City Island Bridge finial finds a home on promenade

City Island Bridge finial finds a home on promenade
One of the classic City Island Bridge’s iconic finials has been installed at Catherine Scott Promenade.
Photo by Tommy Breen

A treasured City Island artifact has returned home.

In a homecoming of sorts, a finial from the classic City Island Bridge was installed at the Catherine Scott Promenade on Thursday, December 20.

The Gothic Revival-styled finial is over eight feet tall and resides upon an ornate concrete pedestal.

The finial is one of four from the bygone green steel swing bridge which served as the Bronx seaport’s sole access and departure point by road from July 4, 1901 to December 18, 2015.

Barbara Dolensek, City Island Nautical Museum vice president and administrator, noted that the bridge most associated with City Island was actually not its first.

In 1873, famed City Island shipbuilder David Carll constructed a wooden toll bridge from timbers of the decommissioned 74-gun battleship U.S.S. North Carolina to connect the 1.5 mile long island at Bridge Street. The city replaced the original crossing in 1901 with an 800 feet long steel bridge costing $250,000 which soon became known locally as the ‘City Island Bridge.’

The bridge’s informal grand opening was commemorated on July 4, 1901 with permission from then deputy bridge commissioner Matthew Moore.

The first pedestrians to traverse it were Lawrence Delmour’s wife Mary and her sister; Moore; borough tax commissioner John McDonough; E.H. Lyng; A.T. Riley; D. Simpson and Westchester police captain Copeland.

The bridge consisted of five 80 foot long fixed approach spans and a 180 foot long central swing section.

Its swing section was deactivated and converted into a fixed span in 1963.

Dolensek noted that while it’s unknown who designed the 1901 City Island Bridge, it did bare a striking resemblance to the landmarked Macombs Dam Bridge which is adorned with four finials.

Despite City Islanders’ best efforts to have their bridge landmarked, the city had discovered that it was far too deteriorated.

The city initially planned to replace it with a cable-stayed design bridge, but faced strong opposition from residents and elected officials.

Following a decade-long controversy, the community approved causeway-designed bridge was opened on October 29, 2017.

Ron Terner, Focal Point Gallery owner and 45-year City Island resident, was with local documentarians Tommy and James Breen photographing the bridge’s demolition on September 15, 2016.

According to Terner, the finial residing at Catherine Scott Promenade is one of three ‘surviving’ finials as the fourth broke during the deconstruction.

“The finial is representative of the last 100 years of City Island and its history,” said Tommy. “When the island shifted from a shipbuilding hub to a restaurant destination, that bridge was the only constant.”

A NYC Department of Transportation spokeswoman stated that DOT and NYC Parks are working together on a permanent installation for the finial. Currently there are no plans for the remaining finials.

The Catherine Scott Promenade will be reopened once the contract work is completed.

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