If you’ve ever driven into the city from New Jersey and sat in a couple hours of traffic waiting to traverse either the Lincoln or Holland Tunnel, this 19th century idea for a Hudson River Bridge probably sounds pretty amazing. It would have spanned 6,000 feet from Hoboken to 57th Street in Manhattan, almost double the length of the George Washington Bridge, to give you an idea of its massiveness. Furthermore, it would have been 200 feet wide and 200 feet high, providing space for 12 railroads, 24 traffic lanes, and 2 pedestrian walkways. Its two 825-foot support towers would have surpassed the 792-foot Woolworth Building, which was the tallest skyscraper in the world at that time.
In the 1880s, the Pennsylvania Railroad conceived of a giant tunnel under the Hudson to connect its trains between New Jersey and New York, but the fear of smoke inhalation from steam-powered trains led them to hire engineer Gustav Lindenthal to design a bridge, founding the North River Bridge Company. In 1895, the cornerstone for the bridge was laid at Garden and 12th Streets in Hoboken, four blocks east of the river. It’s estimated that construction would have cost $23 million, but adding in related costs would have brought the expense to $40 million, which was about the amount it took to run the city of New York at the time. Dealing with the aftermath of the financial panic of 1893, construction was delayed and eventually cancelled altogether when the new century ushered in electric trains that turned the attention back to building tunnels.
The cornerstone today at Steven’s Institute of Technology, via Historical Marker Database
Of course, in the end, the Pennsylvania Railroad did build tunnels under the river, but impressed with Lindenthal’s bridge proposal, they hired him to design the Hell Gate Bridge, which at the time was the longest and heaviest steel bridge in the world, and the Queensboro Bridge. And that cornerstone was moved to Hoboken’s Stevens Institute of Technology where it remains today.
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