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Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks Print E-mail

Designated Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks

ASCE's Historic Civil Engineering Landmark program recognizes historically significant national and international engineering projects, structures, and sites. To be nominated, a project must be of historical civil engineering significance, have a special uniqueness (e.g., a first project constructed) or utilized a unique or significant construction or engineering technique, and contributed to the development of the nation or at least a very large region. Projects nominated as landmarks should also be at least 50 years old. Thirteen projects in the Met Section have been designated as National Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks and one project has been designated as an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

American Society of Civil Engineers
Croton Water Supply System
Completed 1842

Unsanitary conditions in Manhattan's limited water supplies, combined with a rapid expansion of wood frame buildings and fires led New York City to search for a new supply of clean water. The Croton Water Supply System was designed by John B. Jervis, consisting of a dam on the Croton River, a 41-mile (66 km) iron pipe aqueduct encased in brick masonry, a bridge across the Harlem River, a receiving reservoir, and a distributing reservoir. The aqueduct could transport approximately 85 million gallons (322,000 cubic meters) of water per day. To meet the City's growing demand for water, the New Croton Aqueduct was completed in 1890, tripling the original capacity of the Old Croton Aqueduct. The Croton Water Supply System was designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by ASCE in 1975.

Croton Aqueduct
Ward House
Completed 1875

Built by William E. Ward in Rye Brook, New York, this structure was the first reinforced concrete building constructed in the United States. The house has over 12 rooms and was entirely constructed of concrete reinforced with iron I-beams and rods, except for only the doors, window frames, and trim. Architect Robert Mook's design accentuated the use of concrete as a building material and the structure is dominated by a four-story, castle-like octagonal tower at one corner. The building introduced the practicability of reinforced concrete as a building material as well as its fireproof benefits. The Ward House was designated as a National Historic Civil and Concrete Engineering Landmark by ACI and ASCE in 1977.

Ward House
Brooklyn Bridge
Completed 1883

The Brooklyn Bridge was a feat in nineteenth century civil engineering. At the time of its completion, the 1,595-foot (486 m) main span over the East River made it the world's longest suspension bridge and its 276-foot (84 m) Neo-Gothic granite towers were taller than New York's highest office building. It was the first bridge to use galvanized steel wire in cable construction and the project took over 13 years to complete. The bridge was designed by John A. Roebling, who died before construction began. He was succeeded as chief engineer by his son Washington Roebling, and when he became stricken with caisson disease during construction, his wife Emily faithfully carried out his orders. The Brooklyn Bridge was designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by ASCE in 1972.

Brooklyn Bridge
Statue of Liberty
Completed 1886

French sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi commissioned engineer Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel to design a structural framework to support the colossal 151-foot (46 m) tall copper sculpture that stands on Liberty Island in New York Harbor. Eiffel designed an iron skeleton with horizontal struts and diagonal cross braces to support a secondary structural frame, which conforms to the outer contour of the statue's hammered copper sheets. Eiffel went on to design the tower that bears his name in Paris, which is also an ASCE International Civil Engineering Landmark. The Statue of Liberty was designated as an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by ASCE and the Société des Ingénieurs et Scientifiques de France in 1985.

Statue of Liberty
Williamsburg Bridge
Completed 1903

The longest suspension bridge in the world for a period of 21 years, the Williamsburg Bridge was also the most heaviest loaded bridge when it opened in 1903, carrying four streetcar tracks, two elevated railway tracks, two roadways, and footpaths and bicycle paths. It was the first bridge to use steel instead of masonry towers—an idea of designer Leffert Lefferts Buck—which became a standard for future suspension bridges. The bridge helped to open up the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg for development, relieving crowded conditions in the tenement apartment buildings on Manhattan's Lower East Side. The Williamsburg Bridge was designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by ASCE in 2009.

Williamsburg Bridge
First New York City Subway
Completed 1904

The first segment of the New York City subway system ran nine miles from City Hall to 145th Street and Broadway, following the routes of today's IRT Lexington Avenue Line (4/5/6), 42nd Street Shuttle (S), and Seventh Avenue/Broadway Line (1/2/3). It was the first major subway system constructed in the United States and featured four separate tracks, two for local service and two for express service. Designed by William Barclay Parsons, the first subway was primarily built using shallow cut-and-cover construction to avoid the need for deep tunnels. The First New York City Subway was designated as a National Historic Civil and Mechanical Engineering Landmark by ASCE and ASME in 1977.

