Tag Archives: Brooklyn Bridge

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From a personal photo album comes this previously unpublished 1901 view looking north from the East River.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

Old New York In Postcards #18 – Bridges

Some Unusual and Rare Postcard Views of New York City Bridges

An unusual circa 1900 postcard view of the Brooklyn Bridge promenade with elegantly attired ladies

We don’t think too much about New York City’s bridges except when driving across them. Then you want to know if they are free from traffic, tolls and potholes.

Besides being civic utilitarian objects, on occasion they be considered architectural masterpieces like the Brooklyn Bridge and George Washington Bridge.

But many of the old bridges crossing New York waterways had great thought put into their design. Unfortunately unless you are stuck in traffic or you bicycle or walk over them, you probably would not take the time to notice the turrets, iron flourishes and fine details that decorate and beautify most of New York City’s early bridges.

Let’s take a look at some 100+ year old bridge postcards and sprinkle in some interesting facts and stories.

Williamsburg Bridge at 6 pm 1906

The Williamsburg Bridge’s tower can be glimpsed in the background, but what makes this view interesting is its vantage point on Delancey Street. While not dated, the postcard has the printing year of 1906 and the time as 6:00 pm. Hundreds of Brooklynites make their way to the bridge to walk or take a trolley or elevated train back home.

If the Williamsburg Bridge seems crowded that’s because it is. In 1906 an estimated 1,191,000 pedestrians; 3,548,900 passengers and drivers of vehicles; 51 million surface car (trolley) passengers; 56 million elevated car passengers; and exactly 1,149,543 vehicles and 33,375 horses led by hand, crossed the bridge.

The Williamsburg Bridge was opened on December 19, 1903. The cost of the construction of the bridge with the land was $23,277,560.

Manhattan Bridge at night circa 1910

It is a snowy night and and the roads leading onto the Manhattan Bridge have a light coating of ice, snow and slush on them. The scene is brilliantly lit and there are vehicles or pedestrians in the scene. The Manhattan Bridge was opened for vehicular traffic December 31, 1909 and opened for pedestrian travel July 18, 1910. Including the land, the bridge cost $24,105,200.

Tolls were eliminated on the Williamsburg, Manhattan, Queensboro and Brooklyn Bridge on July 19, 1911 by order of Mayor Gaynor.

High Bridge is the oldest extant bridge in New York. Designed by John B. Jervis and completed in 1848 the bridge cost $963,428. The pedestrian bridge originally contained two three foot pipes which brought New York City fresh water from the Croton River, 41 miles away. The amount of water these pipes could carry was found to be inadequate within a dozen years. The side walls of the bridge were expanded and between 1860 -1864 a seven foot diameter water pipe was laid on top of the original two pipes.

The bridge was modeled after ancient Roman aqueducts, High Bridge’s 15 stone arches graced the river until the early 20th century. During World War I the bridge was declared a menace to navigation. Two proposals were put forward in 1918 to either remove two arches and replace that section with a steel span or entirely demolish the bridge at a cost of $150,000. Continue reading

Panoramic 360 Degree View of New York In 1892

360° Panoramic View of New York City From The New York World Building in 1892

Stitching together 10 separate photographs from King’s Handbook of New York City (1892) as best I could, this image gives us a 360 degree view of New York City.

Taken from atop Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World Building, you can get a sense of what the entire city looked like before the turn-of-the-century, when the skyscraper emerged and would forever alter the skyline. A golden dome topped Pulitzer’s Building with an observation gallery that gave the visitor the following view.

(click to get the full size view)

Probably the three most prominent points in the panorama are from left to right, the Post Office, City Hall and the Brooklyn Bridge.

City Hall & New York World Building c. 1908

At 309 feet, the World Building designed by George B. Post was the tallest office building in the world when completed in 1890.

Think about that for a minute. Just 26 floors. From the building’s foundation to the top of its flagstaff it measured 375½ feet. At the time that height was an outstanding architectural achievement.

The second floor of the beehive, as the interior of the dome of the World Building was known to its employees, also contained Joseph Pulitzer’s office.  Here is how the New York World described the top of its own building just after its completion: Continue reading

Covers of 100-Year-Old Souvenir New York View Books

New York City Souvenir View Book Covers From 1911 – 1919

New York of To-Day published by L.H. Nelson 1913

According to NYC & Company over 58 million people visited New York City in 2015. Many of them possibly bought a keepsake to bring back home; a t-shirt, mug or some other knick-knack.

