Sunday, November 30, 2014

Kosciuszko Bridge & Penny Bridge - Meeker Avenue Bridge

Bird's Eye View of Kosciuszko Bridge from Bing Maps
As the end of the Kosciuszko Bridge draws near it seems appropriate to reflect on the soon to be demolished structure, as well as the former spans that once connected Greenpoint to the Queens side of Newtown Creek. The Kosciuszko was built to replace the Penny Bridge (a.k.a. Meeker Avenue Bridge); however, the Penny Bridge was not the first structure in the area to span Newtown Creek. The Penny Bridge's predecessors included a bridge built on wood piles after the war of 1812 which was replaced in 1836 by a bridge on stone piers. The toll to cross the 1836 structure was 1 penny, hence the origin of the name for the Penny Bridge built in the late 1800s.[1]

Penny Bridge abutment
Penny Bridge Abutment on Queens Side
Area map showing location of Penny Bridge
Penny Bridge Location & Site Context
Little if any physical evidence remains of the two earliest bridges, however the abutments of the Penny Bridge can still be seen on the banks of Newtown Creek. Built in 1894, the Penny Bridge was the main link from Greenpoint, Brooklyn to Sunnyside and Maspeth, Queens via Meeker Avenue. The Penny Bridge was a turntable bridge spanning 144 feet across Newtown Creek. According to publications immediately prior to demolition of the structure, the bridge "wreaked havoc" on shipping traffic due to its low clearance and turntable design. To open, the bridge would pivot from an island in the middle of the creek 1/3 the size of the span creating a channel on either side of the structure. The larger channel, measuring approximately 53 feet wide, determined the limit of the size of vessels that could pass.[2] Although the island that housed the bridge's pivot no longer exists its property lines are still part of Sunnyside Queens according to Google Maps.

Kosciuszko Bridge from end of Meeker Avenue
Kosciuszko Bridge from Former Site of Penny Bridge
Construction on the Robert Moses era Kosciuszko Bridge began on May 25th of 1938 and it was completed in August of 1939.[2] Originally named Meeker Avenue Bridge, the Kosciuszko was renamed in 1940 to honor the Polish patriot and Revolutionary war hero Thaddeus Kosciuszko.[3] The structure is a truss bridge measuring 6,400 feet long, making it 384 feet longer than the Brooklyn Bridge, and 125 feet high.[2][4] At the time it was built the span had the distinction of being the longest bridge over a narrow waterway in the world.[4]

New Footprint of Kosciuszko Bridge
As the cycle of construction life marches forward there will soon be yet another bridge constructed to replace the Kosciusko. At the time of this blog post construction mobilization is underway to replace the old Kosciuszko with a new modern Kosciuszko Bridge that will meet current safety standards and help elevate traffic congestion with additional, wider lanes and a reduced road incline. In addition, the new bridge will include a shared use path for cyclists and pedestrians.[5] The proposed structure will be built in the roadbed adjacent to the existing Kosciuszko Bridge (see photo above).[6]


  1. "'Penny Bridge' Inquiry Evoked Many Replies" Brooklyn Daily Eagle 24 September, 1950
  2. North, Leslie "Boon to Industry" Unknown Publication Source 4 August, 1939
  3. Ingersoll, Kosciuszko Memorials Approved" Brooklyn Daily Eagle 17 October, 1940
  4. "A Fact A Day About Brooklyn" Brooklyn Daily Eagle 29 July, 1941
  5. New York Sate DOT online.
  6. Mitch Waxman "Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek" Atlas Obscura tour. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

McGovern Weir Greenhouse Across from Green-Wood Cemetery

McGovern Weir from intersection
McGovern Weir Greenhouse
McGovern Weir Greenhouse
Across from the main entrance of Green-Wood Cemetery at 5th Avenue and 25th Street is the only surviving Victorian style commercial greenhouse in New York. "The Greenhouse is a wood frame structure enclosing glass pains, and has glass and galvanized-iron roof surfaces."[1] Much of the structure's bold appearance can be attributed to its domes, as well as the projecting bays and corner entrance vestibule. The McGovern Weir Greenhouse was commissioned by James Weir Jr. and designed by architect C. Curtis Gillespie who lived near the site.[2]

McGovern Weir Greenhouse Dome & Weir Sign
James Weir Jr. inherited a love for the flower trade from his father James Weir Sr. who came to America from Scotland in 1844 and entered the flower business in Bay Ridge. In 1861 the Jr. Weir went into business for himself as a florist.[3] Later, in 1866 James Weir Jr. moved his business to 24th Street and 5th Avenue to serve those visiting Green-Wood Cemetery. Then, he moved to 25th Street between 4th and 5th Avenues. Finally, Weir's last move came after 1880 when he commissioned prominent local architect Mercien Thomas to design a greenhouse on the site where the surviving Weir Greenhouse now sits. Mercien Thomas's building was replaced by the current structure in 1895.[1] The Weir greenhouse was a Family business owned by James Weir Jr. and operated with the help of his son and grandson, all of whom lived nearby at 236 and 228 25th Street. The greenhouse remained in the Weir family until 1971 when it was sold to the McGovern family.[2] 

McGovern Weir Greenhouse Entrance & McGovern Sign
After the McGoverns took over the Weir business the Greenhouse faced a slow decline. A New York law banning the use of water filled containers in graveyards during mosquito season (April 1 - October 15) and subsequent declining demand for fresh flowers made it difficult for the McGovern family to be able to afford the maintenance on the landmarked structure. So, in the fall of 2010 the McGoverns had the property listed for sale. The McGovern family continued to operate the Greenhouse until 2012 when the property was sold to Greenwood Cemetery.[3] The current plans for the old Greenhouse include restoration and conversion into a visitors center for the cemetery. The cemetery is currently accepting donations to help cover the high cost of restoration.

  1. Dolkart, Andrew S. New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. Weir Greenhouse New York, 13 April, 1982
  2. Richman, Jeff "It's Ours" 6 February, 2012
  3. Gray, Christopher "Sale May Rescue Ruined Greenhouse" New York Times 10 July, 2011