Known around the world by both appearance and name, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the 19th century’s greatest architectural and engineering marvels. Take one look at the majestic, cable-stayed structure, and it’s easy to understand its popularity. Read up here on the conception, construction, and living history of the bridge.
Roebling’s Grand Plan
Prior to its completion, the only way to travel between Brooklyn and Manhattan was by ferry. As far as John Augustus Roebling—a German immigrant who played a major role in the development of transport infrastructure here and in Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania—was concerned, this was unacceptable. As early as 1857, Roebling worked on plans to build a bridge spanning New York’s East River. In 1867, the state legislature chartered a company to build the bridge. While technically a suspension bridge, Roebling’s plan for the Brooklyn Bridge was unique in that it featured a cable-stayed system to fortify the structure’s stability.
Passing the Torch from Father to Son
Two years after New York chartered the project, construction on the Brooklyn Bridge began. While conducting surveys for the project, John Roebling sustained an injury that resulted in a tetanus infection. The tetanus took Roebling’s life just before construction began, but not before he appointed his son, Washington Roebling, as his successor. Three years into the construction of the bridge, Washington Roebling contracted caisson disease. There is consensus among historians that Roebling’s wife, Emily, was at the helm of the project for its final 11 years.
Jumbo over DUMBO: A Circus of a Grand Opening
By the time the bridge was ready for crossing in 1883, 14 years of ingenuity, labor, blood, sweat, and tears were invested. The project’s tally was $15 million, and 27 lives were lost along the way. On May 30, 1883, less than a week after the bridge’s grand opening, a woman crossing the bridge tripped and fell. Spectators freaked out, some shouting out that the bridge was falling, and a stampede that killed 12 and injured 36 more ensued. The following year, P.T. Barnum led Jumbo the Elephant, 20 other elephants and 17 camels across the bridge to demonstrate just how sound its construction was.
Tales from Within
The Brooklyn Bridge is just shy of 6,000 feet long, 85 feet wide, and stands 277 feet above the water. Not visible to most visitors, however, are the bridge’s Cold War bomb shelter and natural wine cellars, known as the “Blue Grotto.” The temperature in the cellars is always right around 60 degrees, the perfect temperature for storing wine.
Well over 100,000 people cross the Brooklyn Bridge every day. Have you been one of them? If you’re staying at NU Hotel Brooklyn during your next visit to the Big Apple, you can walk to this marvel in about 15 minutes.