Bear Mountain Bridge Turns 100

 Bear Mountain Bridge centennial offerings!

The bridge, which opened Nov. 27, 1924, was the first span over the Hudson south of Albany

By Times Union Hudson Valley

PEEKSKILL — Celebrations marking 100 years since the opening of Bear Mountain Bridge in the lower Hudson Valley will include an online pop-up shop, guided hiking tours, an art workshop, an international engineering conference and a dedication ceremony, state officials announced Monday.

The Bear Mountain Bridge was dedicated Nov. 26, 1924, and opened to the public a day later on Thanksgiving. It was a groundbreaking engineering feat: the first vehicular bridge over the Hudson River south of Albany and the first suspension bridge with a concrete deck. Its opening spurred a boom in bridge building in New York and the entire country, according to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office.

The bridge was originally built by a private enterprise, the Bear Mountain Hudson River Bridge Co., which had connections with the Harriman family, who helped preserve Bear Mountain State Park. Construction began in the spring of 1923 and lasted 20 months.

Bear Mountain Bridge facts

In 1924, the roundtrip toll for a passenger car was $1.60, with surcharges for passengers. Starting May 1, the roundtrip toll will be $1.65 for E-ZPass drivers and $2.15 for Tolls by Mail customers. 

In September 1940, the New York State Bridge Authority acquired the bridge, which it still oversees as its southernmost span.

In 2018, the bridge received the ceremonial designation of “Purple Heart Veterans Memorial Bear Mountain Bridge” in honor of Purple Heart recipients and in recognition of the area’s rich military history.

The bridge is situated at the junction of four counties: Orange and Rockland on the west side of the river and Westchester and Putnam on the east side. In addition to serving over 7 million vehicles a year, the bridge is also the Hudson River crossing point for the Appalachian Trail.

Events and special offerings to commemorate the centennial include:

A BMB100 online pop-up shop: The e-commerce site, open until July 15, offers a variety of unique gifts commemorating the 100th anniversary of the bridge. Noteworthy items include prints and note cards featuring the work of Hudson Valley artists John F. Gould and his son Paul Gould. The shop also includes a limited-edition hat honoring the bridge’s ceremonial designation as the “Purple Heart Veterans Memorial Bear Mountain Bridge.”

Bear Mountain Bridge paint and learn at Fort Montgomery State Historic Site: On Saturday, Aug. 3, local artist Stasia Fernandez will offer painting lessons as participants take in views of the bridge from the vantage point of Fort Montgomery State Historic Site. Participants of all artistic levels will be treated to beautiful and historic views and learn new painting skills and historical knowledge, while also bringing home a canvas of their own work. The $30 fee covers the cost of materials and the lesson, a tour of the Revolutionary War battle site and a print of a Bear Mountain Bridge ink drawing by the late artist John F. Gould. Interested participants can email bmb100@nysba.ny.gov to be put on the notification list for this event.

Honoring veterans at the “Purple Heart Veterans Memorial Bear Mountain Bridge”: On Wednesday, Aug. 7 — National Purple Heart Day — the Bridge Authority will host a tribute to local Purple Heart recipients at the bridge, sponsored by the nonprofit Historic Bridges of the Hudson Valley. Any veteran who has received the Purple Heart is encouraged to contact the Authority at bmb100@nysba.ny.gov to be put on the notification list for this event. 

Bridges to Parks series: Hike Bear Mountain: On Saturday, Sept. 7, the Bridge Authority and State Parks will present the next installment in their “Bridges to Parks” guided hike series, this time centered on the Bear Mountain Bridge and the nearby state parks that it connects. Multiple hike options for various interests and abilities will be offered.

International Cable Supported Bridge Operators Conference: The Hudson Valley will host the 2024 edition of the International Cable Supported Bridge Operators Conference from Oct. 6-10 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. This highly technical conference will bring together engineers and bridge operators from around the world and will highlight the Bear Mountain Bridge. More details can be found at  icsboa.com/icsboc/2024.

Bear Mountain Bridge centennial dedication ceremony: On Sunday, Nov. 24, just days before the 100th anniversary of the bridge’s dedication and opening, the Bridge Authority will host a ceremony to commemorate the bridge centennial. Details will be released at a later date.

The nonprofit Historic Bridges of the Hudson Valley along with Hudson Valley videographer Scott Snell of SDS Imagery with Justin Cerone of Tesseract Studios are also producing a documentary for the bridge’s 100th year.

“The Bridge Authority eagerly anticipates this wonderful slate of events to celebrate one of Hudson Valley’s most recognizable and beloved structures. This bridge stands as a testament to the ingenuity of New Yorkers, and we are excited to celebrate this milestone with everyone,” Bridge Authority Executive Director Dr. Minosca Alcantara said in a statement.

Civic leaders and the Bridge Authority began planning for the centennial last year, when they dedicated a time capsule to mark 100 years since the start of construction on the bridge. Items contributed to the capsule included letters from Hochul and Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado, artifacts related to the Harriman family, written memories of the bridge, mementos from the Bridge Authority and the Hudson Valley, and letters to the future written by fourth-graders at Hillcrest Elementary School in Peekskill. The time capsule was sealed by Ulster County resident John Brooks, the Bridge Authority’s longest-serving employee, who first worked as a toll collector at the Mid-Hudson Bridge starting in 1966. He retired in 1997. The time capsule was mounted in the bridge’s west anchorage and will be opened in 99 years.

“The Bear Mountain Bridge is truly an icon of the Hudson Valley and New York state,” Hochul said.

The centennial website can be found at www.bmb100.com. It includes film footage of the construction of the bridge taken in October of 1924, thanks to the preservation efforts of the Moving Image Research Collection at the University of South Carolina.

Times Union Hudson Valley

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