On this date, Jan. 17, Key Bridge opened to traffic and pedestrians in 1923. It is Washington’s oldest surviving road bridge across the Potomac River and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.
It is named for Georgetowner Francis Scott Key, author of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” whose house sat less than one block to the west until the late 1940s. There is a park dedicated to Key, author of the national anthem, at the Georgetown entrance on M Street, which opened in 1993.
The now iconic bridge replaced the Aqueduct Bridge, whose abutments remain on either shorelines, and connects D.C.’s oldest neighborhood to Rosslyn in Arlington County, Virginia.
“The bridge is an open-spandrel, arched structure oriented in a north-south direction and constructed of reinforced concrete and steel,” reads its Wikipedia entry. “Each span consists of three steel arches: A center arch which is 22 feet (6.7 m) in width, and two outer arches each 11 feet (3.4 m) in width. To lighten the load on the span arches, the spandrels were filled with additional arches. Depending on the size of the span, there are either three or four spandrel arches. Together, the span arch and spandrel arches form a truss. The piers were decorated with pilasters in the Doric style.”
So, happy 100th birthday, Key Bridge! How many times have we crossed over you? May you last another 100 years as a symbol of our town and river.