Built in 1935, this bridge replaced the 1891 iron trestle bridge that had been constructed in the same location. The Commission of Fine Arts considered bridge designs for this site for years before finally settling on Paul Philippe Cret’s neoclassical design for a concrete bridge with dressed limestone facing.
The bridge was designed to accommodate streetcars. Four sculptural reliefs by Leon Hermant, representing modes of transportation, adorn each of the pedestals (which lack sculptures) at the corners of the bridge. Each relief incorporates a Neoclassical nude with a locomotive, plane, ship, or automobile. Tree limbs extend over and obscure the pedestals; this vegetation has fostered the buildup of dirt and, in turn, deterioration of the reliefs.
In 1974, after the death of Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington (1899-1974), the bridge was renamed for the famous composer/performer and native Washingtonian. In the late 1980s, five-foot-high metal railings were added to the bridge in order to discourage jumping.
DC Inventory: November 8, 1964 (Joint Committee on Landmarks)
Within Rock Creek Park Historic District