Thursday, May 23, 2024

History Of The Brooklyn Bridge

A Construction With Many Setbacks

One of the most epic engineering feats in history – Alex Gendler

From start to finish, the Brooklyn Bridge construction took 14 years to complete . Due to the complexity of the bridge and the various unknowns, there were several setbacks that caused this longer than anticipated construction.

In 1870, about a year into the construction, there was a fire on one of the caissons. This fire would be known as the Great Blowout and delayed the construction for 3 months until the caisson was repaired.

There was also a lot of disagreement and controversy over what wires should be used for the bridges completion. In 1878, as the wires were being put in place, one of the wires fell off and killed two workers.

In addition, other setbacks included a compressed air explosion, additional steel wire replacements, and many workers no longer working due to decompression sickness.

Altogether, there were more than 20 people who eventually died during the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. These occurred due to a variety of reasons due to falls, decompression sickness, falling rocks, among a host of other reasons.

Years Of Construction And Rising Costs

After the caissons had been sunk to the river bottom, they were filled with concrete, and the construction of the stone towers continued above. When the towers reached their ultimate height, 278 feet above high water, work began on the four enormous cables that would support the roadway.

Spinning the cables between the towers began in the summer of 1877, and was finished a year and four months later. But it would take nearly another five years to suspend the roadway from the cables and have the bridge ready for traffic.

The building of the bridge was always controversial, and not just because skeptics thought Roeblings design was unsafe. There were stories of political payoffs and corruption, rumors of carpet bags stuffed with cash being given to characters like Boss Tweed, the leader of the political machine known as Tammany Hall.

In one famous case, a manufacturer of wire rope sold inferior material to the bridge company. The shady contractor, J. Lloyd Haigh, escaped prosecution. But the bad wire he sold is still in the bridge, as it couldnt be removed once it was worked into the cables. Washington Roebling compensated for its presence, ensuring the inferior material wouldnt affect the strength of the bridge.

Late 19th Through Early 20th Centuries

Patronage across the Brooklyn Bridge increased in the years after it opened a million people paid to cross in the six first months. The bridge carried 8.5 million people in 1884, its first full year of operation this number doubled to 17 million in 1885 and again to 34 million in 1889. Many of these people were cable car passengers. Additionally, about 4.5 million pedestrians a year were crossing the bridge for free by 1892.

The first proposal to make changes to the bridge was sent in only two and a half years after it opened, when Linda Gilbert suggested glass steam-powered elevators and an observatory be added to the bridge and a fee charged for use, which would in part fund the bridge’s upkeep and in part fund her prison reform charity. This proposal was considered but not acted upon. Numerous other proposals were made during the first fifty years of the bridge’s life.

Trolley tracks were added in the center lanes of both roadways in 1898, allowing trolleys to use the bridge as well. That year, the formerly separate City of Brooklyn was unified with New York City, and the Brooklyn Bridge fell under city control.

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The Untold History Of Nycs Brooklyn Bridge Plus How To See It

The Brooklyn Bridge has captivated New Yorkers and out-of-towners alike for more than 100 years. What began as a novel idea to invent an entirely new style of bridge technology has evolved into one of the most popular sites in New York City.

Because its open to cars, bikes, and pedestrians, the Brooklyn Bridge has become a favorite destination for locals and tourists who want to marvel at views of the skyline while also experiencing a little NYC history firsthand.

In this article, Ill tell you how the bridge was built and what makes it unique. Ill also cover what to see and do when you visit the Brooklyn Bridge, just another incredible free attraction here in New York City.

How Long Does It Take To Walk The Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

Although the Brooklyn Bridge only spans about 1,500 feet of the East River, its actually more than 6,000 feet long since sizable chunks of the bridges on-ramps cover portions of the land on Manhattan and Brooklyn. As its more than a mile and usually fairly crowded with pedestrians, try to allow an hour to cross.

Whether you start in Manhattan and walk to Brooklyn or vice versa, youll want to allow time to stop and take photos or even sit at one of the benches along the way and just enjoy the breeze .

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It Used To Be More Expensive To Cross

During the first days of the Brooklyn Bridge, there was a whole price list of tolls to consider when making your way across.

: 1 Cent

Horse & Rider: 5 Cents

Horse & Wagon: 10 Cents

In the year 1891, the pedestrian tolls were removed followed by the rest of them in 1911. Today, cars, pedestrians, bicycles, can make their way across the bridge for free.

Over the years there was much controversy about removing tolls on the bridge . Billions of dollars of potential income for the city was lost and the structural integrity of the bridges had come into question.

But today, you can head over the Brooklyn Bridge and the other East River bridges all for free.

