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The Williamsburg Bridge

By Dan Brenner

Posted on August 7, 2019

[The Williamsburg Bridge, spanning the East River], circa 1910, v1973.6.575; Brooklyn Historical Society.

The Williamsburg Bridge opened to the public on December 19, 1903, spanning the East River and connecting Manhattan’s Lower East Side with the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg. It was designed by American Civil Engineer Leffert L. Buck and architect Henry Hornbostel who would later also collaborate on the design of the nearby Queensboro Bridge.

This time period coincided with a massive population growth in New York City, prompting an ease of movement between boroughs and necessitating the need for more connections. The Williamsburg Bridge was the second permanent structure to connect Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn following the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883.

Construction began in 1896 and cost the city $24.2 million in total. At the time of it’s opening, the Williamsburg Bridge was officially the longest running suspension bridge in the world, spanning a total of 7,308 feet. The structure would hold this title until 1924, when the Bear Mountain Bridge opened in upstate New York.

The Williamsburg Bridge was one of the last bridges built in New York City designed for the purpose of trolley use. In the decades after it opened, railways and trolley lines accounted for most of the traffic on the bridge. To accommodate the growing frequency of automobile drivers, the trolley tracks were closed and converted into roadways in 1932.

This image comes from the Brooklyn photograph and illustration collection (ARC.202). For more information please see our finding aid here and for more photographs from this collection please visit our image gallery here.

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our Brooklyn Visual Heritage website here. To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections; visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m. [email protected].

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