Of course, anyone who talks about New York City must also talk about the Brooklyn Bridge. Because this engineering miracle from the 19th century is simply part of a visit to the world metropolis as a landmark and is a popular motif for photographers from all over the world. After all, it is one of the most famous sights in the USA and the view of the Manhattan skyline with the Empire State Building is simply fantastic.
But the suspension bridge, the Brooklyn and Manhattan can also look back on a very interesting history. We have put together the most important information about this New York landmark for you. See more on loverists.
Numbers, dates and facts about the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City
- Total length: 1833.68 meters
- Width: 25.91 meters
- Weight: approx. 13,300 metric tons (excluding towers, caissons and anchors)
- Longest span between the central masts: 486 meters
- Start of construction: 1869
- Opening: May 24, 1883
- Planner: John August Roebling
- Construction: hybrid (suspension bridge / cable-stayed bridge)
- Maintained by: New York City Department of Transportation
What makes the Brooklyn Bridge so special?
The bridge is a combined suspension and cable-stayed bridge that spans the East River and thus connects Brooklyn and Manhattan. In terms of its design, the bridge, which opened in May 1883, is one of the oldest suspension bridges of its kind. At that time, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world and more than 50 percent larger than any comparable bridge in the world. It was also the first bridge of its kind in which steel cables were used as suspension cables.
Today, the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City can be crossed on foot, by bike, or by car. The street, which connects the two parts of the city, has six lanes, the pedestrian and bicycle path runs one level above. From there you have an impressive panoramic view of the east side of Manhattan while cycling or running on a walk from one part of the city to the other. In addition, the two towers are regularly used by peregrine falcons as nesting sites. With a little luck, these can also be photographed as a special attraction.
The story of the Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge can look back on an exciting, but also tragic history. The idea of building a bridge to connect Manhattan and Brooklyn came up at the beginning of the 19th century. However, implementation seemed impossible at this point in history and an opening is a long way off. Because the East River is not a normal river, but an arm of the sea where the tides and shipping traffic had to be observed. It was therefore intended to be a bridge that could span the East River over the ship’s masts and enable it to be crossed without interfering pillars having to be integrated.
In 1865, the German immigrant and bridge builder John August Roebling began planning eighteen years before the opening, which had already completed the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge in 1855. However, the owner of a rope factory from Thuringia did not meet with too much enthusiasm with his idea of a suspension bridge with two large towers made of granite and steel cables. Only after he was able to get a businessman and newspaper publisher enthusiastic about the idea and who enforced a law that allowed a private company to build a bridge over the river, the Brooklyn Bridge could be realized in the form planned by Roebling with the characteristic steel cables.
Roebling’s plans were approved in 1869 and he was named chief engineer and entrusted with the management. As a civil engineer with construction management, he relied on steel cables that were significantly more flexible than other cables. A total of 22,000 kilometers of steel wire was necessary to braid the four steel cables that stretch across the span of the bridge.
Roebling died before completion
The completion of the bridge, which would ultimately enable the crossing, would not see Roebling himself. While visiting the construction site for survey work, his foot was crushed by a ferry in an accident and he died three weeks later due to blood poisoning before the end of the construction period.
As a result, the management of the project was taken over by his son Washington Roebling. The American engineer Washington August Röbling was born in Saxonburg in 1837 and had already supported his father in building bridges. As a result, he had the necessary experience for the construction with cables and wire ropes and also had knowledge of the caisson method, which was essential for the construction of the long bridge.
Construction work under the direction of engineer Washington Röbling began on January 3, 1870 and he managed to improve the construction of the bridge and the development of construction techniques even further. But like his father, Washington Roebling was not lucky as an engineer when building the bridge. Because the son of John August Roebling fell ill with diving disease.
Caissons were used for the construction pits for the towers, which were up to 23 meters deep. With these caissons, the water is displaced during underwater work with overpressure. The civil engineer connected several of these caisson boxes via sluices, so that the workers were able to dig the foundations for the towers in kerosene light and poor ventilation. Dynamite made the work easier and the first pillar could be fixed in the ground at a depth of 13 meters.
In the case of the second pillar, the stable ground was significantly deeper, which caused serious problems and worsened working conditions. This is because there is a health risk for the workers who work in such a caisson when building the foundations for the towers. If the pressure drop occurs too quickly when leaving such a box, gas bubbles can form in the blood. Caisson disease, also known as diving disease, develops.
Caisson disease was already known per se at that time, but no one knew exactly about the effects and so the son Washington Roebling fell ill with this disease in 1872 while working in one of the caissons and was then dependent on a wheelchair on the one hand and could not on the other speak more correctly. All he could do was follow the construction work from home with the telescope.
Emily Warren Roebling continued building the Brooklyn Bridge
It is thanks to his wife Emily Warren Roebling that the Roebling family still managed to complete the bridge. Emily Warren Roebling, who was born into an upper-middle-class family in Cold Springs, taught herself the skills necessary to be a civil engineer. As a result, she followed her husband’s instructions as site manager and Emily was also the first person and woman to cross the Brooklyn Bridge with President Chester A. Arthur years later on the opening day.
Today one counteracts this danger of getting sick with diving illness through decompression chambers. At that time, several workers were killed by caisson disease. An accident with inferior steel cables killed other workers during the construction years. Because it turned out that in some cases inferior wire ropes were used and the quality certificates had been forged.
Since the inferior cables with the inferior wire ropes could not be distinguished from the faultless ones and were still sufficiently resilient, they were nevertheless processed and served their purpose over the years up to the present day. Initially, five cents each had to be paid for crossing with a vehicle and one cent for walking.
However, the population did not really trust the monster made of steel. So the idea of sending elephants over the vehicle girder from one end of the bridge to the other end of the bridge came up in order to prove after a tragic accident in which people died that people didn’t have to worry when crossing the girder.
In order to convince the skeptical New York population, 21 circus elephants were hired by the Barnum Circus, which was staying in America at the time. The elephants were sent as a stress test over the bridge’s girder, which withstood the crossing by the pachyderms. In 1898 the tram began to run over the bridge.
The cost of the bridge was $ 15.2 million. 3.8 million dollars were added as land purchase costs. Today in the 21st century, the cost would be significantly higher and worth over $ 30 million. The construction work required 6,000 workers, 27 of whom lost their lives and died during the construction work.
Today there is a lot of traffic on the deck of the Record Bridge. Every day, around 100,000 vehicles, 4,000 pedestrians and 2,600 bicycles cross the bridge of the Brooklyn Bridge and move between Manhattan and Brooklyn. And it is thanks to the foresight of the Roeblings that the bridge can withstand these loads today. Because instead of iron, which was common at the time, steel was used to build the connection between the city districts. By not using iron, the bridge can withstand greater loads, movements and fluctuations.
The story of Washington and John August Roebling about the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, the dramatic death of the father after the accident during the survey work and the illness of the son, was filmed a few years ago with Ben Kingsley and Daniel Radcliffe in the leading roles. The film about the family and the construction period was released in 2015.
Unfortunately there was no shopping center
Did you know that a shopping center was originally to be built in the foundation of the bridge with the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage? This idea was not implemented and after the space had been used for various art exhibitions, it was finally closed in 2001 for security reasons.
The chambers in this place are reminiscent of a cathedral and are from time to time compared to a monastery. The vaulted rooms are framed by the pillars that support the bridge and consist of a series of eight brick halls with ceilings around 15 meters high.
The New York City Waterfalls
In 2008, an artist named Olafur Eliasson performed in New York City through four waterfalls near Brooklyn Bridge made a splash. The falls were created from steel scaffolding in the East River.