SPANNING four kilometres over the railway tracks between Grant Road and Charni Road stations, the popular Kennedy bridge in Girgaum is home to many ancient structures, including the Goregaonkars bungalows and the Congress House. The bridge is one of the oldest road overbridges built by the railways then.
According to records of the railways, the bridge is named after John Pitt Kennedy, a Chief Engineer who was appointed as the Government Railway Engineer with the British in 1850. Colonel Kennedy was known as one of the greatest builders of bridges not only in India but also in the USA and South America. Railway officials refer to him as one of the pioneering founders of rail lines and bridges on the Western Railway.
According to railway historian Sharda Dwivedi’s book ‘Anchoring a City Line: The History of the Western Suburban Railway and Its Headquarters in Bombay, 1899-1999’, the bridge was constructed then to prevent commuters from crossing the tracks. She mentions the construction of the bridge among other railway bridges to have been constructed for curtailing deaths or accidents caused due to trespassing. While its exact year of construction is not available on records, major portion of its channels were re-girdered in 1974 by the Western Railway.
“Construction of bridges followed with the advent of railways. In this context, Kennedy has received much appreciation for his contribution to construction of railway lines and road overbridges in Mumbai,” said Deepak Rao, historian.
Built between the Opera House and Nana Chowk, certain significant addresses on the bridge include the Queen Mary High School, the Congress House and a sculptor studio. Among the oldest residential colonies on the bridge is a Nesbaug colony of Parsis.
“Due to lesser number of shops on the bridge then, it did not witness such traffic during peak hours. However, crowds would gather around prominent places like the Opera House or near Queen Mary’s School. Women were often restricted from walking over the bridge then in the late evenings due to the presence of sex workers around the area,” said Shaila Pathare, a member of Goregaonkar family who owned one of the bungalows on the road.