The Brooklyn Bridge: not always so beloved

Well-dressed men and women circa 1890, suspended between the city of New York and the city of Brooklyn. Judging by all the smoke in the background, it looks like the camera is facing the Brooklyn side.

At the time this photo was taken, the bridge was only seven years old.


(Photo: B. Merlis)

And if the naysayers had their way, it would never have been built at all. When the “East River Bridge Project” was conceived in 1829, the sentiment was that a bridge would disturb the beauty of New York Harbor and the shipping industry that thrived there.

An editorial in The New York Mirror stated: “The mischief that would ensue, according to our view of the subject, from the erection of a bridge, would be little less than infinite.

“To allow a merchant ship to pass under it without striking her topmasts, it would be necessary to elevate it to not less than one hundred feet above the water. . . . Who would mount over such a structure, when a passage could be effected in a much shorter time, and that, too, without exertion or trouble, in a safe and well-sheltered steamboat?”

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8 Responses to “The Brooklyn Bridge: not always so beloved”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    In the 1980s I lived on the Lower East Side and worked in Brooklyn. I’d walk most days to and from work on the Brooklyn Bridge. That walk was still the highlight of my day, and I’d love coming to Manhattan at the start of the evening where you get to view the whole city before you, it was like fresh feeling coming over you that heightened the night before me. Ah, those were the days…

  2. Cary Conover Says:

    Hard to say, but I think this picture was taken facing toward Manhattan, not Brooklyn. Only reason I say this is because of the shadows cast by the sun. Most times of the day during most times of the year the sun is to your left as you’re walking from Brooklyn to Manhattan, no?

  3. A Strike Doesn’t Mean the Race Is Off - City Room Blog - Says:

    […] Brooklyn Bridge was regarded by some as an unnecessary eyesore that could prove destructive to shipping in New York Harbor when it was first envisioned as the […]

  4. wildnewyork Says:

    That sounds right. I was just thinking that Brooklyn had more industry at the time along the waterfront that would produce all that smoke!

  5. Nabe News: September 8 - Bowery Boogie | A Lower East Side Chronicle Says:

    […] old picture of the Brooklyn Bridge, circa 1890.  When first conceived in 1829, the East River Bridge Project had many naysayers who […]

  6. kenju Says:

    I am almost finished reading “Great Bridge”. It’s nice to see a photo from that era.

  7. devb Says:

    Not everyone was so upset… Brooklyn residents had Bridge Street named that years before the bridge was built in a bit of optimistic symbolism.

  8. jerry Says:

    I’m from Harrisburg, PA and my wife–an immigrant from Brazil and soon-to-be proud American citizen next month–just returned from a NYC sojourn.

    I must say that the highlight for me, and perhaps my wife, was walking across this magnificent bridge and attending Palm Sunday mass at St.Pat’s. Both were spiritual moments to say the least! Amazing what our beloved country’s pioneers did with so little, eh?

    USA!!! USA!!! USA!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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