Book celebrates Queensboro Bridge By John Lauinger - 04/01/2008 New York Daily News
Ninety-nine years ago last Sunday, the Queensboro Bridge opened to traffic - and modern Queens was born.
"The Queensboro Bridge was undoubtedly the single most important factor in the creation of the borough as we know it," said Bob Singleton, co-author of a new book that documents the creation of the celebrated span through archival photographs.
"Images of America: The Queensboro Bridge," published last week, is a collaboration of the Greater Astoria Historical Society and the Roosevelt Island Historical Society.
Featuring 127 pages of insightfully captioned photographs, illustrations and maps, along with six short essays, the book brings to life the beginnings of the bridge that punched a ticket to urban development for what was then a mostly rural Queens County.
"When the Queensboro Bridge opened in 1909, traffic of all sorts flowed across the great bridge, forming an ever-expanding delta of urbanization from the Queens Plaza terminal," the book notes.
It took eight years of construction, $20 million and the deaths of 50 workers to span the East River while also providing access to Roosevelt Island.
By establishing a land link to Manhattan, Queens was able to capitalize on its distinguished neighbor's economic prowess.
"Queens was the supply network for Manhattan," said Judith Berdy, president of the Roosevelt Island Historical Society, who co-authored the book with Singleton. "You had to have ways of getting the merchandise to the factories and the food and the produce into the city."
Designed by Gustav Lindenthal and Henry Hornbostel, the bridge, with its twin cantilever design and graceful truss work, has sparked the imagination of writers and artists. It was featured in hit movies such as "Spider-Man" - and inspired a song by Simon and Garfunkel (though identified by its Manhattan-oriented alias: "59th Street Bridge Song [Feelin' Groovy]").
In his classic novel, "The Great Gatsby," F. Scott Fitzgerald captured the bridge's poetic appeal: "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."
Even during its construction, the bridge reflected the unrivaled multiculturalism that would eventually define Queens.
"The ranks of the people who worked on this bridge were drawn from all around the world - and we can see that in the faces in the photographs," Singleton said.
To sum up the bridge's importance to the borough, Singleton quoted the celebrated architect Frank Lloyd Wright: "Without an architecture of our own, our civilization has no soul."
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