In DUMBO, Brooklyn, the shores of the East River bear witness to a time when the only way to commute between Brooklyn and Manhattan was via water. This is the story of Fulton Ferry Landing, a landmark steeped in history and instrumental in Brooklyn's transformation into a bustling city.
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In the early 19th century, traveling across the East River was a cumbersome task. The tide turned in 1814 when Robert Fulton, an engineer and inventor, introduced the first steam-powered ferry. Its point of departure? None other than what we now call Fulton Ferry Landing.
The advent of Fulton's steam-powered ferry revolutionized transportation between Brooklyn and Manhattan. What used to be a laborious journey was reduced to a mere 12-minute commute. It became practical and appealing to live in the quieter, more affordable neighborhoods of Brooklyn while working in the bustling heart of Manhattan.
This ease of access led to an explosion in Brooklyn's development. Within a few decades, Brooklyn ascended the ranks to become the third-largest city in the country. Brooklyn Heights emerged as New York's first commuter suburb, and Fulton Ferry Landing became a hub of activity, transporting over 50 million passengers each year.
However, with the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883, ferry ridership dropped dramatically. Despite the convenience and speed it offered, the ferry couldn't compete with the convenience of the bridge, and it ultimately ceased operations in 1924.
Today, Fulton Ferry Landing is a cherished reminder of a bygone era. Walt Whitman, one of America's most celebrated poets, immortalized it in his poem "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry." As you walk around in DUMBO, look out for excerpts from this poem etched into the railings, including the famous line: "Stand up, tall masts of Mannahatta! stand up, beautiful hills of Brooklyn!"
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