Examining the history, folklore of the Kissing Bridge

The Kissing Bridge has been a landmark on WKU’s campus since 1925. The legend surrounding the bridge varies but many say that if a couple shares their first kiss on the bridge, they’re destined to spend the rest of their lives together.

Laurel Deppen

On top of the Hill, the Old Fort Bridge stays tucked away, but it is not overlooked.

More commonly known as the Kissing Bridge, the Old Fort Bridge was built in 1925 by WKU Manual Arts Students, according to the WKU Archives.

Most WKU students are aware of the legend of the Kissing Bridge. Whether it’s a story that has been told to them by friends, family or they’ve had a personal experience, the Kissing Bridge tradition is one of the university’s oldest and fondest.

Though it has many variations, the general legend of the bridge is if a couple shares their first kiss on the bridge they are destined to spend the rest of their lives together.

This tradition is what Ann Ferrell, a professor of folk studies, calls a perfect example of campus folklore.

Ferrell explained that traditions like the Kissing Bridge are common across college campuses.

“When you have any group of people who are closely associated with each other, they develop stories [or] traditions,” she said.

Ferrell said these legends are commonly passed from older generations and then from students to their peers. Many WKU alumni have a story relating to someone they’ve kissed on the bridge becoming their life partner. The most notable of these is former university president Gary Ransdell and his wife, Julie.

“College is a time where you’re out in the world for the first time, exploring independence and so forth,” Ferrell said. “That sort of romance of meeting your life partner on campus and having a special ritual that you have together is part of it as well.”

A “kissing spot” is a common tradition on college campuses.  Ferrell commented that many campuses have a particular stone or tree that is a symbol of “true love” or “magic.”

Ferrell tied this phenomenon of love found on college campuses to the mindset of young adults attending universities.

“Being in college, and the excitement of your future and the idea of meeting your forever partner—there’s magic involved in that,” Ferrell said.

For one WKU couple, the magic of the Kissing Bridge extends past it—or under it, in their case.

Kimby Taylor-Peterson graduated from WKU in 1992 with a double major in theatre and broadcasting. Her husband, Tom Peterson, graduated two years later with a major in advertising.

Taylor-Peterson recalls having a Saturday off one August afternoon. Peterson suggested they go to Bowling Green to meet up with one of their friends. When they arrived, they had extra time, so they went to campus.

As a theatre student, Taylor-Peterson recalls spending a lot of her free time sitting on a rock under the bridge. She would study her lines and design costumes there.

“That was a special place to me for reasons other than anyone else’s,” she said.

The bridge was the spot where she got engaged.

“Out of nowhere, he’s on one knee asking me to marry him,” she said. “I was blown away. I didn’t see it coming and I especially didn’t see something like this.  There was no friend in town. He just drove two hours to do something he could have done anywhere. To this day, that was the most-probably the only-romantic thing he’s ever done.”

Now, 21 years later, the pair remains happily married and recalls their time spent at WKU fondly.

Features reporter Laurel Deppen can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected].