once went hand in hand on Manhattan, especially on bridges. For a long time iIt was even considered especially good manners for a gentleman to kiss a lady while on a bridge. (“What happened on the bridge stays on the bridge”)
Reverend Mr. Burnaby, quoted in New York’s Morning Chronicle on April 19, 1803, said, “it is the etiquette for every gentleman in company with a lady to salute his fair companion when upon it.”
There were multiple Kissing Bridges because there were dozens of springs and brooks all over Manhattan that people and coaches and horses and carts had to cross.
At one point in our city’s history, ladies could expect to fetch up a kiss at the bridge at 32nd Street just west of Fifth Avenue,at 33rd Street and Lexington Avenue over Kip’s Run, 54th Street and First Avenue, and 50th Street and Second Avenue.
The custom stretched back before the American Revolution judging by an advertisement in the Weekly Museum in 1797, looking for a tenant for the season of a 10-acre lot “through which the Kissing bridge brook runs.”
The well-researched Hidden Waters of New York City, by Sergei Kadinsky, tells us that in an earlier century, even, kissing bridges were common, over bodies of water that had names like Old Wreck Book, Sunfish Pond and De Voor’s Mill Stream.
Does anyone else have a “comfort century” the way people now keep “comfort animals”? Mine would be the seventeen century.
I think you can tell how verdant and stream-flushed Manhattan might have been in those days if you look at what’s called The Castello Plan, a famous copy of the first street map of the island, drawn in 1660. As the city grew more developed, it seemed, kissing on bridges grew less important. Perhaps with more buildings, people found more private places to smooch.
Let’s think. What bridges are there now in and around Manhattan? You can visit the many bow bridges of Central Park, over one hundred, every one of which was designed by Calvert Vaux. Walkers throng the Brooklyn Bridge, which the last time I was there seemed weighed down by the padlocks that were hung as amorous tributes, with the key thrown into the drink a gesture toward the infinity of the couple’s love, but since cut off by the City). There’s Brooklyn, George Washington, and more, and a little farther up out of town, where I live, the Tap. Each of these could be repurposed as a kissing bridge, if we only had the romantic will.