1888: A Construction Milestone for a Bridge Between the Empire and Garden States

June 13, 1888

Construction on a swing-span railroad bridge spanning the body of water known as the Arthur Kill and linking Staten Island, New York, with mainland New Jersey was completed at 3:00 p.m. At the time, the 800-foot (240-meter)-long Arthur Kill Bridge was the world’s largest drawbridge. It was also the only land connection to Staten Island, retaining that distinction until the debut of the Outbridge Crossing and Goethals Bridges in 1928. 

A temporary pontoon bridge providing a linkage with Elizabeth, New Jersey, was built by the British during the American Revolution, but otherwise Staten Island had been accessible only by ferry or private boat. Congress authorized construction of the Arthur Kill Bridge on June 16, 1886, and work on the structure was finished only three days shy of the completion deadline.  

Within an hour or so after the bridge was completed by the Staten Island Rapid Transit Company, a small party of engineers and others involved in the construction of the structure traveled to it via the tugboat P.I. Nevins. The members of the party included J. Frank Emmons, president of the Staten Island Rapid Transit Company; and Charles Ackenheil, the civil engineer who oversaw construction of the bridge. This group had the opportunity to see the new drawbridge move from an open to closed position for the first time.

The next day’s edition of the New York Times reported, “At the moment the stream was bridged cheers were given by those in attendance as well as by the hundred laborers who felt proud to see this great work finally accomplished and a successful test made without the breaking or giving of any part.” 

The Arthur Kill Bridge was formally opened on January 1, 1890. The structure remained in operation until 1959, when it was replaced by the Arthur Kill Vertical Lift Bridge built nearby.

Image Credit: Public Domain

For more information on the Arthur Kill Bridge, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Kill_Bridge

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