New York City Subway
Hudson and Manhattan Railroad Tunnel
Completed 1908

The Hudson and Manhattan Railroad Tunnel, which currently carries Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) trains between Manhattan and Hoboken, New Jersey, was the first railroad tunnel constructed under a major river in the United States. Construction of the uptown tunnel began in 1874 and was abandoned twice due to a lack of funds before completion in 1908. In order to construct the tunnel through the mud beneath the Hudson River, a pneumatic shield was developed to support the tunnel's walls before they were lined with tubular cast iron plates. In 1909, a second tunnel was opened from the Hudson Terminal (now the World Trade Center) in Lower Manhattan to Jersey City, New Jersey. The Hudson and Manhattan Railroad Tunnel was designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by ASCE in 1978.

PATH Rapid-Transit System
Queensboro Bridge
Completed 1909

The Queensboro Bridge was designed by preeminent bridge engineer Gustav Lindenthal, who incorporated nickel steel eye-bars for the first time in a bridge's construction. The 1,182-foot (360 m) long span across the west channel of the East River, one of the bridge's five spans, was the longest cantilever span in North America until 1917. The bridge's cantilever spans have no suspended spans and are "through" cantilevers, which required a computational method unique for the time. The bridge also had the largest carrying capacity among the world's greatest cantilever bridges at the time of its opening. The Queensboro Bridge was designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by ASCE in 2009.

Queensboro Bridge
Manhattan Bridge
Completed 1909

Built to help satisfy the ever increasing demand for travel between Manhattan and Brooklyn, the Manhattan Bridge is considered to be the forerunner for modern suspension bridges as it was the first to be designed using the deflection theory. The bridge also pioneered the use "two-dimensional" slender steel towers and was the earliest bridge to incorporate nickel steel to a large extent in construction. Each day, the Manhattan Bridge carries a third of a million passengers in nearly 1,000 subway trains, making it the busiest public transit crossing into Manhattan. The Manhattan Bridge was designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by ASCE in 2009.

Manhattan Bridge
Grand Central Terminal
Completed 1913

Considered by many to be the greatest railway terminal in the world, Grand Central Terminal included a number of unique features and innovations such as the the creation of "air rights," use of ramps, provision of separate concourses for incoming long-distance, outgoing long-distance and suburban train passengers, loop tracks to reduce train switching and shunting movements, and horizontal and vertical circulation systems between adjacent buildings and subway stations. Construction spanned nearly a decade and was complicated by the need to maintain train service to the existing Grand Central Station. The project also had the longest amount of mainline electrification in the United States. Grand Central Terminal was designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by ASCE in 2012.

Grand Central Terminal
Holland Tunnel
Completed 1927

The Holland Tunnel consists of two 29-foot (9 m) diameter, 8,500-foot (2,591 m) long tubes that each carries two lanes of vehicular traffic under the Hudson River between Manhattan and Jersey City, New Jersey. It was the first tunnel specifically designed for automobiles and trucks, which necessitated the design of a mechanical ventilation system. It also employed the use of a pneumatic-driven shield through difficult river bottom conditions. The tunnel was named after Clifford M. Holland, the first chief engineer on the project, who died before it was completed. Subsequent engineers leading the project were Milton H. Freeman and Ole Singstad. The Holland Tunnel was designated as a National Historic Civil and Mechanical Engineering Landmark by ASCE and ASME in 1982.

Holland Tunnel
George Washington Bridge
Completed 1931

The 3,500-foot (1,067 m) long center span of the George Washington Bridge over the Hudson River nearly doubled the previous world record for the bridge with the longest main span. While the bridge was originally built to carry six lanes of traffic between Manhattan and Fort Lee, New Jersey, Othmar Ammann's design anticipated the addition of a second deck at a later date. The bridge now carries a total of 14 lanes of lanes of vehicular traffic (eight on the upper level and six on the lower level) and is one of the world's busiest bridges. The George Washington Bridge was designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by ASCE in 1981.

