BRIDGE STREET, Financial District

by Kevin Walsh

I got the street sign seen here on Christmas 2020 at a flea market in what had seemingly forever been an empty lot at 6th Avenue and West 28th Street in 1988, when I was working in a small type shop owned by a trio of Russian immigrants a block away on West 29th. I paid $50 for it. I understand today it would be worth several hundred, but I’ll never part with it.

This was Manhattan’s first major street sign design; smaller ones had been mounted on gaslamps or hung on buildings before about 1915 but this was the mainstay design for decades in navy blue and white. The design was also used in the Bronx, which was part of New York County until 1914. The last pair in actual use I saw back in 1999 way up in Eastchester, and when they were replaced, that was it. I loved the serif font. Someone has actually digitized it and sells it under the name Stickball and I occasionally use it here in FNY.

Bridge Street is one of the shorter streets at the south end of Manhattan in the Financial District. It runs two blocks between State Street and Broad, where its eastern progress is stopped at Fraunces Tavern by Pearl Street. It’s named because it used to bridge over an inlet, or “slip” at Broad Street during the colonial era.

At #25 Bridge, in the only 19th-Century structure remaining on the street, you will find the “other” White Horse Tavern, which is somewhat lesser-known than its Greenwich Village counterpart even though it can be said to have as rich a history. There was a brewery on this site during the Dutch colonial era. Fur trader Philip Geraerdy became the first tavern owner in New Netherland, naming it the Wooden Horse for a torture device! Later, he was prevailed upon to rename it the White Horse.

The present White Horse Tavern was founded in 1933 and named for its colonial predecessor. Here it is in a Municipal Archives photo in 1940.

This mural appeared at #25 Bridge in 2019.

Check out the ForgottenBook,┬átake a look at the gift shop, and as always, “comment…as you see fit.”

12/24/20

6 comments

chris brady December 25, 2020 - 8:48 am

We came upon a huge mound of the later model blue porcelain street signs in a Dept. of Public Works scrap yard back in the 1960s.I distinctly
remember seeing one from 42nd and Bdwy still in its metal frame.We chucked some in the East river just goofing around.
Just kids.

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Peter December 25, 2020 - 4:44 pm

Also known as the Spanish Horse or Spanish Donkey, and especially popular for use on women.
http://torturemuseum.net/en/the-spanish-horse/

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redstaterefugee December 29, 2020 - 5:59 pm

On Christmas Day Peter references this repugnant subject. As the late Bob Grant once said: “It’s sick out there & getting sicker”.

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John Kelly December 25, 2020 - 9:23 pm

That bar is great fun. Tasty corned beef sandwiches. Was remodeled in some kind of reality show. One of the last vestiges of old Manhattan. Staff is rather cranky. Well before this covid.

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Ron S December 26, 2020 - 12:00 pm

I bought about 8 of them in the late 60’s from a guy who advertised in the Village Voice. He apparently had bought whole lots of them from the city. You went to his building/yard and walked on top of a layer 4 to 5 signs deep. I was a CCNY student then, so most of mine were Convent Ave, 137th street etc., but I got a few more valuable midtowns as well. I believe they were 5 dollars each. Should have gotten more, but happy I got what I did. Avergae ebay price for a midtown location is around 500-600 these days, but as you say, don’t want to sell them.

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Steven December 27, 2020 - 6:26 pm

It is often times I notice, from a collector’s standpoint, that location normally plays an important part in value of an object. In this case, the famous porcelain-over-steel humpback sign is no exception. I personally believe a majority of the signage existent is way overpriced and unreasonable, since a lot of sellers have the notion they are sitting on top of gold mines. I could understand to some extent the location, but many average street corners can value over $300. You paid $50 for that sign in 1988, which is equal to about $110 in today’s money. That is more reasonable to me, but I wouldn’t mind to pay anywhere up to about $250.

Reply

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