How the Longfellow Bridge Got its Name

Elbridge Gerry was the first person allowed to walk over the new West Boston Bridge connecting Boston and Cambridge 220 years ago today. A private company had built the toll bridge for $76,700. Gerry was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a wealthy merchant and Cambridge longfellow bridge fbresident. His name is the source of the word ‘gerrymandering.’ The bridge, which replaced a ferry service, was described as ‘a magnificent structure.’ ‘For length, elegance and grandeur not exceeded by any in the United States, if in any part of the world,’ reported the Independent Chronicle. Its opening created a building boom along Main Street in Cambridge. Two rows of lamps lit the bridge for its mile-and-a-quarter length, presenting sweeping nighttime views. Years later, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow frequently crossed the West Boston Bridge to court Fanny Appleton, the daughter of industrialist Nathan Appleton. She rejected him for seven years, then finally gave in and married him. Longfellow published a poem called ‘The Bridge’ in 1845, which made the West Boston Bridge famous. It has been interpreted as describing his misery at Fanny’s rejection of him contrasted with his later happiness. The bridge was replaced in 1906 with – you guessed it – The Longfellow Bridge.

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