Brooklyn Heights, circa 1850. Brooklyn Historical Society collection.

Path Location: 8

A Ramp and Two Bridges

From 1849 until 1946, any Brooklyn resident who wanted to experience the waterfront could walk down Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights until it turned into a steep ramp leading directly to the shoreline.

Between 1849 and 1859, two bridges were built that permitted pedestrians to cross over the ramp from the Heights above: an imposing stone arch and a small, graceful iron footbridge.

Brooklyn Heights Boom

The ramp and the “substantial stone arch … thrown across the street at the brow of the heights” were both completed by autumn 1849, according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

At that time, the area now known as Brooklyn Heights was growing rapidly. The population of the neighborhood swelled, landowners and developers built elegant residential townhouses, and street renovations occurred apace.

By 1859, “a neat iron bridge ” erected by “the wealthy property holders” of the vicinity also spanned the ramp, connecting what was then called Columbia Street#, running along the crest of the heights parallel to Furman Street, to a “private street” on the south side of the bridge.

Brooklynites came to call the stone archway “Montague arch” and the iron bridge “the penny bridge.”#

Montague Street Ferry

In 1853, a new ferry line began operation between Montague Street and Wall Street in lower Manhattan. Travelers used the Montague Street ramp to descend to and ascend from the waterfront ferry terminal. They did so on foot, by horse-drawn carriage, and after 1891 on the new cable cars that ran between the ferry landing and Brooklyn’s City Hall (now Borough Hall) at the eastern end of Montague Street.

Destroyed for the BQE

The Montague Street ferry ceased running in 1912, and a decade later, the Montague Street cable car line shut down. In 1946, the ramp and two bridges were demolished to make way for Robert Moses’ Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Today, nothing remains of these architectural landmarks of old Brooklyn Heights.