A turn of the century postcard depicting the benefits bridges could provide to the city and within the fabric
Part I of this series focused on buildings and structures that were conceived for New York City but were never built. In Part II, we will turn our attention to bridges, which in an alternate history, might have graced the shores of New York. Many of these bridges were proposed out of necessity. They were designed to alleviate traffic conditions on existing bridges or to encourage the future growth of the city. Most importantly, their construction would have been overseen by government agencies. These factors strongly influenced their design and placement. While they were intended to improve the city, these bridges would have dramatically altered the landscape of the city. They would have leveled some neighborhoods and permanently changed others. We can only imagine what toll these bridges would have taken and wonder what benefits they would have conferred upon the city had they been constructed.
Gustav Lindenthal, the engineer who designed the Manhattan, Williamsburg, and Hell Gate Bridges, died without seeing his opus magnum realized. Lindenthal proposed building a bridge that would have spanned the Hudson River from 57th Street in New York City to Hoboken in New Jersey. The bridge was to be 6,000 feet long (nearly twice the length of the George Washington Bridge), 200 feet wide, and 200 feet above the river. It was designed to carry 12 railroads, 24 lanes of traffic, and 2 pedestrian promenades. The corner stone, part of an 8-foot tall block of concrete, was laid in 1895 in Hoboken and was the only part of the bridge to be built.
This massive bridge would have dwarfed the rest of the city:
A 1907 New York Tribune cover depicting Lindenthal’s Bridge and other bridges, including the Queensboro:
The Woolworth Building would have merely been a footnote in the annals of history had the bridge been built:
The cornerstone was located at 1200 Garden Street in Hoboken from when it was laid in 1895 until recently when it was relocated to the campus of the Stevens Institute where it can be found today:
In the 1920s, Hugh Ferriss designed this futuristic bridge with apartments situated on the towers:
In 1857, John Roebling originally created an Egyptian Revival design for the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge:
An early version of the Henry Hudson Memorial Bridge, with Parisian-style lamp posts (a steel arch bridge was eventually built and today it connects Inwood to Riverdale):
A number of Hudson River Bridges have been proposed over the years from Lindenthal’s fantastic bridge to these more mundane bridges. For more detailed information on the following Hudson River Bridges see the informative article at nycroads.com. In 1954, Othmar Ammann was commissioned to design a new suspension bridge across the Hudson River at West 125th Street. Grant’s Tomb is visible in the lower part of the rendering.
The first bridge below was designed in 1888 by Gustav Lindenthal for a bridge at West 23rd Street. In 1889, Max Am Ende designed the second bridge below which featured a 2,850-foot-long main span, two 795-foot-long side spans, two 705-foot-long flanking spans, and a clearance of 150 feet. The Union Bridge Company designed the third bridge in 1893 to span the Hudson River at West 70th Street.
The first bridge below was designed by the Board of Engineers in 1894. This bridge featured a 3,220-foot-long main span, two 965-foot-long side spans, and a clearance of 160 feet. George S. Morrison designed the second bridge below in 1896 which featured a 3,080-foot-long main span, two side spans of approximately 1,050 feet each, and a clearance of 158 feet. In 1913, Boller, Hodge, and Baird, designed the third bridge, in another attempt to span the Hudson River at 57th Street.
The first bridge below is a 1920 sketch of the Gustav Lindenthal-proposed bridge at West 57th Street. In 1924, W. Schachenmeier proposed another design (second bridge below) to span the Hudson River at West 57th Street. In 1927, G.G. Krivoshein designed the third bridge, to span the Hudson River at West 179th Street. In 1923, Othmar Ammann designed the fourth bridge, which would have been located at at West 179th Street.
A New York Tribune cover of a Hudson River bridge that was never completed. Note the contrast in scale with the steamships, piers and buildings:
This was the era of progress, with one invention surpassing the prior, with no end in sight to the fortunes made in infrastructure. The big names in American commerce were forged during this era: Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Rockefeller. Only the Great Depression would dampen the American spirit. Stay tuned for Part III of the City that Never Was: Roads.