Day 114/365 of Steel – Gustav Lindenthal

Gustav Lindenthal (May 21, 1850 – July 31, 1935) was a civil engineer who designed the Hell Gate Bridge in New York City, among other bridges.

The Hell Gate Bridge
Fig 1: The Hell Gate Bridge
Author: Dave Frieder

While living in Vienna, he attended some public engineering lectures at a local university. However, he never did actually attend the university or receive a degree. Lindenthal in fact taught himself mathematics, engineering theory, metallurgy, hydraulics, estimating, management, and everything else that a successful bridge engineer needed to know. Nevertheless, the lack of his formal education hindered him from further advancement in Europe, so he decided to emigrate to the United States in 1874.

Hell Gate Bridge -1917
Fig 2: Hell Gate Bridge -1917
Image credit: Detroit Publishing Co.

He designed several bridges in the Pittsburgh area, which has three rivers to cross, including in 1883 the Smithfield Street Bridge, which has an unusual lenticular (lens-shaped) truss. In 1904, Lindenthal got the contract to bridge Hell Gate, a part of the East River that separates the Bronx from Queens in New York. This extremely attractive railway bridge was completed in 1916, and is an example of what is called a through arch bridge.

The Smithfield Street Bridge
Fig 3: The Smithfield Street Bridge
Author: David Brossard

Nearly all major members of Hell Gate are composed of smaller trusses. The erection of the Hell Gate was carried through without the assistance of any falsework, or work that was not part of the actual bridge. This was accomplished by building the two halves of the arch simultaneously from each tower. The steel work was supported with the use of cables during construction to carry the load of the arches until they finally met at the center of the span.
The Hell Gate Bridge served as the model for the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia, opened in 1932.

Construction on the Smithfield Street Bridge, 1933
Fig 4: Construction on the Smithfield Street Bridge, 1933
Creator: Pittsburgh (Pa.). City Photographer –

About the Author:

Bruno Dursin – Managing Director at Believe in Steel. Bruno has more than 30 years of experience in promoting steel & steel solutions. His clients benefit from his extensive network within the building industry.

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