Skip links

On Top Of The Brooklyn Bridge

There’s nothing necessarily new about the topics that this photo touches on, but I had not seen this one before and it’s a spectacular shot. That is the view from the top of the Manhattan tower of the bridge, looking west across lower Manhattan. The Library of Congress lists this as between 1907 and 1915, but, as usual, it’s possible to narrow it a bit further. The domed tower to the left of the bridge terminal is the Pulitzer Building, home to the New York World newspaper. The dark building with the hip roof two buildings to the left of that is the American Tract Society Building at 150 Nassau Street. The light-colored building between the two, with the prominent upper-story light court, is the Tribune Building. We’re looking at the rear facade of Tribune after its vertical expansion, which sets the lower-bound date as 1907. The upper bound is based on what’s missing: the Municipal Building to the right of the terminal, and the Woolworth Building behind (and towering over) Tribune. Woolworth topped out in the summer of 1912, so we’re no later than early 1912.

The other old skyscraper that needs to be mentioned is 15 Park Row, on the far left side of the shot. I think that the building with the pronounced arcade (just left of the “FOX BUILDING” sign and up and to the left of the prominent “Uneeda Buscuit” sign) is the headquarters and printing plant of Harper Brothers publishers.

On the topic of signs, the number of billboards facing the bridge is remarkable. I find it even more remarkable that the city somehow got control over that visual pollution. For people unfamiliar with Uneeda Biscuits, (a) I suggest speaking the name phonetically out loud and (b) they are US-style biscuits, which is to say salty crackers, not UK-style biscuits. Most of the signs can’t be read, but Lipton’s Tea and Grape Nuts cereal are there.

Just to the right of the Uneeda sign you can see the combined tracks of the Second and Third Avenue elevated passing under the bridge on its way down to South Ferry. The trains on the bridge, on either side of the pedestrian walkway and about ten feet below it, are part of the Brooklyn Rapid Transit elevated system and end at the terminal. If the elevated had remained in use, rather than being replaced by subways, that line would probably have been extended further into Manhattan at some point in time. The streetcars on the bridge are also part of the Brooklyn system, and so are trolleys.

One last thought: a city where every building had a boiler powered by coal had a lot of smoke.