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May 24, 2015

May 24, 1883: “New York and Brooklyn Bridge” opens

Babylon had her hanging garden, Egypt her Pyramid, Athens her Acropolis, Rome her Athenaeum; so Brooklyn has her Bridge.

On this day in 1883, the the first walkable connection between America’s largest and third-largest cities opened.

My writing career began with a blog called The Weekly Nabe, in which I researched randomly-selected Brooklyn neighborhoods. Here’s an excerpt from one of my first posts, on the area below the bridge:

The first grant for a commercial ferry was given to Cornelis Dircksen in 1642, although local waterfront land-owners were free to make their own crossings of the river (for themselves or for others), so it wasn’t a true monopoly. The town of Brooklyn, headquartered around the ferry area and neighboring Brooklyn Heights, grew slowly: from 300 or so in 1675, to 1,603 in 1796.

After America won its independence, a different sort of revolution came in 1814, when Robert Fulton, at the behest of Brooklyn magnate Hezekiah Pierrepont, secured a 25-year lease on the ferry, using his steamboat Nassau. The first trip was made on May 10, 1814, and brought with it the first predictable passage between Brooklyn and Manhattan. Trips took no longer than twelve minutes, and there was no chance of the ship being swept upstream or downstream, or held to the whims of the wind.

The ferry continued to be successful until the 1883 opening of the Brooklyn Bridge. It stayed in service for another 41 years, ceasing operations in 1924, with Manhattan-bound ferries not returning until 2006.

I mentioned that Brooklyn and New York were separate cities; they would consolidate in 1898. You can learn more about the evolution of Brooklyn here.

Image: unknown photographer, from the first week of the bridge’s operation, via (the now-defunct) Tapestry

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