Bridge Tender Houses

I recently got back from a trip to Europe to visit family and kept my eye out for tiny houses across the pond. What caught my attention in downtown Copenhagen, Denmark was a steel and copper bridge tender house. My husband and I actually peaked into the windows and contemplated if we could buy one of these things and spend our days watching the traffic and bicyclers speed past. These particular bridge tending homes are now being used as municipal offices, but I think most of these types of buildings would make great tiny houses along the lines of a lighthouse…utilitarian and beautiful.

Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo by Harry Thomas/Silver

In the past, bridge tenders were needed to run the electronics and machinery that raised and lowered bridges on major rivers, waterways and railroad bridges. The machinery was kept in a small house near or on the bridge and the bridge tender would spend most of their time in the house, or even lived there. Their jobs consisted of controlling and monitoring traffic around the bridges, keeping the bridge and the raising/lowering mechanism in good condition and running telegraph machines and other communications. Most bridge tender houses were usually built by government departments of transportation.

Delaware and Raritan Canal, New Jersey

What’s appealing about these buildings is that they are located in cities, in the country, and according to the photo on the bottom, in the middle of nowhere. Bridge tender houses have mostly gone by the wayside in the U.S., but a few are still being used to monitor waterway and railroad traffic while some have been converted into private homes or museums. The few that have been made into private homes, I’m sure get their fair share of people trying to look into their windows.

Indian Rocks Bridge, Florida

Treasure Island Causeway, Florida

Jordan Lift Bridge, Virginia

Delaware and Raritan Canal, New Jersey

Chicago Loop, Illinois

Long Island City, NY.

Courtney Campbell Causeway, Florida

Real Life Bridge tenders

State’s oldest swing drawbridge spans history

Former bridge tender kept watch over the original Cunningham bridge

By Christina Nellemann for the [Tiny House Blog]

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AJ in AZ - May 31, 2010 Reply

Yeah, but not wheel chair accessible. Seriously, I love your blog. I live in a one-bedroom cabin in the desert but the rooms are fairly large.

Brand - May 31, 2010 Reply

So how much space does the interior staircase occupy? Living in a tower seems really cool if you’ve got enough space… did they post any approximate measurements?

Benjamin - June 1, 2010 Reply

The ones directly mounted on the bridges would vibrate and/or bounce every time a vehicle went by. Other than that, it might be fun for at least a while.

Lake of the Ozarks Real Estate - June 7, 2010 Reply

Great collection of bridge houses. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to spend my life living in a house on a bridge.

Vivian Bedoya - March 13, 2011 Reply

Beautiful collection and two of my near and dear are featured!

The second structure pictured above is the bridgetenders lookout at Blackwells Mills in Somerset, NJ. It was once the railroad ticket office at Voorhees Station, which was moved to this site and which replaced the original lookout (now a storage shed across the street). The only things that fit inside when the bridgetender worked there, were a pot bellied stove and a chair! Today, the picturesque structure is a potting shed and it graces the entrance to the Bridgetenders Garden, a place of peace and beauty with a great view of the Delaware & Raritan Canal.

The house where the bridgetender and his family actually lived, is across the street and is a modest but cozy, two-story structure. With a devoted group of volunteers and members, the Blackwells Mills Canal House Association maintains it as a museum and opens it to the public once a month for events.

    Christina Nellemann - March 14, 2011 Reply

    Thank you for the great information Vivian! It sounds like a wonderful area — and a wonderful bridge.

Chicago Luxury Condos - June 27, 2011 Reply

I cannot agree more with you that it would be great to have one of those little houses… I especially like the one in Copenhagen.

Vivian Bedoya - September 3, 2011 Reply

Unfortunately, after Hurricane Irene, the two New Jersey properties shown above, did not fare well… Part and parcel of living near water…

BigGoofyGuy - April 8, 2012 Reply

They seem like such neat places to live. Perhaps there are other similar places? 🙂

Amsterdam's Bridge Houses Transformed into Sweet, Tiny Hotel Rooms - Tiny House Blog - July 16, 2018 Reply

[…] years ago, the Tiny House Blog featured various bridge tender houses and how some of them might make a great tiny house. Now the progressive city of Amsterdam has done […]

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