Souvenirs have remained a constant in the world of tourism. Since about 1880, view books have been one of the souvenirs that appealed to visitors of New York City. With everyone now  having a camera to photograph where they were and sights they have seen, view books are pretty much on their way to becoming extinct.

During their heyday from the late 1800s until the 1940s view books were a popular and inexpensive souvenir choice. Most view books generally ranged in price from a quarter to a dollar. They generally contained anywhere from a dozen to 400 photographs of buildings, tourist sights and attractions. Many had plain covers, while others had covers to attract the eye.

Going through my collection, I selected a few view books that date between 1911-1919.

These examples are relatively common for collectors. When they were new I think would have caught the eye of a visitor, because they are still striking today.

Scenes of Modern New York published by L.H Nelson 1911.  A nice cover featuring The Williamsburg Bridge (completed 1902), The Fuller Building aka Flatiron (completed 1902) and The Subway (opened 1904).

New York Illustrated published by C. Souhami 1914. A colorful panorama of lower Manhattan taken from the Brooklyn tower. On the left is the tallest building in the world, The Woolworth Building (completed 1913). To the right is the 40 story Municipal Building (completed 1914). On the waterfront, South Street with its docks and shipping activity was still the hub of maritime New York. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #66 – Brooklyn Bridge & The Manhattan Skyline At Night 1928

Under The Brooklyn Bridge & The Classic Manhattan Skyline At Night -1928

brooklyn-bridge-manhattan-skyline-at-night-1928The Brooklyn Bridge frames this unique view of lower Manhattan at night in 1928. The Woolworth Building (partially seen behind the tower of the bridge) was still the tallest building in the world.

In the center of the photo is the third tallest building in the world, the Singer Building at Liberty Street and Broadway. The second tallest building at the time was the Metropolitan Life Insurance Building on 23rd Street and Madison Avenue.

The next skyscraper to the left of the Singer Building is the Equitable Building. Just south of the Equitable with the pyramid shaped roof is the Bankers Trust Building.

Over the next four years Continue reading

Proposed Brooklyn Bridge Expansion – A Terrible Idea, But I’ve Got A Solution

City Proposes Brooklyn Bridge Expansion Due To Overcrowding

The Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian walkway is always crowded. photo via christiangood.net

The Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian walkway is always crowded. photo via christiangood.net

As reported in the New York Times, New York City officials are considering widening the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian and bicycle promenade because of overcrowding.

It’s a terrible idea. But I’ve got a solution that may not be popular, but will surely lessen the congestion on the walkway.

Anyone who has tried to walk or bicycle across the bridge in the past few years realizes that it is crowded. How crowded?  At all hours the bridge’s 10 to 17 foot wide promenade is full of not just commuters, but tourists. Thousands of visitors, many with selfie sticks meandering slowly, oblivious to their surroundings. Add to that, the bicyclists, hawkers of water and food, the dreaded costumed characters and a few street performers and there you have it, a congealed mass of humanity in a confined space.

Officials say an expansion of the pedestrian path should alleviate the overcrowding. As many people know, city projects almost always end up taking longer and costing New York taxpayers significantly more than the estimated cost.

Taking an iconic bridge and altering it is not the solution to the overcrowding.

The simple solution is to charge a pedestrian toll. The toll would be applicable to anyone not from the New York area. Show a New York ID card or drivers license and you don’t pay the fee. The toll waiver could include residents from the surrounding tri-state area. Cyclists could also cross for free.

If you are from somewhere else and touring the city, you pay for the privilege of walking across the bridge, just as you pay for any other heavily visited tourist site.

The next part is to ban anyone performing or selling anything on the bridge. The problem with that, is something called the First Amendment, which allows artistic expression and the sale of items protected under the First Amendment; i.e. – art, books, etc. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #62

Lower Manhattan As Seen From The Brooklyn Bridge Tower – c. 1905

View Manhattan From Brooklyn Bridge tower circa 1905 locThis unusual view was taken from the top of the New York tower of the Brooklyn Bridge around 1905. Lower Manhattan is in transition from low rise buildings to the ever increasing number of skyscrapers dotting the landscape.

We see smoke rising from many chimneys. Elevated trains make their way across the Brooklyn Bridge while many pedestrians use the bridge’s center walkway.

