HistoryThe Brooklyn Bridge was designed by Ohioan John Augustus Roebling, also known for his design of the later (and similar) bridge across the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Covington, Kentucky. The bridge, begun in 1869, took almost 14 years to complete, and was hampered by death and tragedy. John Roebling, himself, took ill from tetanus just days after construction began, and he died shorty thereafter. His son, Washington, took over the project, but he too fell ill from "the bends" caused by working using compressed air inside of the pylons under the river. He never fully recovered, and it was his wife, Emily, who oversaw the daily operation of the construction project, studying engineering and construction to best be able to communicate with the foremen. In fact, it was Emily Roebling, not her husband, who led over 1800 vehicles and 150,000 pedestrians over the bridge when it opened in May, 1883. Tragedy also struck shortly after the bridge opened when a rumor that the bridge was going to collapse caused a pedestrian stampede, crushing twelve people. Throughout the years, the traffic across the Brooklyn Bridge has included horses, trolleys, elevated trains, and streetcars as well as pedestrians and automobiles. Today, just autos, cyclists, and pedestrians are permitted on the bridge.
The StructureThe Brooklyn Bridge stands 1595 feet above the East River, supported by two 276-foot high stone towers, each topped with Neo-Classical archways. The Bridge is 6016 feet long (1.13 miles), measures 85 feet wide, and each of the bridge's four steel cables measures 3578.50 feet long. When it opened in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was 50 percent longer than the next longest of the world's suspension bridges.
The Bridge in Popular CultureThe Brooklyn Bridge has been, and continues to be, a popular cultural icon. The structure has been featured in numerous movies, including "Deep Impact", "Gangs of New York", and most recently, "The Fantastic Four". The bridge has also been the subject of an extensive Ken Burns documentary, shown on PBS television and a best-selling non-fiction work by David McCullough. The bridge has inspired some of the great artists of the 19th and 20th century, including Walt Whitman, Frank Lloyd Wright, Hart Crane, and Georgia O'Keefe.
Visiting Brooklyn BridgeThe Brooklyn Bridge continues to be as vital as when it first opened 120 years ago. The bridge today has six traffic lanes as well as a center lane reserved for pedestrians and cyclists. Passage is free and the walk across takes about 20 minutes (without stopping to admire the spectacular views of the city and nearby Ellis Island and Liberty Island). Over 145,000 vehicles, 5000 pedestrians, and 2500 cyclists cross the bridge each day. No busses or trucks are allowed on the bridge. At the base of the bridge, on the Manhattan side, is a 70-acre park, whose facilities include a large indoor recreation center, multiple restaurants, a hotel, and a 1.3-mile riverfront promenade. Be sure to view the bridge in the evening. Since the 1980s, the Brooklyn Bridge has been illuminated nightly, showing off its stylish, graceful, and historic lines.
Address: Brooklyn Bridge, New York, NY 10038 (between the city of Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan)
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