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Governors A. Harry Moore and Al Smith pointing to their respective shores as they "break ground" for the new $60,000,000 dollar bridge. September 22, 1927.
Governors A. Harry Moore of New Jersey and Al Smith of New York pointing to their respective shores as they "break ground" for the new $60,000,000 dollar bridge. Sept. 22, 1927.John Tresilian/New York Daily News Archive—Getty Images
Governors A. Harry Moore and Al Smith pointing to their respective shores as they "break ground" for the new $60,000,000 dollar bridge. September 22, 1927.
The main cable of the George Washington Bridge is being layed as construction of the suspension bridge connecting New York and New Jersey continues on Oct. 23, 1929.
New Jersey and New York connected together by first cable of the new Hudson River Bridge at 178th Street, Manhattan Borough, New York City. Photo shows a general view of the crowd on the Hudson River Day Line steamer Peter Stuyvesant watching the raising of the cable of the new Hudson River Bridge. One of the large piers of the bridge may be seen in the background to where the cable was hoisted from the river bottom.
Main towers and cables of the George Washington Bridge under construction that linked New York to New Jersey when it opened, the longest suspension bridge in the world. 1927.
Full-length image of a worker pausing near the top of the George Washington Bridge during its construction, New York City. Circa 1930.
George Washington Bridge. December 21, 1930.
10/19/1931-New York- THE ROAD'S CLEAR...That will be the signal when the new Washington Memorial Bridge over the Hudson River is opened with appropriate ceremony. In the meantime, here's a new and unusual view of the structure from the New York end, showing the underground approach as well as the one on the surface and the exit. That's New Jersey over in the distance.
Police officers march beneath American flags during the opening ceremonies for the George Washington Bridge in New York City on October 24, 1931.
Nattily attired gents prepare to take first car (a Packard) across the George Washington Bridge on the day it opened, October 24, 1931.
The New George Washington Memorial Bridge, a modern miracle, connecting New York with New Jersey, was opened, October 24, 1931, with elaborate ceremonies in which Governor Roosevelt of New York, Governor Larson of New Jersey and Secretary of the Navy Adams participated. Inaugural ceremonies for the public were held at each end of the Giant structure. Here is a view as official cars cross the huge span for the dedication ceremonies.
Manhattan-bound traffic clogs the George Washington Bridge at the New Jersey approach on October 25, 1931.
View of the George Washington Bridge from Washington Heights in Manhattan across to Fort Lee in New Jersey, New York, New York, 1932.
Governors A. Harry Moore of New Jersey and Al Smith of New York pointing to their respective shores as they "break groun
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John Tresilian/New York Daily News Archive—Getty Images
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See Photos of the George Washington Bridge Getting Built—And an Early Traffic Jam

Oct 23, 2015

When the George Washington Bridge was dedicated on Oct. 24, 1931–84 years ago this weekend–the 3,500 ft. span connecting Manhattan and New Jersey was the longest bridge of its kind in the world. Even more incredible, it was built under budget and ahead of schedule (the bridge took almost exactly four years to complete).

So it was only fitting that New York and New Jersey pulled out all the stops for the dedication ceremony, as TIME reported:

A warship lay anchored in the river. Airplanes streamed about. Soldiers, sailors, marines and police paraded on to the bridge. Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his predecessor, Alfred Emanuel Smith of New York motored to the bridge centre, where they encountered Governor Morgan Foster Larson of New Jersey. Mayor James John Walker of New York City stayed away. He went, instead, to the Colgate-New York University football game.

Two long ribbons tied by a bow marked the centre of the span and the boundary of two sovereign States. Governor Roosevelt grasped one end of the bow, Governor Larson the other. The ribbons parted. A police lieutenant fell on his face, in a heart attack. A patrolman fainted. Two schoolboys roller-skated across the bridge from the Manhattan side, the first passengers from New York. A New Jersey woman pushed her baby carriage to Manhattan, first passenger from her State. The bridge was open.

The very next day, as the photos above show, the traffic began. But the George Washington Bridge did far more than frustrate drivers. On the other side of the country in San Francisco, officials had long been considering their own towering cable bridge. The GWB made it seem possible, TIME reported. The Golden Gate Bridge opened about six years later.

Read the full story from 1931, here in the TIME Vault: Biggest Bridge

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