From Paris to the Queen City: Love locks us together

From Paris with love

CINCINNATI -- Scattered along the chain-link fence on the Purple People Bridge are padlocks with hearts engraved, names chiseled and dates sketched – but, why?

Symbols of undying love, forever fastened to architecture around the world, have made their way to the Queen City. “Love locks” or love padlocks, believed to have originated in Europe in the 2000s, have become a popular symbol of love across the globe, from Paris to Seoul.

The romantic European tradition has it that couples will write initials, a little story or dates on the locks, then throw the key into the river below as a symbol of everlasting, locked love. Dates can be the day they met, a memorable milestone in their relationship or more commonly, the date of the couple's engagement or wedding.

It has yet to reach that of the Brooklyn "love lock" Bridge and far from that of the Pont de l’Archevêché in the city of love, but the Purple People Bridge that crosses over the Ohio River from Cincinnati to Newport is slowly but surely filling with these locks.

The bridge, which underwent a $4 million restoration project for pedestrian walking, is the longest connector bridge of its kind in the U.S. linking two states together. Residents from Kentucky and Ohio frequent this bridge on a daily basis, myself included and it wasn’t until recently that I noticed locks popping up.

The half-mile bridge, owned by Southbank Bridge Co., is available to rent for special occasions – mostly weddings and receptions, where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the city, day or night.

Pottinger Photography has been photographing weddings and engagement photos for couples on the bridge for quite some time. Photographer and founder, Brenda Pottinger, said that she was surprised when she saw the locks, saying she knew they did it in Europe but hadn't seen it anywhere here until she recently visited the bridge.


As an up-and-coming phenomenon in Cincinnati, some people are even taking out Craigslist ads to endorse the lover's growing trend on the bridge. Love Locks Celebration of Love Photography  offers photoshoots on the bridge along with the sale of engraved locks. Their ad reads, "Session includes a custom lock with your information engraved on it, up to an hour session including you and your beloved locking the lock, tossing the key, and several posed shots as well."

When And Where Did This Start?

Once done in the dark of night, visitors and lovers would attach locks to the Pont de l’Archevêché and Pont des Arts bridges in Paris. Once seen in the morning light, visitors quickly popularized the idea and both bridges filled with ‘cadenas d’amour’ or little love-locks.

The Ponte Milvio bridge in Rome that passes over the Tiber was another heavily populated lovers scene. In 2007, part of the lamppost in the middle of the bridge collapsed and love-locks were temporarily removed. The mayor added steel columns to the bridge just so lovers could continue the tradition.

Click here to check out the most famous love-lock locations across the globe: Travel Top 10 .

Although all signs point to Europe, some say that the concept began in China. The Chinese symbolize their love as two souls "locking" together. Wherever it began doesn't matter now, as its widespread popularity has surfaced across five noted continents.

Although the concept seems endearing, some government officials think otherwise. The Paris council began to cut off the padlocks claiming that they compromise the historical integrity of the city. It has been reported that the government is in the process of implementing a fine for anyone "locking" on the bridge and are attempting to ban the locks altogether.

Authority figures in Paris and Rome have argued that the added weight of the locks could collapse the bridges, ruining architecture built a century or more ago. Historic preservation organizations are fighting to keep the vitality of these "landmarks."

Problems have spread across the globe in regard to the locks. From the Michigan Avenue Bridge in Chicago, the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City and the Big Four Bridge in Louisville, city workers have said that the locks are “unsightly” and take away from the visual appeal of the bridge.

Tradition calls to throw the key into the nearby river, to express that the love between two people never be undone, but environmentally conscious groups and officials overseas have argued to end this. 

How many of you think the love-locks are a heart-warming representation of love or that they are an unnecessary clutter on historical bridges? Would you or have you "locked" with your love on the bridge?

Write us on Facebook or comment below to let us know what you think.


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