, the Bridge made its film debut in “Ball of Fire”, starring Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper. Many other films have followed, including “How to Marry a Millionaire”, “The In-Laws”, and “Desperately Seeking Susan”.
  • Since 1948, a 60 x 90 foot American flag has been flown on major U.S. holidays beneath the arch of the New Jersey tower. It is the world’s largest free-flying flag.
  • The distinguished American composer William Schuman wrote a musical composition entitled “George Washington Bridge” in 1950. Schuman said it was inspired by the impression the Bridge gave him as he crossed it and observed it at different times of the day. Schuman wrote, “This bridge has had for me an almost human personality.”
  • From 1963-1967, civilian toll collectors began replacing police, who had been assigned to the job since the Bridge opened. All of those hired to replace police officers in the tollbooths were female, until 1973, when the job was opened to those of both genders.
  • The famous “diamond necklace” or necklace lights on the cables of the GWB consists of 148 mercury vapor lights. The lights were added to the Bridge in April 1964, and added a special glimmer during the 1964-65 World’s Fair that continues to this day.
  • In the 1960s, a small plane safely landed on the two center upper level roadways. Luckily for the plane, the median barrier wasn’t added until 1970!
  • In 1970, the one-way toll collection system went into effect.
  • The George Washington Bridge is the busiest bridge in the world, accommodating nearly 100 million vehicles each year. In its first year of operation, it accommodated more than 5.5 million vehicles!

Trivia courtesy of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.

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