The stone towers are 200 feet tall and support the two suspension cables located on each side of the bridge. The lower cable is the original cable made of wrought iron strands. The upper cable was added to the bridge during the reconstruction completed in 1899 and is made of steel strands. The addition of the second set of steel suspension cables, along with larger road deck truss members, provided a significant increase in the bridge load carrying capability and preserved much of the historic look of the original 1867 bridge. Also during the reconstruction, the width of the road deck was increased from 20 feet to 30 feet, and the pedestrian walkways that went through the arches were moved to the outside of the towers. If you compare pictures of the original 1867 bridge and the bridge today, you will be able to see the differences introduced by the 1890’s reconstruction.
The bridge towers are built using sandstone and limestone. The bases of the towers are limestone that was quarried in Indiana and Dayton, Ohio. The exterior of the towers is oil-impregnated sandstone from the Buena Vista quarry in Portsmouth, Ohio. This same sandstone, which has a distinctive ‘dirty’ look, is also used in the anchor houses. John Roebling specified this particular stone for its resistance to water.
An interesting feature of the towers is that they rest on wood timber platforms at the bottom of the Ohio River. These 12 foot thick wood platforms weigh 32,000 tons and do not rot due to the lack of oxygen underwater.
At the very top of the towers are the saddle houses where the suspension cables pass through and rest on large cast metal saddles. A total of 76 smaller diagonal stay cables pass over smaller saddles; these stays are a distinctive feature of Roebling-designed bridges. On top of the saddle houses are the gold plated Greek Cross finials. The original finals were removed during the 1890’s bridge reconstruction and replaced with metal dome structures. As part of the bridge renovation in 1992, replicas of Roebling’s original saddle houses and finials were installed to restore the original look of the bridge as specified by John Roebling.