As the second (and some say much less attractive) bridge spanning the East River, the Williamsburg Bridge didn’t score the same adulation as the Brooklyn Bridge did.
Opened in 1903 and until the 1920s the longest suspension bridge in the world, the humble Williamsburg sparked the migration of thousands of Jewish immigrants from the cramped Lower East Side to slightly more spacious Brooklyn.
The bridge scored such heavy traffic from Jewish New Yorkers in the early 1900s, the tabloid-ish New York Tribune called it the “Jews’ Highway.'”
“In its early years, the walkway, which was wide enough for pushcarts, was so crowded with peddlers transporting their wares to and from Manhattan that one newspaper dubbed it the ‘Jews’ Highway,'” writes Victor Lederer in the Brooklyn Historical Society’s Williamsburg.
Watch a fantastic news clip of opening day on the bridge and the top-hatted dignitaries who ceremoniously walked across it first.
[Photo: Jews praying on the Williamsburg Bridge, New Year’s Day, 1909, from the LOC]
Tags: East River bridges, Jewish migration Brooklyn, Jews Praying Williamsburg Bridge, Jews' Bridge Williamsburg, Jews' Highway, Opening Day, Williamsburg before hipsters, Williamsburg Bridge, Williamsburg Bridge Jews