What’s in a Name? A Guide to Naming Bridges (and other Things)

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What’s in a name? Somewhere in New York City, a new set of twin bridges will be named after New York Governor Mario Cuomo for his years of service in the Big Apple, the state and in the Republican Party. It would be the 12th bridge in the metropolitan area to have been named after a famous person, including the two well-known American politicians. Despite leaving their marks on their legacies, what in a name?

 

What’s in a name?  In states, like Oklahoma, bridges have been named for politicians who wanted to be famous during their time in office, but whose political careers were marred by scandal. They include the likes of Henry Simpson Johnston, Frank Lynch and Raymond Gary- the first was impeached and thrown out after two years as governor; the second took kickbacks while representative and the other “bought organs for the churches and pianos for the bawds,” as the secretary used in her title of the biography, bashing the male half of the husband-wife team. What’s in a name?

 

What’s in a name? Somewhere in the United States, bridges are being conceived and names are being brought up after current members of Congress and the White House. Whether it is a suspension bridge spanning the Minnesota River east of Granite Falls- making it the longest in the world- named after Paul Ryan, a piece of slab bridge over the Ohio River in Cincinnati named after Mitch McConnell, A concrete deck cantilever bridge with a marble statue named after Donald Trump in Washington, and even a series of cable-stayed bridges with a mermaid statue resembling Ms. Conway. These people are famous for undoing the legacy of President Obama that had benefitted much of the American population, almost all of whom think these people deserve to get the boot earliest after the Congressional Elections next year, which if Democrats retake Congress by the widest of margins, impeachment, and call for new presidential elections will definitely be on the table.  What’s in a name?

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What’s in a name? In Pittsburgh, three sister bridges, each built in the late 1920s, each having a similar design, are named after three local but national favorites: Rachel Carson, Andy Warhol and Roberto Clemente, each setting their marks in the areas of environment, arts and sports respectively; each one has posters, statues and other decorations served in honor and memory. Each one we remember in our history books. What’s in a name?

 

What’s in a name? Many bridges are named after famous people, yet 75% really were not that famous, unless you are thinking of “dollar and sense.” If we look at each sign on the structure, we sometimes have to ask the following questions: 1. Who were these people? 2. How did they leave their mark in history? 3. Was their legacy beneficial or a hindrance? If we look at the bridges that were named after unknown politicians, many of us don’t even know who they really were, let alone don’t want to even know about them because of corruption, scandals and other policies that harmed the American public and our allies. Is our history becoming based on how politicians perform “on stage” on Capitol Hill? Let alone in our state legislature?  If so, then may the most attractive jobs in America be a politician, for like lawyers (many, not all of them), they love to lie, deceive, gaslight and even rob the common person, regardless of social, ethical, religious and psychological backgrounds. If we want that, then we might as well have bridges named after Hollywood film stars who have done the stuff politicians have done, for it would have the exact same effect.

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When I think of America, I think of the people who really did make a difference in terms of transforming the country to what it is today. I think of Giovanni de Verrazano who discovered New York, and whose bridge, Othmar H. Ammann’s last prized landmark before his death in 1965, was named after him. That bridge is still connecting Staten Island and Brooklyn. I think of Daniel Boone, who opened the new frontier for settlers. There had been a bridge named for him before it was imploded in place of a new bland concrete slab bridge in 2016. I think of George Washington, who led the colonies to victory, presided over the Constitution and was our first president. While there were several bridges named after him, many are being wiped off the map. The same applies to other structures named after the founding fathers.  And while we have several structures named in honor and memory of the veterans who fought in the wars, the aesthetic value is really bland in taste and the artistic value has really gotten lost in the pile of steel and concrete.

 

Have we lost our true value of our culture, our history and even our identity?  Have we given up too much of our freedom and creative talents to make the best for others, while giving the narccists who have done nothing good the honors they don’t deserve?  Have we forgotten the concept of being honored for our own merits?  When I look at the bridges named after Rachel Carson, Roberto Clemente and Andy Warhol in Pittsburgh, I see the reason behind them getting their honors, for they contributed to shaping American society to what is still is today. Even having bridges named in honor of Stan (the Man) Musial and James Eads in St. Louis are justified, for the former left his mark in baseball and the latter for creating the first steel bridge in America. Have we seen politicians contribute as these people have done? The answer to that question is, in my humble opinion is no, with only a few exceptions.  It’s really time to take a look at how we honor our people. Do we honor them because of money and power or because they carry a certain title? Or do we honor them for their merits and contributions to American society?

