Posts Tagged ‘Williamsburg Bridge opening’

The Williamsburg Bridge’s inferiority complex

January 24, 2012

When the Williamsburg Bridge opened on December 19, 1903, Scientific American (by way of nycroads.com) 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.”

“The lovely span of the Williamsburg Bridge”

April 18, 2010

This Williamsburg Bridge postcard looks like it depicts the bridge when it was built in 1903. Perhaps it hasn’t opened, since there’s no traffic.

It was the same bridge that captivated Francie Nolan, the dreamy, imaginative protagonist from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which tells the story of a poor Williamsburg family around 1910.

“Johnny took Francie up on the roof. She saw a whole new world. Not far away was the lovely span of the Williamsburg Bridge. Across the East River, like a fairy city made of silver cardboard, the skyscrapers loomed cleanly.”

Later, as a teenager who had to quit school to work in Manhattan, Francie is disappointed by the bridge.

“Looking at it from the roof of her house, she had thought that crossing it would make her feel like a gossamer-winged fairy flying through the air. But the actual ride over the bridge was no different than the ride above the Brooklyn streets.

“The bridge was paved in sidewalks and traffic roads like the streets of Broadway and the tracks were the same tracks.”