Construction on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. PR 20, Geographic Images Collection, New-York Historical Society

Among the many treasures in the Department of Prints, Photos and Architectural Collections in the Klingenstein Library is the Architect & Engineer File, which, as the name suggests, is a collection of architectural and engineering drawings culled over many years from myriad sources.

While retrieving other material in this collection for a researcher a couple months ago, I happened upon a folder of graphite drawings for the future Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. (The spelling of the name was recently corrected to include the second ‘z’!) Their creator, Dr. Erwin T. Mullerin, donated the perspective studies to the Society in 1975. Created on waxed trace paper between 1960-1962, the largest is 21 x 38 inches. While not technical, the drawings are beautiful in their elegance and simplicity, reminiscent of fine art prints.

When the lower deck was completed in 1964, the suspension bridge, which connects Staten Island to Brooklyn, and hence, the rest of New York City, was the longest in the world. It was so long, in fact, that engineers had to factor in the curvature of the earth when designing it. Though this is no longer true (it is presently the 14th longest bridge), it retains the notable distinction of being the only bridge ships have to pass under to enter New York Harbor from abroad, which accounts for its name; it honors Giovanni de Verrazzano, the first European explorer to do so.

“Perspective Study, Gantry at Truss 39, Upper Level — Eastbound, Staten Island Side,” 1962. PR 53, Architect & Engineer File, New-York Historical Society

Detail of “Perspective Study, Retaining Wall at Ramp K, Brooklyn Anchorage,” 1961. PR 53, Architect &Engineer File, New-York Historical Society

Perspective Study detail of access road to Shore Parkway. PR 53, Architect & Engineer File, New-York Historical Society

Detail of Brooklyn approach to Verrazzano Bridge perspective study. PR 53, Architect & Engineer File, New-York Historical Society

Detail of Verrazzano Bridge East Tower perspective study. PR 53 Architect & Engineer File


The post is by Jill Reichenbach, Reference Librarian for the Department of Prints, Photographs and Architectural Collections