The Williamsburg Bridge’s inferiority complex

When the Williamsburg Bridge opened on December 19, 1903, Scientific American (by way of had this to say about a structure critics conceded wasn’t nearly as breathtaking as its neighbor, the Brooklyn Bridge:

“Considered from the aesthetic standpoint, the (Williamsburg) Bridge is destined always to suffer by comparison with its neighbor, the (Brooklyn) Bridge,” the magazine wrote.

“It is possible that, were it not in existence, we would not hear so many strictures upon the manifest want of beauty in the later and larger (Williamsburg) Bridge, which is destined to be popular more on account of its size and usefulness than its graceful lines.

“As a matter of fact, the (Williamsburg) Bridge is an engineer’s bridge pure and simple. The eye may range from anchorage to anchorage, and from pier to finial of the tower without finding a single detail that suggests controlling motive, either in its design or fashioning other than bald utility.”

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11 Responses to “The Williamsburg Bridge’s inferiority complex”

  1. Parnassus Says:

    I see the article’s point, but it seems that in the intervening 100 years, mere utility has gotten a lot balder.

    As an aside, I just read Alan King’s autobiography, and he talks about growing up in Williamsburg.

    –Road to Parnassus

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    I happen to love the Williamsburg Bridge. Utilitarian, sure, but it’s a glorious walk.

  3. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    I spent a few years walking and writing under the Williamsburg Bridge. It gave me a place to go when I cut out of school and had no better place to be in than a park. Later, it’s quiet and little peopled walkways gave me the solitude I needed in my writing. The “East River Stories” were an early result, the stories were published here and there but as a book they still haven’t seen print. I wonder if it’s walkways are as isolated as they once were, probably not, the city always changes. I’m gone but still it exists. Someone is walking under the Williamsburg Bridge, hear the traffic noise above…

  4. marinachetner Says:

    Though not as popular as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge to me, is so much more character driven. It has (unscrubbed) street art that makes for an even more enjoyable walk across; its pink caged walk- and bikeways gives it a slight edge, just because of their colour; the bridge links two wonderful neighbourhoods together – Williamsburg and Lower East Side… and only from here can you see the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. Sure, it may have been built more utilitarian then, though now – it stands on its own. Thanks for sharing this!

  5. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    Marina, Love your blog, with some nice pics. Keep it up 😉

  6. wildnewyork Says:

    Yes, I really love the photo of the little sparrow in the park!

  7. marinachetner Says:

    Thanks to you both 🙂 I appreciate that 🙂

  8. P. F. Chang Says:

    This is by far the largest bridge among the 4 East River bridges. It carries 8 highway traffic lanes, 2 transit tracks, and pedestrian walkway/bikeway. After more than 20 years of rehab, it finally comes to the end this year. And I’m proud of being part of the rehab team. Salute!

  9. marinachetner Says:

    PF Chang – great work! I love the Bridge and everything it represents. I did a post on the Williamsburg Bridge a while back called ‘Art on Art’ – related to its street art – and it got Freshly Pressed. So, many more people got to see the beauty of it. It’s one of my favourite bridges to walk across! Thank you to you and the rehab team. It’s a bridge close to my heart.

  10. The “Jews’ Highway” crossing the East River | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] the second (and some say much less attractive) bridge spanning the East River, the Williamsburg Bridge didn’t score the same adulation as […]

  11. The three most beautiful bridges in the world | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] This steel span has lots of charms, but it was destined to be in the Brooklyn Bridge’s shadow. […]

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