Recent Acquisition: Poughkeepsie Bridge Building Photos

This past week, we received a small collection of photographs that show the building of the Poughkeepsie Bridge, known as the Mid-Hudson Bridge. What’s so interesting about these images is that not only can we see the bridge’s construction, but we also have some amazing views of the City of Poughkeepsie. When we drive on the bridge today, we don’t take the time to think about what the landscape might have looked like a century ago (probably because we are so busy trying not to get ourselves killed in traffic). There are large parts of the city that were simply wiped away to make room for new buildings and roads. 

As the construction of the bridge was underway in the late 1920s, everyone watched with amazement as the caissons were lowered into the riverbed and the towers began to rise. These photographs, donated by the folks at the Town of Hyde Park Historical Society, show the bridge just as the cables were completed, which would have been in 1930, as well as the beginnings of the construction of the road bed. We mentioned in a blog post awhile back that the bridge cost just under six million dollars to build, and was completed in August of 1930. Former Governor Al Smith and Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt attended the opening ceremony, where the first cars could cross the bridge for free (but just on opening day). 

In these photographs, we see a mixture of waterfront factories, housing for workers and their families, church steeples, and a spattering of familiar landmarks (if you look really close!). The further back you try to see, the blurrier it gets. However if we compare these views to our modern day landscape, one thing is perfectly clear… we’ve lost a lot. Entire neighborhoods were erased during the years of Urban Renewal and the construction of both arterials. For example, if we take at the first image on the right and look just beyond the hat that the unknown gentleman is wearing, we can see an entire section of the city was totally demolished within a 30 year period beginning just after World War II. Streets were altered including Union, Gate, and South Water, as row upon row of houses were torn down. In the next photo, we see the north end of the city with several factories and the port for the launching of riverboats, and once again, this area–now Waryas Park–is almost completely altered today. 

In our collection we have a series of photographs by photographer Frank B. Howard, who managed to photograph these parts of the city before the Mid-Hudson Bridge was built. We can see in his photo on the right, depicting a backyard with piles of lumber, the space where the approach for the Mid-Hudson Bridge would be placed. The bulk of the buildings that we can see in the background were demolished before 1975. Having all of these photos together really helps us to get a sense of how things have changed overtime, and it makes one ponder what will happen over the course of the century to come. 

Special thanks for the gift of these lovely photos by James Goring on behalf of the Town of Hyde Park Historical Society. 

History of the Mid-Hudson Bridge by William R. Corwine – LH 625C
State of NY Department of Public Works Mid-Hudson Bridge Report, 1924 – LH 625Gre
Dutchess County Parcel Access mapping 

01 – Photo looking east towards the City of Poughkeepsie of an unknown man standing at the top of the Mid-Hudson Bridge. Circa 1930 – LH Collections.
02 – Photo looking northeast towards the City of Poughkeepsie from the Mid-Hudson Bridge – Circa 1930 – LH Collections.
03 – Photo looking towards the City of Poughkeepsie from the Mid-Hudson Bridge. Circa 1930 – LH Collections.
04 – Photo by Frank B. Howard, looking at the City of Poughkeepsie just before the approach for the Mid-Hudson Bridge was built.
05 – Image of the Gate Street area, circa 1940.
06 – Modern view of what is left of Gate Street, 2022.