Queensboro Bridge: History & Facts

Instructor: Nate Sullivan

Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.

In this lesson, we will learn about the Queensboro Bridge in New York City. We will examine the history of the bridge, highlight key developments, and understand its importance and impact.

The Queensboro Bridge:

Some of you have probably read F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, or are at least familiar with it. In this classic American novel about life in New York City during the 1920s, character Nick Carraway comments: ''The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge... is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.''

Indeed, the Queensboro Bridge is one of New York City's great bridges, along with the Brooklyn Bridge and others. The Queensboro Bridge connects the borough of Queens with Manhattan. Completed in 1909, the Queensboro Bridge is a cantilever bridge, meaning it is supported with horizontal beams and trusses called cantilevers. The bridge is two-levels, with multiple lanes for automobile traffic on each level. The bridge even had an elevated railway line! The bridge extends over the East River and is an impressive feature of New York City. Traveling from Queens into Manhattan, the Queensboro Bridge welcomes locals and tourists alike to the ''wild promise'' and excitement of the vibrant center of New York City.

The Queensboro Bridge connects Manhattan and Queens, and is one of the great bridges of New York City.
Main photo

Construction

The need for a bridge linking Queens and Manhattan had been realized throughout the 19th century. Proposals for such a bridge date back to the 1830s. After New York City was reorganized in 1898, Gustav Lindenthal was appointed the city's Commissioner of Bridges, and charged with overseeing the construction of numerous bridges throughout the city. Lindenthal designed the Hell Gate Bridge in Manhattan and was instrumental in the construction of numerous others. He, along with architect Henry Hornbostel and others directed the construction of the Queensboro Bridge. When finally completed in 1909, the bridge had cost some $18 million dollars and the lives of 50 workers. With a total length of 7,449 feet, at the time of its completion it was the fourth longest bridge in the world.

The Queensboro Bridge under construction in 1907.
bridge 1907

In addition to several lanes of automobile traffic, the bridge also had an elevated railway line on the upper level and trolley lanes. Initially the bridge was not known as the Queensboro Bridge, but Blackwell's Island Bridge. The bridge itself extends over a small island, that was then called Blackwell's Island; today it is called Roosevelt Island. Blackwell's Island was known for its prisons and hospitals. Blackwell's island is referenced in one of O. Henry's short stories, The Cop and the Anthem.

The Queensboro Bridge originally featured an elevated railway line and trolley lanes.
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