Designing Brooklyn Bridge Park

Brooklyn Bridge Park extends 1.3 miles along the East River on a defunct cargo shipping and storage complex. The ambitious park design sought to transform this environmentally hostile site into a thriving civic landscape while preserving the dramatic experience of the industrial waterfront. This site also presented excellent opportunities including its adjacency to two thriving residential communities and its unparalleled viewsheds to the fabled Lower Manhattan skyline.

Brooklyn Bridge Parks lush lawns, young trees and beautiful flowers have created a robust landscape and brought nature to this former industrial site. Public access to the long, narrow site was enabled by urban junctions, neighborhood parks at key entry points that transition between the park and adjacent residential communities. These entry parks host program such as dog runs, civic lawns and playgrounds, which foster community stewardship and the safety that comes with constant occupation.

Brooklyn Bridge Park introduces variety to a previously monofunctional industrial waterfront. Unlike other waterfront parks, where visitors remain perched above the water, Brooklyn Bridge Park encourages close interaction with the water. The parks diverse edge types reveal the dynamic nature of New York Harbor. Salt marshes, boat ramps, beaches, and waterfront promenades provide visitors with a unique opportunity to interact with the water.

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The Cables And Roadways

To create the 4 main suspension cables, wires were pulled, strand by strand by a traveller rope from one tower to the next. Each cable held 6,289 of these wires, 331 wires to a strand and 19 stands to a cable.

While the cables were being strung, a major problem was discovered. The J. Lloyd Haigh company that was responsible for providing wire for the cables, was found to have given faulty wires. It was virtually impossible at the time to redo the wires, and so the story was kept as quiet as possible and 150 extra wires were added to each cable to strengthen them. The owner of the company, J. Lloyd Haigh was eventually put in jail.

The near-final straw occurred at the 10-year mark when the cables were completed and the roadways were beginning to be put down. Because of extreme delays from the companies providing the materials to create the roadways, the public began to become severely impatient. This, coupled with the fact that Washington Roebling hadnt actually set foot on the bridge in nearly 10 years due to his disability, made him a convenient scapegoat.

Despite the fact that the bridge engineers testified to the importance of Washington Roebling to the completion of the bridge, enough of the bridge trustees got together to vote on his removal. After a very tight vote, they were narrowly defeated.

History Of The Erie Canal

Deconstructing History: Brooklyn Bridge | History

Throughout history, the United States has discovered ways to adapt to change through the use of technology and design related to the transportation industry and has effectively overcome obstacles in order to fulfill the needs of society. To modernize the country, new ideas, plans, and designs have been developed, over time, to support the vastly growing economy and population. Our nations growth can be directly traced back to new forms of technology invented, developed, and reproduced for society. Three different types of transportation systems/designs that were extremely crucial and revolutionized society, over the ages, are canals (especially the Erie

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Roebling And The Brooklyn Bridge

On , 1806, John A. Roebling, civil engineer and designer of bridges, was born in Mühlhausen, Prussia. The Brooklyn Bridge, Roeblings last and greatest achievement, spans New Yorks East River to connect Manhattan with Brooklyn. When completed in 1883, the bridge, with its massive stone towers and a main span of 1,595.5 feet between them, was by far the longest suspension bridge in the world. Today, the Brooklyn Bridge is hailed as a key feature of New Yorks Citys urban landscape, standing as a monument to progress and ingenuity as well as symbolizing New Yorks ongoing cultural vitality.

Roebling quickly found additional uses for his invention. His first wire cable suspension bridge was a wooden aqueduct that carried Pennsylvanias main east-west canal above and across the Allegheny River into downtown Pittsburgh. He received additional patents in 1846 and 1847. Roeblings Delaware Aqueduct followed closely on his earlier design and is the oldest surviving suspension bridge in America. In pursuing these projects, Roebling developed a viable method of spinning the heavy wrought iron wire cables on site, as well as a simple and secure way to anchor themboth of which made the construction of long suspension bridges feasible.

How To Experience The Brooklyn Bridge

So, by now you certainly have gained some more insight about the bridges history along with many interesting Brooklyn Bridge facts.

I am sure though that you want to experience the bridge for yourself during a visit to New York. Luckily, there are several different ways to go about a Brooklyn Bridge experience.

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The Longest Suspension Bridge In The World

During the time of construction, the Brooklyn Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the entire world. The main span of the bridge is 1,595 feet, while the bridge in its entirety runs 6,016 feet.

It did not take long though for the record to be broken. In 1903, the nearby Williamsburg Bridge took hold of that accolade. At 1,600 feet long, it beat out the Brooklyn Bridge by just 5 feet!

For the next 21 years, these two bridges over the East River stood as the longest two suspension bridges in the world. It wasnt until 1924 that the Bear Mountain Bridge took the record from the East River.

Another fun fact about the Brooklyn Bridge at its completion, it was also the tallest structure in the Western Hemisphere!

