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The Boston Globe

Ideas

What the Longfellow Bridge did for Boston

In praise of an underappreciated landmark

On July 31, 1907, 100,000 people lined the Charles River to mark the opening of a new bridge—a rare day of joint celebration between the competitive city governments of Boston and Cambridge. There was a luncheon, a parade, speeches. The fireworks launched from the river at dusk were later described by the Cambridge Chronicle as “unquestionably the finest display ever seen in these parts.”

More than a century later, the bridge they celebrated—known as the Cambridge Bridge at the time, renamed the Longfellow in 1927—is being disassembled, the more than 2,000 granite blocks that form its central towers carried off for cleaning and repair. The $255 million project, and three-year traffic snarl it causes, is intended to finally fix the decaying steel understructure and bring the bridge up to modern code.

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