Note: Unless otherwise noted, the source for the historical photos appearing in this narrative is The Municipal Engineers of the City of New York: Proceedings, 1910. Digitized By Google.
The Manhattan Bridge is the companion bridge to the Brooklyn Bridge. Visually, the two bridges compliment each other helping to create one of the most recognizable landscapes in the country. Perhaps the bridge has suffered from being next to the world-famous Brooklyn Bridge, since the Manhattan Bridge has wrongfully been put down as less beautiful, and less noteworthy. However, the Manhattan Bridge is in reality no comparison to the Brooklyn Bridge. While the Brooklyn Bridge's appearance and history is largely tied to its distinctive stone towers which provide the majority of its aesthetic value, the Manhattan Bridge is equally tied to its metal-based structure and appearance. And indeed, Manhattan Bridge exhibits perhaps one of the greatest and most beautiful combinations of function and design ever seen in a United States metal bridge. It is one of the only bridges in the United States that has a European appearance to it, because it is strongly decorated with ornate embellishments that are designed to flow and blend in with the bridge superstructure itself. Back in the time of the Manhattan Bridge, structures like the neighboring Williamsburg Bridge were actually considered strongly utilitarian and even ugly by people of the time. This was quite different from today's world of unimaginable blandness in bridge design, where a concrete slab with New Jersey barriers is called a bridge. Today, the Williamsburg Bridge's intricate geometric beauty is much more apparent. However, it remains clear that the Manhattan Bridge has even more beauty, on account of this aesthetic treatment that was incorporated into the bridge design, and in a way that these decorations have the appearance of being integral to the bridge superstructure itself.
It is sad to see that this bridge has not received the respect that the Brooklyn Bridge has. One expression of this lesser attention and respect is immediately apparent upon walking on the bridge sidewalks. While ugly modern additions that obscure the beauty of the Brooklyn Bridge have largely been avoided, the Manhattan Bridge has plain ugly cyclone fence added to the pedestrian railings. This fencing severely detracts from the quality of a walk on the Manhattan Bridge, and is also a detriment to the beautiful aesthetic designs that are so much a key part of this bridge's heritage.
With any bridge this large, it is impossible to give credit to any one individual for the design and construction of the bridge. Gustav Lindenthal is perhaps the most famous person associated with the bridge, and his design efforts are present mostly in the tower design. Noted engineer Leon Moisseiff also participated in the design of the bridge. The firm of Carrere and Hastings designed the approaches to the bridge. Ralph Modjeski, a famous bridge engineer, also oversaw parts of the bridge's design and construction.
The tower foundations were built by J. C. Rodgers. The Brooklyn anchorage was built by Kosmos Engineering Company. The Manhattan anchorage was built by Williams Engineers and Contracting Company. The metal superstructure was fabricated and constructed by the Ryan-Parker Construction Company. Ryan-Parker subcontracted out to many companies. Some of the more noteworthy companies included Roebling and Sons Company for cables, American Bridge Company for "rope supports," and Phoenix Iron Company for erection of the steel structure.
Above: This historical construction photo is of particular interest because it shows the design of the cable system at the anchorage. The wire cables tie into eyebars at the anchorage. These eyebars are the link between the cables and the anchorage substructure.
Above: This photo shows some of the workers who built the bridge. They were doing the final wrapping of the cable at this point.
Above: This photo shows the sinking of a caisson for the bridge.
Above: Early 20th Century Photo of Bridge. Source: Library of Congress
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