This bridge is one of an estimated three remaining retractile bridges surviving in the United States. In a retractile bridge, the bridge rolls back off of the waterway using a system of tracks and rollers. The benefits and ease of constructing other movable bridge types meant that the retractile was never a popular movable bridge type. Only Boston and New York City appear to have ever built more than a couple of these bridges. Of the estimated three surviving retractile bridges known in the United States and indeed North America, New York City is home to two of the retractile bridges, and these two are the only two in North America that actually still operate. The other retractile bridge in New York City is on Borden Avenue. Because both bridges are an example of a creative design of movable bridge and the only way in which the operation of such a design can be witnessed today, this bridge should be considered among the most significant historic bridges in North America. The only other retractile bridge aside from these two is in Boston. Rumors of a retractile bridge in Chicago were investigated and were found to be false; the bridge some had been calling a retractile bridge in Chicago was actually an unusual form of bascule bridge called a Rall bascule.
Although the Carroll Street Bridge had deteriorated and been closed to traffic just short of its 100th anniversary back in the 1980s, the bridge was sensitively rehabilitated to bring it back to good condition while also maintaining its historic integrity. The bridge was also designated a landmark under the Landmarks Preservation Commission which is a New York City program to protect heritage structures. As a result of these efforts, the bridge remains today with good historic integrity. All the essential elements of the 1889 bridge remain including its continuing operation as a retractile bridge, and also lack of alteration or changes to the original superstructure design. The bridge superstructure is essentially a simple through plate girder, but it has a distinctive appearance on account of the overhead bracing and stabilizing stays, which are called "Samson Posts."
Be sure to review the Landmarks Preservation Designation document, which is offered at the top of this narrative, as it offers a detailed history and discussion of the bridge.
Video of the bridge retracting is available on YouTube here.
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