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Each of us has our set of guidelines. Mine would be on the basis of creating and innovating things that have contributed to America in terms of science and technology, history, culture and society. I hope you all have the same ideas as I do, if we really want to move forward as an entity that should be setting examples for other countries.

 

And while my ( not yet honored) candidates would make up a quarter of the country’s population, I have my top five who deserve to have their bridges named after them, and I hope the designs will be more appealing than just having green road signs at each entrance. My top five would be:  Barack Obama, Red Cloud, Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs and Othmar H. Ammann. Honorably mentioned would include Yogi Berra, Lou Gehrig, Sally Ride, Vince Lombardi, Carrie Fisher, Sinclair Lewis, Garrison Keillor, Charlie Wilson, George HW Bush, Harper Lee and Massasoit, just to name a few. We need a few crossings but not necessarily new bridges. We just need to be sensible as to naming the next bridges after famous people.

 

And so, for the Fourth of July, I must ask you: Who would deserve to be honored on a bridge and/or other places? Think very carefully before deciding…..

 

The  Bridgehunter’s Chronicles and sister column The Flensburg Files would like to wish all Americans at home and abroad a Happy Fourth of July. Think of the people who made a difference for this country and how it set an example for others.

 

God bless you!

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The Wrong Picture

Photo taken by Nathan Holth
Photo taken by Nathan Holth

Over the holiday season, as I was celebrating with family and getting some photo opportunities of some bridges in Iowa and Minnesota, one of my fellow pontists brought this painting up to the attention of the historic bridge community. It was a sketch of low quality showing a tall suspension bridge, trying to go along the lines of the Golden Gate Bridge but it is unknown whether it is the Golden Girl or the Big Mac Bridge (aka Mackinac Bridge) in Michigan because it was too blurry to tell. To an art teacher, the “artist” portraying this bridge would have received a failing grade for its lack of quality. However, both the teacher as well as a historian would have gotten grey hair and wrinkly had they seen that the title of this “pseudo-drawing” been touted as The Brooklyn Bridge!

I think I feel the tremble of the ground as a result of the Roebling family coming out of their graves for that!

While this person had good intentions of making money, and Wal-mart (where the drawing was spotted) was the place to sell the artwork, little did he realize that with the help of the internet and some photos from books and other sources, he would have found out that there is a stark contrast between the Brooklyn, Mackinac and the Golden Gate Bridges. How stark? The photos below speak for themselves…..

Golden Gate Brifdge. Photo taken by Nathan Holth
Golden Gate Brifdge. Photo taken by Nathan Holth
Mackinac Bridge in Michigan. Photo taken by Nathan Holth
Mackinac Bridge in Michigan. Photo taken by Nathan Holth
Transversal view of the Brooklyn Bridge. Photo by Nathan Holth

The problem with this misperception of this drawing is that many people do not know what the bridges look like and will take drawings like this one to mislead them into knowing that it is this bridge, when in all reality the actual appearance is anything but that. Furthermore, both the aforementioned bridges have been seen in books and movies, so the differences between them should be obvious. Yet with our total embrace with electronic games and technology as if we are swimming in a pool of water is causing us to lose sight on our surroundings, let along our basic knowledge of history and other core subjects that they all seem to be placed in the backburner. We become disillusioned to what we see, and the younger the generation, the more likely they will identify with the wrong items and have them stick to a point where it becomes more difficult to unglue.

So in order to avoid this type of misunderstanding and misleading identification, here is a word of advice to give to the next person who attempts to draw or paint a picture of something as iconic as a historic bridge: Get it right the first time!

Look at the photos and films, visualize in your head what it looks like and how it should look on paper, and allow yourself an ample amount of time to do the artwork correctly. And don’t worry about the issues of copyright laws. If you do the artwork differently than the one before that, yours will turn out just as well, if not better.

As Gaudenz Assenza, former professor of political science at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany and now professor at the Catholic University of Rozemborok in Slovakia once quoted: Quality trumps quantity in all aspects of life.  While this may refer to aspects on the level of academia, it also applies to all aspects in life, especially when it comes to something like artwork. Think about this before putting the lead to the leaf, no matter how you do it.

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