Monday, June 15, 2015

Monday Exposure: Ha'penny Bridge

Ha'penny Bridge in Dublin, Ireland
The Ha'penny Bridge spans the River Liffey in Dublin, Ireland.
Erected in 1816 after a year's construction, the Ha'penny Bridge is the oldest iron bridge in Ireland and one of the very oldest such bridges in the world. Its graceful elliptical arch shines as one of the symbols of Dublin.

The builder of the bridge, William Walsh, had been given an ultimatum by the city. His seven ferry boats crossing the River Liffey leaked water and portended doom for passengers. Walsh could choose between repairing his decrepit boats, or building a pedestrian bridge across the river.

He chose the latter.

Lamp atop the Ha'penny Bridge
Three delicate arches span the top of the bridge, capped by lantern-like lamps.
To compensate Walsh the city offered him £3,000 for ending his ferry boat business. Even better, they granted him a 100-year lease on the bridge. As the city's only pedestrian crossing, the bridge and its lengthy lease gave Walsh a monopoly on foot traffic across the river.

His ferries had charged half a penny, and Walsh decided to charge the same for crossing his bridge. This was a safe bet. The city had retained a condition, for one year, allowing it to abolish any toll to cross the bridge if the citizenry of Dublin found the toll to be "objectionable." Since he hadn't changed the cost to cross, the citizenry made no objection.

Hence was born the Ha'penny Bridge.

The bridge remained as the sole pedestrian-only crossing of the river for 183 years, until Dublin erected a Millennium Bridge. Over time, the Ha'penny Bridge accumulated advertisements, bad lighting, strange paint, and rust. Finally, in 2001, the city refurbished the bridge. It was restored to its original glory and returned to its original off-white color.

The half-penny toll proved a durable feature. Though it was raised for a while to a Penny Ha'penny, the cost eventually dropped back down to ha'penny. The toll is now long gone, as are the turnstiles.

When it first opened in 1816, roughly 450 people crossed the bridge daily. Nowadays, it's estimated 30,000 cross Dublin's iconic bridge every day.

Peering down the River Liffey from the Ha'penny Bridge
During its refurbishment, more than 85% of its railwork was retained, as well as 98% of the total iron of the bridge.

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