Posts Tagged ‘Brooklyn bridge’

Let the Brooklyn Bridge show you the way

June 8, 2020

The Brooklyn Bridge (or the East River Bridge, as this 1920 postcard charmingly calls it) is many things.

It’s a display of engineering might, a graceful web of wire over water, a symbol of New York’s unity, the embodiment of promise and possibility. Let it be a source of inspiration during this time when our city has been tested.

[MCNY F2011.33.1882]

The three most beautiful bridges in the world

September 19, 2016

They’re like sisters: the oldest, the Brooklyn Bridge, gets all the accolades. The Williamsburg Bridge came next; at the time it opened in 1903, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world.

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


Youngest sister the Manhattan Bridge opened in 1909. It once had an approach modeled after a bridge in Paris and the colonnades on the Manhattan side modeled after St. Peter’s in Rome. These days, this workhorse bridge doesn’t get the love its sisters are used to.

The Manhattan entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge

July 12, 2012

No, not the confusing crosswalk thing going on down around City Hall Park these days.

This was the Park Row Terminal, a transit hub that provided access to railroads and street cars that took passengers to the Brooklyn side.

Street cars disappeared from the bridge in 1950. I don’t know when the terminal bit the dust, but I like the open view of the bridge we have today.

“The cables, Brooklyn Bridge, New York”

January 10, 2012

Amazing that a century-old penny postcard can capture the beauty and magic one still encounters on a stroll across this magnificent bridge.

A 1920s poet haunts a Brooklyn red-light district

October 19, 2011

Sands Street today is an unremarkable stretch through the Farragut Houses in Dumbo.

But this beachy-sounding street has a very colorful history.

In the late 19th century, it was Brooklyn’s red-light district, so seedy it earned two evocative nicknames: locals called it the “Barbary Coast” in the 19th century and then “Hell’s Half Acre” through the 1950s.

Lined with saloons, rooming houses, gambling dens, and tattoo parlors, Sands Street catered to sailors from the Navy Yard and the East River waterfront.

It also appealed to less rough-and-tumble New Yorkers craving a dangerous thrill.

Struggling young poet Hart Crane (below), an Ohio transplant living just a short walk away at 110 Columbia Heights in Brooklyn Heights, regularly visited Sands Street in the 1920s.

“With Emil away at sea a lot and their relationship intermittent, Crane walked down to Sands Street searching for sex to share in a rendezvous meant not to last,” writes Evan Hughes in his wonderful book Literary Brooklyn.

“Cruising was a dangerous pursuit for Crane in a time of rampant homophobia. More than once he came home beaten and bloodied.”

Crane committed suicide in 1932, leaving behind his poem “The Bridge,” an ode to the Brooklyn Bridge—which he was able to see from his apartment and perhaps Sands Street as well.

[Top photos: Sands Street tattoo parlor, undated, and Sands Street in 1946, from the NYPL digital collection]

“Under Brooklyn Bridge” in 1931

September 21, 2010

This drypoint etching by William C. McNulty—described as a “romantic-realist” in a 1963 obituary in The New York Times—depicts an industrial city under stormy skies.

The East River “great suspension bridge” opens

May 22, 2010

May 24 marks the 127th anniversary of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge, celebrated in 1883 with a “grand display of fireworks and illuminations” according to this newspaper account.

The Brooklyn Bridge was hailed as an engineering marvel; schools closed for the day as politicians gave speeches and thousands of pedestrians were charged one cent to cross it.

But the festivities didn’t last. A few days later, after a staircase gave way, tragedy struck and 12 pedestrians were killed.

The “moving sidewalks” the city never built

March 8, 2010

It probably sounded like a civilized solution to the increasingly congested New York City of the 19th century: to ease crowded streets, “moving sidewalks” or “moving platforms” would be built underground.

The idea was first proposed in 1871, then more seriously in 1902 for the Brooklyn Bridge.

Widely debated in newspapers at the time, it went no where: Mayor Seth Low killed the project.

But it popped back up again around 1910, this time as a network of moving sidewalks at a top speed of about 10 miles per hour that would replace the new subway system.

So why didn’t the idea fly? Perhaps the subway companies had too much political clout to let it happen. Or maybe subterranean roller coaster cars didn’t move people as efficiently as a subway car could. 

In the end, the idea kind of lives on—inside city airport terminals.

The Brooklyn Bridge: not always so beloved

September 8, 2009

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?”

Riding the el over the Brooklyn Bridge

April 22, 2009

That’s quite a curve in the elevated tracks on the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge. I wonder what it felt like as you crossed into and out of Brooklyn while sitting in a rattling old train car, like this one pictured in this 1907 postcard. 

brooklynbridgesubwayThe elevated train wasn’t your only transit option for traveling between boroughs. Check out the streetcars in the left lane and at right. And the horse and wagon barely visible at bottom.

There’s also a decent number of pedestrians too, just like there are today. One thing missing: cars. I wonder if it was even possible to cross the bridge in a car in 1907, or if the bridge was only able to handle mass transit and walkers.

This postcard is part of the Walker Evans postcard exhibit at the Met. It runs through May 25.