This week's bridge is a small bridge, but one of the oldest still standing, and one of the most unusual in the country. It is the Carroll St. Bridge, which carries Carroll St. over the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, between Bond St. and Nevins St.
This bridge was built from 1888-1889 and was designed by Robert Van Buren and George Ingram. It is a retractile drawbridge, one of two in New York City (the Borden Ave. Bridge in Queens, currently under reconstruction, being the other) and only one of four in the U.S., and it is the oldest of them all. The trapezoidal bridge sits on rails and by means of pulleys is pulled back horizontally, diagonally, to the west until the bridge section sits on land parallel to the street, leaving a 36-foot wide passageway. Approaching the bridge, it looks like a rickety old thing, so it's fascinating to then look down and see the pulley mechanisms and rails. The bridge is narrower than the street, and carries only one lane of traffic on the one-way street, to the southeast. It has a sidewalk on each side. The length of the entire bridge is 107 feet.
In 1986 the bridge was closed (in the open position) because the rails were so badly out of alignment. But it was also deignated a historic landmark in 1987, so restoration took place. It was reopened (or reclosed) in time for its 100th birthday in 1989. It still carries a sign on the truss above the roadway that threatens a five dollar fine for any vehicle that drives across the bridge faster than a walking pace. It also still has wooden gates to close the roadway and sidewalks.
The bridge, and the canal, are in the middle of an area that is largely industrial, but you don't have to walk far to reach the popular neighborhoods of Carroll Gardens to the west and Park Slope to the east. I will discuss the Gowanus Canal and environs more in a subsequent week when I discuss one of the Gowanus Canal bridges that is less interesting on its own.