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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 112: Traffic Over the Great Western Gateway Bridge.

[This information is from Vol. II, pp. 1576-1579 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. Some images have been relocated to the area in the text where they are discussed. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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The Great Western Gateway Bridge, the eastern portal of the Mohawk Valley gateway to the west — Schenectady bridge history — The four Schenectady bridges over the Mohawk River — Facts and figures of interest relative to the great traffic passing over the Great Western Gateway Bridge and the old Mohawk Turnpike — Mr. Harry Furman of Schenectady the original advocate of the G. W. G. B.

The Great Western Gateway Bridge at Schenectady is one of the most important and impressive bridges on any of the main trunk line highways in the United States of America. It forms the eastern gateway to the Mohawk Valley mountain pass leading to the west, and it is the beautiful eastern portal of the Old Mohawk Turnpike, America's greatest automobile road. This Schenectady-Scotia bridge is today (1925) the only handsome and artistic bridge structure in the Mohawk Valley and it should furnish a model and standard for future bridge construction in this region. The Great Western Gateway Bridge, with its approaches, is three-quarters of a mile in length.

There are four bridges crossing the Mohawk at Schenectady: The Great Western Gateway Bridge, carrying automobile, highway, interurban trolley and foot passenger traffic; the old highway bridge, carrying the Schenectady Railways Co. (electric) tracks and traffic; the New York Central R. R. bridge and the Delaware and Hudson R. R. bridge.

The Mohawk was crossed by ferry at Schenectady for 150 years after the city's settlement. In 1808 the first bridge was built here. It was a picturesque wooden suspension bridge and was considered a marvel of bridge-building skill and its stone piers formed the supports of the later iron (1874) highway bridge. A bridge built in 1798 blew down before completion. The wooden suspension bridge was covered about 1820. In 1874 the Remington Ilion Bridge Works built the iron highway bridge here. This was a toll bridge up to March 11, 1920, when it became free. The toll franchise brought in $25,000 annually to the town of Glenville. In the old turnpike days here was the first Mohawk Turnpike toll gate, going west.

The following concerning the Great Western Gateway Bridge has been furnished the editor of this work by the Great Western Gateway League. The opening paragraphs indicate, to the reader, the reasons for the selection of the name of the bridge. The figures concerning the automobile traffic crossing the Mohawk river at Schenectady are most impressive. To one who knows the growth of this traffic in recent years, the future estimates seem most conservative. Probably nine-tenths of this Schenectady Mohawk river bridge automobile traffic passes, in whole or part, over the Old Mohawk Turnpike, which may be truly said to begin at the eastern portal of the Great Western Gateway Bridge at the foot of State Street in Schenectady where the Great Western Gateway Hotel now stands.

The Great Western Gateway League contribution follows:

Through the Gateway of Schenectady, before the coming of the white men, passed, with messages of peace or war, the chieftains of the Iroquois on their way to the council fires of the Confederacy of the Five Nations.

Through this Gateway advanced the intrepid vanguard of western civilization, unterrified of the red and savage horde with its menace of massacre and sudden death. Through this Gateway, under the banner of Human Liberty marched the embattled Continental hosts to meet and conquer the minions of the oppressor King.

Through this Gateway, at the command of the Statesman, Clinton, flowed the waters of the Erie to meet the waters of the Hudson, and the portals of this Gateway first heard and answered with their echoes the shrill whistle of the iron horse.

Through this Gateway, to-day, by water and by rail, moves the vast commerce of the western continent.

The figures given below show the rapid growth of traffic over the old highway bridge over the Mohawk River from Schenectady to Scotia and figures showing what the travel will be over the Great Western Gateway bridge in 1930 and 1935 and the total of the whole period:

Autos and Trucks Crossing Scotia Bridge Yearly
YearAutos RegularTotal Autos and TrucksPersons
1901500  
191062,000  
1914169,260193,200579,600
1918463,758541,6001,629,800
1920557,000668,4002,005,200
1925 (est.)837,0001,004,4003,013,200
1930 (est.)1,127,0001,352,4004,057,200
1935 (est.) 1,724,4005,173,200
Total from 1920 to 1935:
15-year period 19,067,40057,200,400

The following prediction was made by the Great Western Gateway Company League in 1919:

The above table for the 15-year period reaches the phenomenal number of 19,067,400 and the number of persons in autos during the same period is 57,200,400. In addition to this there will be approximately 6,570,000 foot passengers and 273,000 wagons, making a total of approximately 60,043,400 persons in autos, wagon and pedestrians that will cross this bridge in the next fifteen years.

The basis for the above figures is taken from a report by the Secretary of State, for the years 1901-1919 and the future estimates are based on curves made from these figures, also on 200 automobile days a year and three passengers to a car. This is the basis used by the Auto Club of America.

Secretary of State, Francis Hugo, wrote of the Old Mohawk Turnpike and the Great Western Gateway Bridge:

"The road west to Utica which passes through the territory of the Scotia Bridge and East to Pittsfield is one of the greatest single arteries in the United States."

* * * * * * * *

The Utica Saturday Globe of May 24, 1919, had the following concerning the men who were largely responsible for the creation and construction of New York State's most beautiful bridges and one of America's greatest works of concrete construction:

"The Great Western Gateway is an accomplished fact. Yesterday it was the vision of a dreamer who stood nearly alone at times, but one who had the courage of his dreams and whom rebuffs and discouragement could not shake off from his purpose to make his dream come true. To the men who assisted in putting over this great project all praise is due. Without the hearty co-operation of Senator Marshall and Assemblyman Machold, without the vital assistance of Senator Sage, the work of years would have come to naught. And without the broad vision of Governor Smith in grasping the potentialities of a Greater New York to which this project will vastly contribute, the whole plan would have failed.

"But the Great Western Gateway is a dream come true, and the dreamer is to-day receiving the only reward he ever desired — the knowledge, known to a few friends that his was the plan, the foresight, and the indomitable courage that will give to the Greater Schenectady of the next generation a piece of engineering which will stand as a monument to a dreamer who made his dream come true.

"Harry Furman was the dreamer. His was the courage and enthusiasm that opposition could not quench and failure oft repeated could not shake from his purpose. When others doubted, he dreamed on, never relaxing for a moment his determination to make this dream come true. His enthusiasm and courage were contagious. With him have stood a few men who worked indefatigably and all are reaping the only reward they have ever sought — the reward of those who work unselfishly for the good of others."

[Photo: The General Electric Company]

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