George Washington Bridge
Bayonne Bridge
Completed 1931

Spanning 1,675 feet (511 m) across Kill Van Kull between Staten Island, New York and Bayonne, New Jersey, the Bayonne Bridge was the longest steel arch bridge in the world at the time of its completion and held this record for a period of 47 years. It was the first major bridge to use manganese steel for its main arch ribs and in its rivets. The innovative use of falsework during construction precluded the need for heavy anchorages and abutment towers. Othmar Ammann's design won a prize from the American Institute for Steel Construction as "The Most Beautiful Steel Bridge" in 1931. The Bayonne Bridge was designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by ASCE in 1985.

Bayonne Bridge
Triborough Bridge Project
Completed 1936

The Triborough Bridge is commonly just thought of as a suspension bridge over the East River but actually consists of three different bridges, a viaduct across Randall's and Wards Islands, a three-legged interchange, and 14 miles (23 km) of approach roads. The three bridges linking Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx include a 1,380-foot (421 m) suspension span, a vertical lift span, and a fixed truss span designed to be convertible to a vertical lift span. The project is an early example of the planning and development of a major transportation artery in an urban environment. Robert Moses played an instrumental role of the planning of this project and the chief engineer was Othmar Ammann. The Triborough Bridge Project was designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by ASCE in 1986.

Triborough Bridge

Monuments of the Millennium

ASCE initiated the Millennium Challenge program in 1999 to reflect on the contributions of the profession to the development of quality of life in the 20th century. ASCE's members ranked the top ten civil engineering achievements as Airport Design and Development, Dams, the Interstate Highway System, Long-Span Bridges, Rail Transportation, Sanitary Landfills/Solid Waste Disposal, Skyscrapers, Wastewater Treatment, Water Supply and Distribution, and Water Transportation.

In 2000, following the Millennium Challenge, a prestigious panel of civil engineers selected one international or national project to represent each of these ten achievements as a Monument of the Millennium. Each project demonstrates a combination of technical engineering achievement, courage and inspiration, and a dramatic influence on the development of the communities in which they are located.

Empire State Building
Completed 1931

New York City's Empire State Building was selected as ASCE's Monument of the Millennium representing civil engineering achievements in skyscrapers. The 1,250-foot (381 m) skyscraper became the world's tallest building at the time of its completion and remained the tallest for over forty years until it was surpassed by the 1,368-foot (417 m) One World Trade Center in 1972. In addition to its record setting height, the Empire State also revolutionized the construction of tall buildings with its innovative project management and speed of construction. Portions of the building were prefabricated off-site and assembled in place. The entire structure was completed with a crew of 3,000 workers in a time period of just one year and 45 days, rising at a rate of four and a half stories per week. The Empire State Building was formally dedicated as a Monument of the Millennium by ASCE President Robert W. Bein on July 18, 2001. ASCE previously named the Empire State Building as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World in 1996 and one of America's Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders in 1955.

Empire State Building

Other Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks

In addition to the designated Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks, many other prominent civil engineering projects are located in the New York City area. These projects are further described in the Met Section's Guide to Civil Engineering Projects In and Around New York City. Some of the other notable historic civil engineering landmarks in the Metropolitan Section include:

  • Alexander L. Holley Memorial - This memorial in Washington Square Park honors the engineer that perfected the Bessemer process and is considered to be the founder of the American steel industry.
  • ASCE Founder's Plaque - This plaque in City Hall Park marks the former site of the Rotunda Building, where a group of twelve engineers met on November 5, 1852 and founded the American Society of Civil Engineers.
  • Bear Mountain Bridge - Designated as a Metropolitan Area Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1986, this suspension bridge across the Hudson River was the longest in the world when it opened in 1924.
  • Benjamin Wright Gravesite - The chief engineer of the Erie Canal, considered the "Father of American Civil Engineering" by ASCE, is buried in the New York Marble Cemetery in Manhattan.
  • Former ASCE Headquarters - ASCE's headquarters were located at six locations in New York City from 1852-1996. Two of these buildings are still standing, one of which is a New York City landmark.
  • Othmar H. Ammann Memorial Plaque - The structural engineer that designed six of New York City's long-span bridges is honored by a plaque near the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, his last and greatest work.