The Manhattan Bridge may not be New York’s most beloved or attractive bridge but it still has a deep history full of unknown secrets. After a decade of planning, three different architects, and many political changes this bridge tells a fascinating story about turn-of-the-20th-century Manhattan architecture and its life moving forward. Completed in 1909 under the supervision of chief engineer Leon Moisseiff, the country’s first modern suspension bridge spans from Canal Street in Chinatown to Flatbush in Brooklyn.
Take a look at some of the secrets we discover, with special thanks to Dave Frieder for contributions and photos.
10. The Manhattan Bridge was Built because the Brooklyn Bridge was Overcrowded
After finally closing the gap between Brooklyn and Manhattan on May 24, 1883, development in Brooklyn skyrocketed. Both boroughs were eager to keep making “flood gates” from the overpopulated areas of Manhattan to the underdeveloped areas of Brooklyn. Relieving traffic between the boroughs was an immense task to undertake. In 1898, both the elevated train and fords electric trolley line were squeezed on the Brooklyn Bridge, leaving only enough room for a single lane for horse and carriage traffic. Rumors of a possible collapse caused a fatal stampede in 1883. And according to the Bowery Boys podcast, by June 29, 1898 the weight from the hundreds of vehicles buckled the bridge, making it apparent that something immediate needed to be done to address the traffic issue. Thus, the idea for the Manhattan Bridge was born.