Celebrating The Opening Of The Williamsburg Bridge December 19, 1903

118 Years Ago The Williamsburg Bridge Opens With Great Festivities

Fireworks opening Williamsburg Bridge December 19 1903 photo Library of Congress

Fireworks Williamsburg Bridge 12/19/1903 photo: Library of Congress

On December 19, 1903 the second bridge to join Manhattan and Brooklyn opened.

Since May 24, 1883, for over 20 years, the Brooklyn Bridge, provided the only means of crossing between the two boroughs besides boat. Work commenced on the Williamsburg Bridge October 28, 1896 to remedy that situation.

The land necessary to build the Williamsburg Bridge cost $10 million, yet the bridge itself was built for $11 million. The Brooklyn Bridge cost $17 million to construct.

When it opened the Williamsburg had multiple transport options. Four roads for trolley tracks, two elevated train tracks, two roadways for vehicles, and two footpaths for pedestrians. The big surprise to modern readers might be that there were two paths for bicycles.

The Dedication Festivities

The opening ceremony began at one o’clock. A military parade led New York Mayor Seth Low departed from City Hall, went up Broadway and on to Broome Street, then to the bridge. Mayor Low was met closer to the Manhattan side rather than the center of the bridge by Brooklyn Borough President John Swanstrom who was approaching with a delegation from the Brooklyn side, Twenty years before, Low, as Mayor of the City of Brooklyn, also presided as master of ceremonies of the opening of the Brooklyn  Bridge. Once together, the two groups of officials proceeded to Williamsburg Plaza for the dedication.

Boat whistles shrieked. Bands played. Guns and cannons were fired. Speeches were made. The Star Spangled Banner was sung. The bridge was dedicated open at 2:43 P.M.

Below are some of the rare original invitations to the events.

Onvitation Williamsburg Bridge opening 1903At the conclusion of the dedication the delegation of VIP’s proceeded to The Hanover Club on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn for a reception. The affair was informal with no speeches being made.

Entertainment was provided and lunch served. This is what was on the menu:

Menu luncheon Williamsburg Bridge opening 1903At eight o’clock, a fireworks show was given which thousands came to see. Special invitees were able to view the pyrotechnics from boats.

invitation fireworks display Williamsburg Bridge 1903

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