For almost a century, locals and visitors alike have been mesmerized by the Brooklyn Bridge. What started as an innovative plan to create a new kind of bridge technology is now one of New York‘s most visited attractions.
The Brooklyn Bridge is a popular spot for New Yorkers and visitors alike who want to see the city from a different perspective and get their feet wet in some of NYC history.
New York City’s suspension Brooklyn Bridge connects Brooklyn and Manhattan across the East River. The building of the Brooklyn Bridge featured the first use of explosives within a pneumatic caisson and was the first time that steel was utilized for cable wire in a bridge.
The real length of the Brooklyn Bridge is greater than 6,000 feet, not 1,500, because its approach ramps take up significant amounts of land in both Manhattan and Brooklyn. Allow at least an hour to cross, as it is more than a mile and is frequently rather crowded with people walking.
If you’re walking from Manhattan to Brooklyn (or vice versa), make sure you leave plenty of time to appreciate the sights and relax on a bench and people-watch.
New York City wouldn’t be the same without the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. When finished, Brooklyn would join Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island to form the modern metropolis. Every day, thousands of people pass beneath its braided wires, forever immortalizing John Roebling and the other innovative minds that made it possible.
Perhaps the scenery, the history, or the pizza will stick out most in your mind. The Brooklyn Bridge will leave an impression on you, though. Seeing such a historic site in New York City is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The bridge, since its completion, has become an iconic symbol of New York City, as well as a significant architectural achievement that is still celebrated today. As such, the United States National Park Service has recognized it as a National Historic Landmark.
In this article, we’ll explain the process behind the bridge’s construction and highlight its unique characteristics. We’ll also tell you what to do and see on your free day trip to New York City’s stunning Brooklyn Bridge.
The History of Brooklyn Bridge
Modern New York is vastly different from its 1800s forebear. When trading goods in and out of Manhattan, ferries originally used the East River port located near the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s hard to picture now, but you really needed a boat to get across the river.
Across the East River from Manhattan is the city of Brooklyn, which at the time was also formed as its own municipality. (If it was still the case today, it would really be the fourth-largest city in America).
Given the state of technology at the time, a connection between the two boroughs probably looked like a far shot. A bridge across the East River was impossible to construct because no one had ever attempted this level of achievement.
The Brooklyn Bridge (1869-83) was a monumental undertaking for its architect, John Augustus Roebling. As an engineer, Roebling pioneered a new way to weave wire cables, which formed an integral part of the framework of his bridge designs.
The Cincinnati-Covington Bridge, which he constructed, was renamed after him as the John A. Roebling Bridge. When he was killed in a construction accident at the start of the Brooklyn Bridge’s building, his son Washington Roebling took over as chief engineer and promptly became crippled by an attack of decompression sickness (caisson illness).
Roebling continued to oversee activities from his Columbia Heights (Brooklyn) residence, using his wife, Emily Warren Roebling, to help him transmit messages and use field glasses to monitor the construction site.
Damage to a pneumatic caisson caused by a compressed air blast, a severe fire that burned for weeks in another caisson, a cable that broke free from its anchorage on the Manhattan side and collapsed into the river, and the fraud perpetrated by a steel-wire contractor that required the replacement of tons of cable all slowed down the construction process. Twenty construction workers were murdered, while many more suffered victim to decompression sickness.
Until the 1890 construction of the Firth of Forth cantilever bridge in Scotland, the Brooklyn Bridge’s main span of 486 meters (1,595 feet) was the longest in the world. Cement, limestone, and granite were used in the construction of the towers.
Both vehicular and foot traffic use the deck, which is held up by four cables. The wide promenade that runs over the road is a notable feature, as anticipated by John Roebling: “in a crowded commercial city will be of incalculable value.”
The first carriage to cross from the Brooklyn side had a rooster as a symbol of victory, and Emily rode it as a sign of triumph. On May 24, 1883, the bridge officially opened to the public amid a tremendous ceremony and the presence of U.S. President Chester A. Arthur.
Its construction became a symbol of a generation’s worth of technical progress. Poets such as Walt Whitman, Hart Crane, and Marianne Moore were moved by the strength and elegance of the landscape, as were artists such as Joseph Stella, John Marin, Berenice Abbott, and Alfred Eisenstaedt.
What to expect from a visit to Brooklyn Bridge?
Seeing New York Harbor and the cities of lower Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn from the Brooklyn Bridge is an unforgettable experience. With a height of around 130 feet, it dominates the landscape and provides spectacular views in every direction, including Staten Island and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
Jersey City, New Jersey, serves as a beautiful backdrop for a view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. You can see the Greenpoint and Queens areas to the north, as well as the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges, with just a fast glance.
Both ends of the Brooklyn Bridge are bustling with activity, so it doesn’t matter where you pick to begin your journey.
Visitors to Manhattan will be greeted with a park in front of City Hall, complete with a grand fountain, well-manicured trees, and colorful flower beds. During the warmer months, you may also see street entertainers who dance and sometimes do somersaults for walking visitors.
The history of the Brooklyn Bridge is still being written in many respects. The city has been making improvements with people in mind on a regular basis, and in 2010 they even constructed a new park.
Visit Brooklyn Bridge Park to make crossing the bridge with the kids a breeze. It’s a beautiful spot for a picnic or to take things slowly in the middle of the city, with its greenway and piers extending into the East River.