Friday, August 03, 2007

Longfellow Bridge and Funky Eddy


Long before anyone uttered or conceived of funky, Edmund March Wheelwright must have been one funky and fun dude. He comes to mind now because one of his many, many masterpieces is the 101-year-old Longfellow Bridge.

In light of the buckle-and-break I-35 bridge in Minneapolis, folks here look with trepidation at the fords that may fail.

There are numerous current and historical pix of the Longfellow at Structurae. The one at right is cropped from one of those.

Bridges are to last 50 to 100 years. Some hand-formed bridges last centuries (remember that Socrates was a proud stonecutter). The Longfellow is dong pretty well for an oldster.

Who the devil designed the very funky salt-and-pepper (named for its towers that resemble condiment dispensers)? Well, kiddies that would be the city of Boston architect for five very productive years, 1891 through 1895, E.M. Wheelwright.

My degrees of separation today is too easy...one. A dear friend is his great nephew. My chum, Farley Wheelwright, is 90 and was only six when E.M. died in 1912.

There are numerous books on the architect, but the highlights are on a bullet-point riddled Wikipedia page. Among his designs include:
  • Boston Public Library
  • Harvard Lampoon Building
  • Horticultural Hall
  • Larz Anderson Auto Museum
  • Longfellow Bridge
  • Massachusetts Historical Society Headquarters
  • Jordan Hall
  • Anderson Memorial Bridge
He was also consulting architect for the Museum of Fine Arts, Hartford's Bulkeley Bridge, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. You've been there, seen and used his work.

Short of the Lampoon Building (above left), which is intentionally perverse and irregular in design, everything is attractive and easy to use. Amusingly enough, except for the museums, you can see a lot of round funk in his designs. The bridges were sturdy, yes, but he clearly had fun with them. Compare the stone-jar look of both the Lampoon and Longfellow. For a guy born the decade before the Civil War, he was out there.

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