The first bridge across Alley Creek was built in 1824 (see the photo below). The road that we know today as Northern Blvd was called the Flushing and North Hempstead Turnpike. It ran from Flushing to Roslyn and was a toll road. (Little Neck Bridge, circa 1900)
__Many of the main roads on Long Island of the 1800’s, Merrick Road, Jericho Turnpike, were toll roads. While I still have much to learn about the history of Long Island, these toll roads and their corporations look to have been a nice way for the wealthy to tax its poor travelers. They also were the only way to get them built. By the end of the 1800’s the towns were built up with enough alternate routes that travelers found roads to use to get around the tolls. The big investors in the toll companies had moved on to other investment prospects, and the condition of the toll roads themselves declined. By about 1900 the towns had taken over almost all of the old toll roads and had them torn down. The section of the North Hempstead Turnpike (what is today Northern Blvd) in Bayside and Little Neck was renamed to Broadway. (Below: A Flushing and North Hempstead Turnpike toll house which still stands at the north side of Northern Blvd just west of Glen Cove Rd in Roslyn.)
The first railroad bridge over Alley Creek was built in the 1860’s when the Flushing and North Shore line (the names of the old rail lines are very confusing) extended passenger service out to Great Neck. In 1898 it was extended to Port Washington. At the time, both bridges at Alley Creek were working draw bridges.
The first major building near the bridge was by Van R Swezey’s who built a coal and lumber yard, on the east side between Broadway and the railroad. (Photo: Van Swezey yard, and, to the far right, a glimpse of the Little Neck Bridge, circa 1900.) I don’t know how successful the yard was. A photo by the late 1920’s show the whole facility to have been abandoned.
In 1910, it was announced with great fanfare that trolley transportation would be coming to eastern Queens and western Nassau. The New York and North Shore Traction company was granted a permit to offer car service from Flushing to Whitestone, Bayside, Port Washington, Roslyn, and Hicksville. The main drag for the trolley line was to be Broadway (Northern Blvd), and the company would power the cars with a giant plant 500 feet north of the bridge at Alley Creek. (Photo: Trolley going down Broadway / Northern Blvd, power plant at Alley Creek in the back on the left.)
The power plant was a huge building for the time in the area, its smokestack could be seen for miles. Below, a Bayside postcard in which the power plant is figures prominently. (metropostcards.com)
Trolley service didn’t last very long. The North Shore Traction was in financial trouble from the start. Whether it was a legal limitation on its ability to raise fares, a lack of ridership in towns which may have been growing but still had small populations, or because it had a vast amount of track to maintain, the company folded in 1920. Neither the city or anyone else wanted to attempt to keep the cars running. The era of the streetcar in northeast Queens was over. While it may not have lasted long, the Queens Courier recently credited the company with laying the groundwork for the growth which followed on the north shore. It credits their improvement and widening of Northern Blvd for helping north shore towns develop as they did. (Below, a 1918 Automobile Club of America map, showing the North Hempstead Turnpike as one of three major routes of travel out to Long Island)
When the trolley company folded, North Shore Bus Company (first called Rauchwerger Bus) initiated service, they were taken over by the city in 1947. (Photo, Flushing, Roosevelt Avenue, 1942).
The current bridge at Little Neck was built in 1931. When Robert Moses built the Cross Island Parkway in the late 1930’s along the bay in Bayside, he put a bike path between the water and the parkway that leads to the bridge. The power plant building remained standing into the 1950’s. The Kiddy City amusement park was bult on the old Swezey lumber yard in 1955 and closed in 1964. A golf range that openned in the 1960’s is still in operation today. The Alley Pond Environmental Center community facility was opened in 1972 just southwest of the bridge. A wetlands improvement project was just completed on the northeast side of the bridge.
Much thanks to Mitch Kahn for his help with the research on this topic. The bridge is of special interest to me as someone who must have crossed it on bicycle hundreds of times on his way out to explore Long Island. See facebook group and album for more photos and details.