Born 5-Feb-1837 in Canton, NY, son of Lemuel and Elizabeth Baldridge Buck.
Married Miss Mira Rebecca Gould 4-Jun-1902, at Paducah, KY.
Died 17-Jul-1909 at Hastings-on-Hudson, NY, aged 72 years.
Interred at Evergreen Cemetary, Canton, N.Y.
Growing up in the village of Canton, Buck attended the Canton Academy, apprenticed with Alva C. Sawyer in a machine shop then joined the first class of the newly founded St. Lawrence University. His college education was interrupted by the Civil War. He received a B.S. degree "nunc pro tunc" (i.e. retroactively) 1863, and an M.S. 1885 from St. Lawrence. He entered Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute after being mustered out in July of 1865, graduating in 1868 with a C.E. degree.
L. L. Buck is mentioned in many books about the history of late 19th century bridge building, an exciting period when increasing transportation loads and developing materials technology challenged the profession. He was recognized by the American Society of Civil Engineers, which published several of his papers in their "Transactions", and a "Memoir" in 1911. He is listed in their "Biographical Dictionary of American Civil Engineers". He was recipient of the Norman Medal (ASCE ) in 1881 and the Telford Premium (British ICE) 1901. Two of his bridges are designated "International Historic Engineering Landmarks", being among the "Bridges of Niagara" which were recognized in 1992.
L. L. Buck’s professional achievements include the reconstruction of John Roebling’s Niagara Railroad Suspension Bridge over the Niagara Gorge. He developed unique methods which allowed the work to proceed without interruption of the railroad traffic using the bridge. In succession over a period of 8 years beginning in 1877 the cable anchors were repaired and reinforced, the wooden truss was replaced with one of iron and steel, and the stone towers were replaced with ones of steel, leaving the cables as the only original element. When increasing railroad loads made its complete replacement necessary in 1897, he again employed unique methods which allowed the new spandrel braced arch structure, of 804 ft. span, to be constructed on the same centerline as the suspension bridge, again without interruption of railroad traffic.
Buck’s work on the railroad suspension bridge and on the Brooklyn Bridge made him an intellectual heir to John Roebling’s pioneering legacy, along with John’s son Washington. Buck’s expert professional stature with respect to suspension bridges at the turn of the century resulted to a great extent from these relationships.
Buck pioneered the use of steel arch bridge structures in the U.S., first at Driving Park Ave. in Rochester, N.Y. where he built an early three hinged spandrel braced bridge in 1890, then later in the decade with a pair of two hinged arches at the Niagara gorge. All involved challenging deep gorge construction sites.
He designed and directed construction of the first Verrugas Viaduct. Built in the high Andes for the Lima and Oroya Railroad in Peru, it was the highest bridge in the world when completed in 1873.
Two of his bridges were the longest span of their type when built. The "Falls View" steel truss arch at the Niagara Falls, 1898, with 840 ft. span, and the second East River bridge in New York City, called the Williamsburg. This was his final and largest construction project, opened in 1903. It is the first all metal suspension bridge structure, and spans 1600 ft. Twice as strong as the Brooklyn Bridge when completed, it is currently undergoing a major repair and renovation project which will fit it for service well into the 21st century.
Reportedly believing that it is better to earn rank than to be handed it, he volunteered for service as a Private in "A" Company of the 60th New York Infantry rather than accept the commission his father could have arranged as a consequence of his friendship with former Governor Silas Wright. Buck participated in some of the hardest fought battles of the war, at Antietam, where he was wounded, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Lookout Mountain, Ga., Ringold, Resaca, where he was wounded a second time, Kenesaw Mountain, Peachtree Creek, and Atlanta. He participated in Sherman’s march through Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, being mustered out with the rank of Captain and Brevet Major in July 1865 after nearly four years service.
Mr. Buck mentored Holton D. Robinson, training him in civil engineering on the job after Robinson received his B.S. from St. Lawrence University in 1886. Robinson went on to make significant contributions to construction methods for long span suspension cables, and eventually during a long partnership with David B. Steinman built many large scale bridges all over the world.
Buck’s many years working at the Niagara gorge interested him in the geologic features revealed there. He read a paper at the annual convention of the ASCE in 1894 presenting observations on the geological features of the Niagara Gorge, and theories on the formation and changing structure of the falls.
He was a member of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, the Century Association, the Engineers’ Club, the Army and Navy Club, the St. Lawrence County Society in New York, and FBK.
Summary of Reputation
On his appointment to the chief engineer’s position for the Williamsburg bridge, the Railroad Gazette commented: ". . . His achievement in renewing the railroad suspension bridge at Niagara Falls is part of the glorious history of the profession, and his long subsequent experience as engineer to the company owning that bridge has given him an education which no living man has had in watching a suspension bridge under heavy railroad traffic. Indeed there are those who say that Mr. Buck is to-day the first living authority on suspension bridges, and very likely this is no exaggeration. . . ."
The Brooklyn Eagle wrote at the same time: " . . . he is an indefatigable worker, a man of untiring energy, studious and apparently slow in reaching conclusions, but of sound judgment, fertile in resources, always ready with some original and often unique plan of overcoming obstacles, and with the courage to execute it. . . ."
St. Lawrence University on the occasion of Mr. Buck’s death stated: " He was simple, modest, loyal and conscientious in character, a genius of high order, a man of the type which it is the glory of colleges to educate."
Some of L.L. Buck’s Bridges
existing in 1999 (to View Photos of these Bridges, return
to Buck Main Page).
· Pont de Rennes (formerly Platt Street Bridge), over Genessee River, Rochester, N.Y.
· Whirlpool Rapids Bridge (formerly Niagara Railway Steel Arch Bridge), over Niagara River, Niagara Falls, N.Y.
· Williamsburg Bridge, over the East River, New York City, N.Y.