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Brooklyn Bridge photograph.

Brooklyn Bridge photograph.

Brooklyn Bridge photograph.

Brooklyn Bridge photograph.

Brooklyn Bridge photograph.

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Brooklyn Bridge

Also known as: The Great East River Bridge
Built: 1870-1883
Cost: $15,100,000.00
Designed by: John Augustus Roebling and Wilhelm Hildenbrand
Type: Bridge
Maximum Height: 354 feet / 108 meters
Maximum length: 3,455 feet, six inches
Location: Spanning the East River, New York, United States
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R ivaled in cultural stature only by California's Golden Gate Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge is a miracle of architecture built at a time when bigger was better. The span was born out of necessity. While the unified burghs that formed Kings County on the east side of the East River were a formidable presence, up-and-coming Manhattan Island was the place to be. Its more favorable location in New York Harbor was turning it into the center of the young nation's commerce.

As early as 1802 pleas were made to the state legislature to come up with a better way to cross the river. The Brooklyn Bridge was almost not built. In the 1830's it was thought that six-lane tunnel would be a better option. This was bypassed, but resurrected years later in what is now the Brooklyn-Battery tunnel. The East River is much narrower and shallower than its parent to the west, the Hudson River. In winter, it would freeze easily making the journey between Brooklyn and New York City perilous and time-consuming. In fact, during the winter of 1866-1867 it was joked that people from Albany could get to New York faster than people from Brooklyn.

The idea of a bridge didn't get serious consideration until the 1857. The New York Bridge Company was formed to complete the task. It tapped John Roebling to head up the project. He had an idea to build the world's longest suspension bridge. But before his theories could be put into practice, he had to test them. He built several mini-Brooklyn Bridges to see if his design would work. One is in Cincinnati, Ohio spanning the Ohio River. It appeared that stone Neo-Gothic towers supported by caissons holding up a two pairs of 15 3/4 inch wire ropes and a lacework of steel cable would be practical, so he gave it a go.

The steel cables were the key to the projects success, but also proved deadly. One failed during construction, killing two men. There was a scandal surrounding the cable company, and a probe was launched. The contractor was convicted of fraud. This was not the first, nor the last death during bridge construction, but New York Bridge did not keep an official death toll. Estimates range from 20 to as high as 50. There was an explosion, a fire that burned for weeks, people were crushed by stone, caught in machinery, fell into the water, and the most dreaded of all -- came down with caisson disease. Today we know it as "the bends" and almost every worker who toiled beneath the surface of the water constructing the bridge's massive caissons was at risk. Roebling's own son, Washington, was stricken by Caisson Disease and could no longer perform heavy labor. However, he was still instrumental in the bridge's completion.

Washington Roebling took over leadership of the project from his bed when his father died during construction. John was standing on a group of pilings at Fulton Ferry watching the project's progress when a ferry slammed into a fender which abutted the timbers he was perched on. The shifting wood crushed his right foot. Roebling's toes had to be amputated, but he refused further medical attention and died a short time later, becoming yet another victim of the Bridge.

While Roebling was given a dignified funeral, others were not so lucky. Some bodies have never been recovered from the site, and there is a persistent urban legend that states there are a number of bodies entombed inside the bridge's caissons The opening of the bridge was a huge affair. Businesses on both sides of the river let their workers off to attend the celebrations.

The bridge officially opened to the public at 2:00pm on May 24, 1883. The party continued into the night with a fireworks celebration. John Roebling originally envisioned the anchorages could be used as public space. This happened at first, when the Brooklyn anchorage hosted a farmer's market. But it was later closed off. The spaces have been used for municipal storage, wine storage, military storage, and only recently reopened as a location for the arts.

The testimony to the miracle that is the Brooklyn Bridge isn't so much in its enduring psychological footprint, but it's enduring physical presence. More than a hundred years after it opened, the bridge is still one of the strongest in the world. It still has its original original towers, its original main beams, its original main cables, and much of its original structural skeleton.

  • Don't believe any figure that says how many feet the bridge deck is over the river. The actual number varies with the tide and the amount of water coming down the Hudson River.
  • The Bridge towers are made of stone quarried in Hallowell, Maine.
  • The Brooklyn Bridge carries 144,000 motorized vehicles a day, plus 1,115 bicycles, and 2000 people (1998 figures).
  • The bridge was originally painted red. The color came from the mines in Rawlins, Wyoming.

