Old New York In Photos #94 – The Williamsburg Bridge Under Construction

Williamsburg Bridge Under Construction As Viewed From The East River 1901

From a personal photo album comes this previously unpublished 1901 view looking north from the East River.

Besides all the vessels navigating the heavily trafficked waterway, we can see the completed towers of the Williamsburg Bridge. The cables of the bridge have been completed but the roadway beneath the span is absent.

The first bridge crossing Kings County to Manhattan was the Brooklyn Bridge, opening in 1883. It would take another 20 years before the next great span, the Williamsburg Bridge was completed.

Some quick facts:

Williamsburg Bridge Towers 1901

Used in construction were 5,000 tons of steel for the cables; 6,096 tons of steel for the towers; 60,000 cubic yards of concrete and 130,000 tons of stone masonry.

Within the four cables are an astounding 17,432 miles of wire.

The total length of the bridge is 7,264 feet, two inches and its width is 118 feet.

28 men died during construction. The Brooklyn Bridge took 14 years to complete. The Williamsburg Bridge took half that time. Work began on the Williamsburg Bridge on November 7, 1896 and opened with great fanfare on December 19, 1903.

The Proud and Patriotic

At the opening ceremony Manhattan Borough President Jacob A. Cantor spoke eloquently and with great civic pride. Patriotism connected with a bridge opening? You bet.

Here are some portions of Cantor’s speech of 115 years ago. His words seem to have lost their meaning in today’s corrupt city, state and national politics:

“And, here today, looking upon this splendid structure, so magnificent in proportions and in effect, one which will stand for centuries to come, we must regard it as an ever continuing evidence of the genius and skill of the American people.

…Upon it and over it from day to day and from year to year will pass thousands of our own people, happy and contented, citizens of a great country, loyal to the municipality, going to and from their peaceful and happy homes to the business center of this great continent.

There it will stand a monument to the genius and industry, as well as the progressive spirit of our municipality, ever mindful, as it always has been, of the comforts of its citizenship, and willing and anxious to advance their interests to the end that this great city may remain the chief metropolis of the country.

…What the future of this great city may be is beyond the realm of man’s mind to foresee. Broad, patriotic, philanthropic, it must pursue to the end the high mission intended for it. It is a city worthy of our best efforts. Its great prestige, its commanding influence, its ever increasing power, should exact from us in its behalf our highest thoughts and best efforts.

We are entitled to the best government that man can devise to be administered by the best people that can be chosen. Corruption and maladministration must be banished from our body politic. The evils of government which unfortunately have been found to exist in all municipalities must be eradicated. Instruments of governmental power must be selected not only because of party influence, or attachments — those should be the least of all requirements, indeed, if partisanship should prevail at all in their selection. There should be neither jealousy nor rivalry between the boroughs save that rivalry which tends to promote the common good of all.”

Here is rare film footage showing Mayor Seth Low and other dignitaries arriving at the ceremony.

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