GUSTAV LINDENTHAL ENGINEER~ BRIDGE BUILDER
One of old Raritan Township's most noteworthy citizens seems forgotten by many since his passing almost a half century ago. Prior to and during his 28 year residence here the achievements of Gustav Lindenthal in engineering and bridge designing were second to none throughout the world. Lindenthal was born May 21, 1850 in Brunn, Austria and received his academic education in Brunn and Vienna. His early professional career included railroad construction in Austria prior to emigrating to America in 1874. He first engaged in erection of the Centennial Exhibition buildings in Philadelphia between 1874 and 1877. His talents subsequently shifted to bridge construction in Chicago and Pittsburgh and railroad bridge designing until establishing his career as an independent engineer in Pittsburgh. This practice expanded to include the surveying and constructing of railroads, trolley lines, wharves, tunnels and difficult foundations.
In 1892 Lindenthal transferred his office to New York and his profession as advisory and consulting engineer on bridge, tunnel and railroad construction expanded to all parts of the continent and the world.
As early as 1887 he advocated a span across the Hudson River from the New Jersey heights to New York City. It was planned under auspices of the Pennsylvania Railroad by the North River Bridge Company at a contemplated cost of $100,000,000. However, in the Fall of 1901 the railroad opted to enter Gotham through tunnels and it was LindenthaI who designed and directed all of this work under the North and East rivers in connection with the great Pennsylvania Station project.
In 1902 Mayor Seth Low named him Commissioner of Bridges for New York City. As such he designed the Queensboro and Manhattan spans and entered the first plan for a gigantic combined bridge terminal and municipal building. It was apparently during this period - about 1907 -when he moved to what is now Edison and settled in an immense dwelling on generous acreage surrounded by high hedges along Plainfield Road. The stone entrance gate posts proudly proclaimed this as "THE LINDENS."
Lindenthal's crowning achievement was designing and building the gracious Hell Gate Bridge -largest steel arch structure in the world in 1917 - across the East River. It yet carries four railroad tracks upon a 1,017 foot span between towers and is a key link in Amtrak' s WashingtonBostOn corridor.
In July, 1902 he married Gertrude Weil, who died in 1905. His second marriage ro Carrie Herndon in 1910 bore a daughter, Franciska (Francesca) in 1913.
Lindenthal received many honors from professional societies here and abroad for his excellence in the field. Death came on July 31, 1935 at his beloved LINDENS.
Mrs. Lindenthal still occupied the home in the 1950's. About that time children of a neighbor were permitted to ice skate on a frozen pond within the premises and were usually invited in to have hot chocolate afterwards. His vast estate eventually gave way to development in the vicinity of Sleepy Hollow Road and the house, hedges and gate posts are no more.
We instantly equate Thomas Edison with our Township's name and have honored him with a towering monument in Menlo Park. Gustav Lindenthal's monuments are in steel, stone and concrete throughout the world. His name is less known, probably because bridges and tunnels are not household words like electric light bulbs and phonographs. Regardless of residences, both men are citizens of the world and their craftsmanships endure beyond mortal lives.
-CHARLES F. END, April, 1983.
METUCHEN - EDISON REGIONAL HISTORICAL SOCIETY