Near the waterfront atop a building, the Uneeda Biscuit Company billboard is conspicuously advertising one of the most popular turn-of-the-century brands right next to the heavily trafficked bridge.

Postcard Brooklyn Bridge transportation terminal hub on Park Row c. 1905

Postcard Brooklyn Bridge transportation terminal shed on Park Row c. 1905

At the end of the bridge on Park Row, the four and a half story shed structure is the transportation center also called Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #57

Aerial View of Lower Manhattan – Late 1920s

Lower Manhattan from airplane looking south 1934In this aerial view looking south upon lower Manhattan in the late 1920s, the first thing you notice is the concentration of skyscrapers in lower Manhattan contrasted to the low profile tenements in the foreground that make up part of the lower east side.

There are also an abundance of piers along the East River, most of which have now vanished. Looking at the harbor, a large number of boats are active in the bay and on the Hudson River. Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #48 – Brooklyn’s Fulton Ferry House

Brooklyn’s Fulton Ferry House and Brooklyn Bridge circa 1885

Brooklyn Fulton Ferry House and Brooklyn BridgeThis view captures the newly built Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn’s Fulton Ferry House, a beautiful Queen Ann style Victorian building with its ornate mansard roof.

This picturesque scene showing street railways, horse carts, telegraph poles and light fixtures are all vestiges of the 19th century that vanished long ago. The photo was taken around 1885 from the corner of Everett Street (that is the original spelling) and Fulton Street (now called Old Fulton Street) looking north toward Water Street and the Brooklyn Bridge. Besides the Brooklyn Bridge, the small hotel on the corner of Water and Fulton Street on the extreme right with the striped awning, is the only structure in this photo that is still standing.

The service that became the Fulton Ferry began in 1642. The ferry service moved location several times and Robert Fulton inventor of the steamboat, in the 1810’s secured the lease on the land at the foot of Fulton Street for East River ferry service. William Cutting established a ferry line there starting in 1819.

The Brooklyn Fulton Ferry House building was constructed in 1871 by the Union Ferry Company. Called “The Great Gateway to Brooklyn,” the Ferry House was designed by architect William Belden Olmsted a distant relative of Central Park and Prospect Park landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted.

At a time when fire laws generally prevented construction of any wooden structures, the Ferry House was built of wood rather than iron because the company believed that vapors from the sewage deposited directly into the river and the salt water would cause iron to rust! It was probably more of an economic ploy to save on building costs as iron or brick was much more expensive than wood. The three story building measured 173 feet wide and 35 feet high, with the tower reaching a height of 86 feet and the main floor containing large waiting rooms featuring every modern convenience. Even opting for the cheaper wood construction, the final cost was a lofty $138,000.

As the new Fulton Ferry House building was opening its demise was literally right behind it. The construction of the Brooklyn Bridge which began in 1869 led to an inevitable and slow decline of the viability of Fulton Ferry service.

With the 1883 completion of the Brooklyn Bridge Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #40

A 1920’s View Of Lower Manhattan Looking Northeast From The Now Closed Woolworth Building Observation Deck

Lower Manhattan from Wooloworth building Observatory 1920s

A tourist in the early 1920’s took this panoramic view of lower Manhattan from a place that is currently off-limits to the general public, the observation deck of the Woolworth Building. The visitors observation deck was shut down in 1941 right before the United States entry into World War II, when the Navy ordered it closed because it offered too good a view of ships in the harbor. Recently even the Woolworth Building lobby was declared off-limits to anyone wanting a view inside of the ornamental entrance.

Woolworth Building 1913

Woolworth Building 1913

From this vantage point we can see from right to left the Brooklyn Bridge, the East River, the Manhattan Bridge and in the hazy distance the Williamsburg Bridge. Spread across the lower east side are an array of many small buildings, with a couple of exceptions, most notably the tower of the New York City Municipal Building, which can be partially seen on the extreme left in the foreground.

When it was completed in 1913, the 792 foot tall Woolworth Building at 233 Broadway was the tallest building in the world and retained that title until the Chrysler Building usurped it in 1929. Depending upon your source and how you are counting the Woolworth Building contains anywhere between 55 – 60 floors.

For the admission fee of 50¢, visitors could get an incredible view of the surrounding metropolitan area from its observation deck. The tour book the building Continue reading