Majestically looming over NYC’s East River, the Brooklyn Bridge connects the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan. Since 1883, Brooklyn Bridge’s steel cables and granite towers have provided a safe, scenic route to millions of tourists and everyday commuters, bicycles and trains, carts and cars. It took 14 years, 600 workers and $15 million dollars (over $320 million today when adjusted for inflation), to build this marvel of civil and mechanical engineering. At least 24 people lost their lives during its making, which included the original designer. Now, having attained an age of over 125 years, this icon of New York City’s skyline still carries around 150,000 vehicles and pedestrians on a daily basis.
- Boss Tweed helped in initiating the project: William M. ‘Boss’ Tweed, the notoriously corrupt head of NYC’s Tammany Hall political structure attached himself to the Brooklyn Bridge project from the very beginning. As per the testimony he gave under oath later on, he bribed the state’s aldermen worth $65,000 to get them on board for a $1.5 million bond issue. He then made himself a major stockholder of the Brooklyn Bridge and joined a committee in charge of the management of its finances. Allegedly, the white collar criminal had hoped to skim money off the project’s contracts, in a way similar to what he had done with other bigtime public works. However, he was arrested in 1871 before he was able to bring his plan to fruition.
- Brooklyn Bridge was the longest suspension bridge ever made at its time – by a large margin: Roebling, the original designer, had figured out a way to stabilize suspension bridges, mainly by incorporating a web truss on either side of the roadway platform. He had overseen the construction of four suspension bridges throughout the 1850s and 1860s, which included one on the Ohio River and one close to the Niagara Falls. The Brooklyn Bridge would go on to dwarf all of his previous projects, with its main span of over 1,595 feet. It was overtaken by Williamsburg Bridge in 1903, by just 4.5 feet.
- The Brooklyn Bridge has been a constant attraction for showmen and daredevils: The circus entertainer P.T. Barnum demonstrated the safety of the bridge by crossing 21 elephants over it in May 1884. In the year that followed, a swimming instructor from DC by the name of Robert E. Odlum was the first to leap from the bridge into the river below – he didn’t make it, but several subsequent jumpers did, which included a man who was allegedly trying to impress his girlfriend, and another one who dove with large canvas wings on.
You can visit the bridge at any time of the day and be marvelled by its construction, but a sunset trip will be especially enjoyable. You’ll be getting view of both Manhattan, Brooklyn and Lady Liberty while the sun’s still out, and then watch the magical transition to electric lights as it sets. A ward of caution though – regardless of the time you visit, it can get a bit cold up on the bridge.