Urbane Explorers: The Most Cordial Account of Scaling The Williamsburg Bridge

November 19, 2014 | Bucky Turco

On Monday, ANIMAL published a firsthand account of what it’s like to climb the Williamsburg Bridge, a risky but age-old tradition that New Yorkers have been partaking in since the before the structure was officially opened. In present day, urban explorers and some adventurous tourists caught scaling bridges face trespassing charges. If caught over a century ago, it seems that they’d have been publicly heralded as heroes.

At the turn of the century, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle published an amusing story about some debonair urban explorers who scaled the still-under-construction New East River Bridge, the original name of the structure, back in 1901. Rather than packing light, they were prepared to throw a party:

The remnants of a feast in the shape of empty champagne bottles and corks were found by workmen this morning at the top of the Brooklyn tower of the New East River Bridge.

As the paper notes, bridge workers found the bottles, but it was a “mystery” who put them there. Amazingly, a hotelkeeper named Charles Schmitt then came forward and took credit for the ascent. Not only did he readily identify himself, but he also called out his three accomplices and shared the details of the climb with the paper:

The start from the hotel was made at 10 o’clock and they managed to pass the watchman. It took the men about half an hour to reach the top of the Brooklyn tower.

Then they celebrated and got patriotic:

After resting, the wine was opened and the new structure was toasted and all joined in the singing the “Star Spangled Banner.”

No arrests were made.

(Photo: Skyscrapercity)