Early Brooklyn never wanted for picturesque spots ideal for courting couples, but by the 1850s some of the old favorites were already disappearing. The Wallabout foot bridge, so popular that people would ferry from New York to cross it, became superfluous as the wetlands around the bay were filled in and Flushing Avenue appeared in the 1840s. The respectable charm of topiary, gleaming white statues, and flavored ice creams at the Military Garden had already begun the inexorable slide toward the honky-tonk that plagued much of the area around City Hall toward the end of the century; by the 1860s it would be a shooting gallery.
The Montague Street Bridge came to the rescue in 1854. Designed by Minard Lafever to cross the part of Montague street that descended from the top of Brooklyn Heights to the old Wall Street Ferry, the stone arch became locally famous for the voice echoes it made.The charming bridge and the sunset views quickly captivated couples and young families who made it a favorite destination for rendezvous, promenades, and picnics.
The reverse view, northwest toward the Battery from Montague Terrace. Period tinting.
As to its colloquial name, it seems that every bridge without vehicular traffic was a “penny bridge” in the common vernacular, and greater Brooklyn had at least a half-dozen of them. Perhaps the most official Penny Bridge (the one that survives in print, at any rate) was the one across Newtown Creek at Meeker avenue in what is now Greenpoint.
A cable line trolley system was installed in 1891 to mechanize the ascent and descent of the Montague grade. The ferry stopped service in 1912 due to competition from the new subway line at Borough Hall, but the trolley continued until 1924. The Penny Bridge was demolished in 1946 for the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.
The view toward the Heights at Montague today:
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