  • Total length: 3,455.5 feet
  • Main span length: 1,595.5 feet
  • Brooklyn Tower height: 320 feet (44 beneath the riverbed resting on bedrock)
  • Manhattan Tower height: 354 feet (78 feet below the riverbed resting on sand)

  • 1870: Construction begins
  • May 24, 1883 - The Brooklyn Bridge opens.
  • May, 1883 - One week after the bridge opens, a pedestrian stampede on the bridge kills 12 people. The bridge was too new and different for people to understand, and many were afraid of its cables. The sight and sound of them moving spooked the crowd like a herd of cattle.
  • 1944 - The last elevated train crosses the Brooklyn Bridge.
  • 1950 - The last streetcar crosses the Brooklyn Bridge.
  • 19 June, 2003 - An al-Qaida terrorist pleads guilty to conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism. Among his projects was coming up with a way to cut the cables that hold the Brooklyn Bridge aloft. He told his commanders in Pakistan that it would not be possible because of tight security.
  • 2006 - The U.S. Department of Transportation lists the Brooklyn Bridge as "structurally deficient". But inspectors are quick to point out that the rating isn't about the span, itself, but about the bridge's approach ramps which are from the 1950's and 1960's, and not part of the original structure.
  • June, 2008: Artist Olafur Eliasson installs an illuminated waterfall underneath the roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge. Water cascades into the river along the width of the bridge.

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"The great towers ... will be ranked as national monuments. As a work of art, and a successful specimen of advanced bridge engineering, this structure will forever testify to the energy, enterprise, and wealth of that community which shall secure its erection."
- John Roebling

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Tuesday, May 26th, 2009 @ 12:28pm
Rating: Five stars.
I have been going to New York City since I was a kid and last year I finally got the chance to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. What an amazing experience! Now every time I go to the city I have to get down to the South Street Seaport just so I can sit by the dock and spend some time looking at the bridge. I even bought and framed some posters of the bridge for my apartment. This site called has some really great photographs. Did anyone hear about this new plan to build a tall apartment building right by the bridge that might ruin the view on the Brooklyn side?

Larry White
Monday, December 8th, 2008 @ 5:45pm
Rating: Five stars.
I grew up in Brooklin and the Bridge is still the best in the world.

Angel M Davila
Friday, April 25th, 2008 @ 10:17pm
Rating: Five stars.
It's an amazing work of art and enginering, a structure that iluminates the souls and endurance of New York and it's people.

Sudeep Nema
Wednesday, December 12th, 2007 @ 8:28am
Rating: Five stars.
It is a excellent piece of Art. Such works only possible with great dedication towards work or great love affair with work. I admire John Augustus for his excellent design.

Ian Lidster
Sunday, February 11th, 2007 @ 4:47am
Rating: Five stars.
I love the brooklyn bridge it stands out as the great american symbol to the rest of the world spanning hearts and minds.

Wednesday, July 5th, 2006 @ 10:26am
Rating: Five stars.
The best looking bridge in the world

Hans Theo Voss
Saturday, February 11th, 2006 @ 6:33pm
Rating: Two stars.
sitting on highest stage of pier 17 with a beer in my hands and watching brooklin bridge. that ´s one of a lot of reasons i visit nyc as often as i can!

Lenny P.
Friday, September 2nd, 2005 @ 12:58pm
Some years ago, before the Anchorage became the site for an art museum, it was opened as the "Anchorage Museum" with exhibits and artifacts concerning the bridge's construction. I was invited to the cocktail reception that was given in the anchorage (Brooklyn side). A docent led us to an area within the anchorage that had been made into a small apartment by the daughter of a bridge worker. It seems the worker was injured during the construction of the bridge and he was let go. His daughter then got a job with the Brooklyn Bridge company. Maybe the old man was upset that daughter got the job and she left the family home. She found a nook in the anchorage and set up her little home. Her father said that the bridge will fall and she should get out. But she didn't. Every day she would scratch a mark on the walls to indicate another day gone by and the bridge still intact. These hatch marks can be seen to this day. (like prisoners scratch on their jail cell walls) During WWII, scrap metal was in demand and someone remembered the iron and steel that was stored in the anchorage. It was cleaned out and Mary's apartment was discovered. Social Service workers found the woman (now in her 80s) and took her to a home so she could be properly cared for. This wondrful treatment must have been great because she died within two weeks of her being saved".

Mal Walker
Sunday, March 13th, 2005 @ 1:26am
Rating: Four stars.
Brooklyn Bridge has an atmosphere of it's own. A beautiful structure that has class.

Wednesday, September 8th, 2004 @ 9:42am
Rating: Five stars.
The most magestic structure that I've seen or experienced

Julie Anne Driver
July 17th, 2003
John Roebling's wife oversaw construction of the bridge when he became ill.

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