The Great Blowout And Washington Is Down & Out


During the work being done on the caisson on the Manhattan side, several fires broke out. One, in particular, was called the great blowout because it was the most significant and caused about $250,000 worth of damage to the caisson. The timber on the roof caught fire, and subsequent holes had to be repaired, which delayed construction by several months. Repairs were finally completed in March of 1871.

Throughout the caisson work, over 100 men were treated for decompression sickness. Since this condition was unknown at the time, the project physician called it caisson disease. After constantly working in the caissons as well, Washington Roebling himself fell victim to the disease, suffering a paralyzing injury. This happened right about the time they broke ground for the tower on the Brooklyn side, and Roebling was bedridden from that point forward. He used a telescope to supervise and observe progress from his window but would not have been able to finish the project without his very smart and devoted wife.

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Walk Along The Manhattan Bridge

Now, while a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge is a must do activity, why not also head across the Manhattan Bridge.

While not as scenic of a bridge, the Manhattan Bridge walkway gives you the chance to see the Brooklyn Bridge from a distance. This viewpoint is one of my favorite in the city as you get the bridge, Manhattan skyline and Statue of Liberty all in view.

Construction Of The Brooklyn Bridge

At the time of the proposal to connect Brooklyn and New York with the bridge, they were separate cities. Until the Brooklyn Bridge was constructed, it was only possible to move between these two cities by ferry. Constructing a bridge across the East River was formidable, and numerous designs were suggested and dismissed. There were even proposals for building tunnels under the river.

  • Rail Traffic: Formerly There Were Rail Traffic And Cable Cars Running On The Bridge

The engineer who designed the bridge was John A. Roebling . He was an immigrant from Prussia . The project was then taken over by his son, Washington Roebling.

A post shared by Brooklyn Bridge, NYC

Laying the foundations for the mighty bridge was a nightmare – to put it mildly. They had to dig through the soft mud of the river all the way down until they found a solid rock bed to support the bridge. To do this they had to sink water-tight boxes down and dig down from within them. The pressure was intense, and the heat was unbearable, while the water was fridged. Everyone had to go down underwater at a time when the complications of being underwater were not well understood.

Washingon Roebling ended up suffering painfully from the bends, and it was then left to his wife, Emily, who ultimately oversaw the construction.

A post shared by Brooklyn Bridge, NYC

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Absorbing Facts About The Beloved Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge adorns New York Citys epic skyline and stands as an iconic symbol for the Big Apple. But how many interesting facts about the Brooklyn Bridge do you currently know?

Luckily for you, the bridge is an open book and we did some digging. We rounded up our favorite facts about the Brooklyn Bridge and would like to share them with you today. You know what they say, knowledge is power, and were here to share ours.

How The Brooklyn Bridge Was Built: The Story Of One Of The Greatest Engineering Feats In History

Why the Brooklyn Bridge used Elephants to Prove its Safety – IT’S HISTORY

When Emily Roebling walked across the Brooklyn Bridge on May 24th, 1883, the first person to cross its entire span, she capped a family saga equal parts triumph and tragedy, a story that began sixteen years earlier when her father-in-law, German-American engineer John Augustus Roebling, began design work on the bridge. Roebling had already built suspension bridges over the Monongahela River in Pittsburgh, the Niagara River between New York and Canada, and over the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Covington, Kentucky. But the bridge over the East River was to be something else entirely. As Roebling himself said, it âwill not only be the greatest bridge in existence, but it will be the greatest engineering work of the continent, and of the age.â

â1.5 times longer than any previously built suspension bridge,â the video lesson notes, Roeblingâs design worked because it used steel cables instead of hemp, with towers rising over 90 meters above sea level. This is almost three times higher than editors at the New York Mirror projected in 1829, when they called the brand new âEast River Bridge Projectâ an âabsurd and ruinousâ proposition. âWho would mount over such a structure, when a passage could be effected in a much shorter time, and that, too, without exertion or trouble, in a safe and well-sheltered steamboat?â

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The Brooklyn Bridge In The Chambers Street Subway Station

The Chambers Street station, completed in 1913, was originally going to be part of a loop line that would connect the Williamsburg and Brooklyn Bridges with a line through Manhattan. The Brooklyn Bridge connection was never built, but the bridge is depicted on plaques in the station, which reminds us of the former grand plan.

A close look at the plaque reveals an error made by designers George Heins and Christopher LaFarge. The Brooklyn Bridge in the plaque doesnt have any of the distinctive diagonal cables that are its trademark. The reason they were left out is unclear the plaque is actually four separate small plaques that were seamlessly put together to make one.

On the plaque, we are looking south from the Manhattan tower. The Statue of Liberty can be seen indistinctly in the distance a measure of the detail artists and designers employed in the execution of the plaque.

Kevin Walsh is the webmaster of the award-winning website Forgotten NY, and the author of the books Forgotten New York and also, with the Greater Astoria Historical Society, Forgotten Queens

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