A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from April 14, 2008
The Jews’ Highway (Williamsburg Bridge)

The Williamsburg Bridge connects the Lower East Side of Manhattan with Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The bridge opened in December 1903; an article in the New York Tribune in April 1904 commented on the Jewish traffic on the bridge and dubbed it “The Jews’ Highway.”

The “Jews’ Highway” nickname was seldom used, however, and is of largely historical interest today.

Wikipedia: Williamsburg Bridge
The Williamsburg Bridge is a suspension bridge in New York City across the East River connecting the Lower East Side of Manhattan at Delancey Street with the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn on Long Island at Broadway near the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (Interstate 278). It once carried New York State Route 27A and later Interstate 78.

Construction on the bridge, the second to cross this river, began in 1896, with Leffert L. Buck as chief engineer, Henry Hornbostel as architect and Holton D. Robinson as assistant engineer, and the bridge opened on December 19, 1903 at a cost of $12,000,000. At the time it was constructed, the Williamsburg Bridge set the record for the longest suspension bridge span on Earth. The record fell in 1924, when the Bear Mountain Bridge was completed. It is an unconventional structure, as suspension bridges go; though the main span hangs from cables in the usual manner, the side spans leading to the approaches are cantilevered, drawing no support from the cables above. The main span of the bridge is 1600 feet (488 m) long. The entire bridge is 7308 feet (2227 m) long between cable anchor terminals, and the deck is 118 feet (36 m) wide. The height at the center of the bridge is 135 feet (41 m) and each tower is 335 feet (102 m); these measurements taken from the river’s surface at high water mark.

New York Architecture Images - Williamsburg, Brooklyn
The most telling impact on the community came from the opening of the Williamsburg Bridge in 1903. Overnight the community changed from a fashionable resort with hotels catering to such sportsmen as Commodore Vanderbilt, Jim Fisk, and William C. Whitney to an immigrant district absorbing the overflow from New York’s Lower East Side. (The New York Tribune of the period characterised the bridge as “The Jews’ Highway:") Its elegant families moved away, and its mansions and handsome brownstones from the post-Civil War era fell into disuse and then were converted to multiple dwellings.

J-Walks: Retracing Jewish Heritage in New York City
JW5: Hasidic Williamsburg
Visit a shtetl without stepping into a time machine. This walk begins with a stroll over the Williamsburg Bridge—once known as the “Jews’ Highway”—into one of Brooklyn’s most fascinating Jewish neighborhoods with around 25,000 Satmar Hassidim. Prior to their arrival, however, Williamsburg was home to many Jewish populations—first liberal German Jews, followed by Eastern European orthodox, giving way to today’s enclave of ultra-orthodox Jews. Come and learn about this center of Jewish life, past and present.

Chronicling America
3 April 1904, New York (NY) Tribune, part 2, pg. 1, cols. 1-2:

In crossing the new Williamsburg Bridge one can hardly help noticing the pronounced Oriental cast of features of many of the pedestrians. A remark to this effect made to one of the German workmen employed on the bridge the other day brought out this response: “Yes: this is a Jew bridge, built for them with American money—and the Americans don’t know it.”
(Col. 4 photo caption)
By some called “The Jews’ Highway” from the congested East Side of Manhattan to less crowded quarters in Brooklyn.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityTransportation • (0) Comments • Monday, April 14, 2008 • Permalink