New YorkSights to See - The Brooklyn Bridge
It was originally known as the "New York and
Brooklyn Bridge", but we know it simply as the Brooklyn
Bridge. When we think today about what has to be one of the
world's most famous bridges, who could
imagine that an old steel roadway could engender such controversy and
Yet, that's the history of the Brooklyn Bridge since before its construction even began in the late 19th century to the present day.
A dream initiated by John A. Roebling (1806 - 1869), who by 1867 had already created
other noted bridges, the project took years to even begin. As with most large-scale
efforts, finances and politics struggled both to create and delay the
project while the citizens of Brooklyn
and Manhattan waited.
Finally, in 1870, construction began - sadly, without J.A. Roebling who
by that time had died from an injury he had sustained earlier on the
son, Washington Augustus
Roebling (1837 - 1926), by now also an accomplished bridge
immediately took over direction of the project.
He threw himself into the project with such an active and personal
participation that he, like his father, eventually suffered a
He became crippled from
Excess nitrogen build-up in caissons,
cylinders used to house men and equipment under the East River,
produced this now well known "diving sickness" when men moved back to
surface too rapidly and without proper decompression. At the time,
however, the causes were poorly understood and Washington Roebling was
not the only individual to fall prey to this form of injury..
Though bedridden, after a partial recovery, Washington continued to
supervise the project from his apartment. Active daily management of
the project passed
to his wife, Emily
Warren Roebling (1843 - 1903). Their joint efforts
eventually led - after many stalls from
political interference and financial and construction difficulties - to
the completed structure, in 1883.
On its first open day in May of 1883, the new roadway above the East
River joining Lower
Manhattan to Brooklyn Heights hosted 150,000 people and 1,800 cars.
Each person paid the grandious sum of one cent to cross. For
vehicles, the cost was five cents.
From the start, the bridge was
a success - artistically, financially, and technologically.
This National Historic
landmark now provides a pathway for over 140,000
vehicles daily across its 1,595 foot (486m) span. The bridge is
recognized the world over for its two distinctive Gothic towers, each
276 feet (84m)
high, which support the innovative (for that time) suspension cables.
distinctive red paint and numerous designs add to the visual beauty
perfectly integrated into the brilliant engineering.
Even in our modern world so far removed from the ideas and ideals of
its construction, thousands still stand far away to get a breathtaking
walk the bridge to see both the view of Manhattan
and to experience the
the awesome historical presence of the structure itself.
The breezy walk across the span of history can take as short a time as
half an hour, or it can last an hour or more.
Along the way there are several plaques to view which provide
historical tidbits about the construction, the participants, and the
views one might have seen here in 1883.
They provide descriptions of Ellis
Island, the first stopping point for
my wife's grandmother Maria, and so many other of the immigrants
arriving in America at the time, as well as
(a former Coast Guard installation).
From the bridge, pedestrians can now look out and see the Statue of Liberty
off the southern tip of Manhattan as well as the Verrazano-Narrows
Bridge (completed in 1964) connecting Brooklyn to Staten Island to the
Getting to this New
York City icon is easy whether you are coming from the
Brooklyn or the Manhattan side. In
Manhattan, just take the 4,5,6 to Brooklyn Bridge or the J/M/Z to
Chambers St. In Brooklyn simply take the A to High St. The walkway
entrance is near the Federal
But, before you leave your hotel, be sure to grab your coat, and guard
your hat while there. The wind over the East
River can be cold and strong.
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