Manhattan Bridge construction Photo from Library of Congress by Bain News Service
During the 19th and 20th centuries, the City of New York took the initiative to improve inter-borough connectivity by building several bridges. What were huge engineering feats at the time are now landmarks of the city. We’ve collected some vintage photographs showing different aspects of how the bridges were mid-construction.
1. Brooklyn Bridge (East River Bridge)
Brooklyn Bridge under construction. Photo by George Bradford Brainerd from Brooklyn Museum, via Wikimedia Commons.
We all know that the Brooklyn Bridge is an iconic part of the New York City skyline. But, did you know that upon completion in 1883, rumors of collapse sparked a stampede that killed 12 people? New Yorkers love their bridges, especially this one that paved the way for connecting the five boroughs.
2. Manhattan Bridge
Photo from Library of Congress by Bain News Service
The Manhattan Bridge is often overshadowed by the fame of the Brooklyn Bridge, but in recent years has gained status due to its destination: in redeveloped DUMBO. The grand Manhattan Bridge entryway to the bridge is a New York City landmark and was inspired by the Porte Saint Denis, which itself was designed after the Arch of Titus in Rome.
3. Williamsburg Bridge
Image via Library of Congress (c. 1900-1906)
The Williamsburg Bridge is the largest suspension bridge on the East River, with a view of the Domino Sugar Factory (video inside the demolition here). Unfortunately, approaching the Williamsburg Bridge from the Manhattan side is one of the most fatal intersections for pedestrians in the city, something the city has been actively trying to redesign.
4. Henry Hudson Bridge (Spuyten Duyvil Creek)
Image via Wikimedia Commons (1936). From Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York. MTA Bridges and Tunnels Special Archive.
The Henry Hudson Bridge is the northernmost connecting bridge between Harlem and the Bronx. It spans Spuyten Duyvil Creek, which used to flow north of Manhattan until Marble Hill became attached to the Bronx (fun fact: Marble Hill is still technically part of Manhattan).
5. Queensboro Bridge (Blackwell’s Island Bridge)
Photo from Library of Congress circa 1908
The Queensboro Bridge initially helped transform Queens from rural to urban borough. The bridge is also featured on the path taken by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wealthy characters in The Great Gatsby, traveling from Long Island to Manhattan. There was once a trolley that ran across, with a stop mid-span. A staircase brought riders down to Roosevelt Island.
6. Hell Gate Bridge (Queens and Ward’s Island)
Image via Library of Congress (1915)
Hell Gate Bridge is used by Amtrak trains between the city and everything that lies north. Considered a steel masterpiece, this bridge connects Queens to Ward’s Island.
7. George Washington Bridge
The George Washington Bridge connects Manhattan with whatever it is that’s on the other side in New Jersey. Le Corbusier called it “the most beautiful bridge in the world,” and played a role in preventing Cass Gilbert from making it a Beaux-Arts style masterpiece.”
Read about 11 of NYC’s “Other Bridges” and for more structures under construction, look at these iconic NYC museums while they were being built.