Brooklyn Bridge history has a fascinating story, one tied in with the story of New York itself. Without an easy way to cross from Manhattan from to Brooklyn, the East River would have been a barrier difficult to navigate. But the engineering marvel was completed in 1883, quickly becoming a symbol of progress of growth in the Big Apple. Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge at nearly 2000 feet long was as much a popular activity then as it is now.
Both a National Historic Landmark and a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges still in use today. The idea for the structure dates back decades before construction began. It was first called the New York and Brooklyn Bridge, or the East River Bridge. The name Brooklyn Bridge was first seen in a letter to the editor penned shortly after the Civil War. The city’s government officially named it the Brooklyn Bridge in 1915.
Designer John Augustus Roebling was chosen for the project, and soon he became part of Brooklyn Bridge history. The German immigrant was an expert in building suspension bridges with work in Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Waco, Texas.
None of those projects were as long or took as much of a toll on Roebling. While he was working on surveying the New York project, Roebling’s foot was crushed. After his toes were amputated, he quickly died of a tetanus infection.
He placed his son Washington Roebling in charge of the project, and the son did not fare well either. The younger Roebling succumbed to decompression sickness—an illness suffered by many of the workers who labored high in the caisson foundations. He was still able to lead from afar once his wife, Emily Warren Roebling, stepped in to form a link between her husband and the onsite engineers. She was perfect for the job, since she was an expert in higher mathematics. She worked for more than a decade helping her husband and the engineers build the bridge to exacting specifications.
Many people want to know the answer to question of how long is the Brooklyn Bridge. The 1,595.5 feet of the Brooklyn Bridge cost $15.5 million to bridge, a princely sum in the nineteenth century, and the construction process claimed 27 lives in total.
Brooklyn Bridge Walk
Thanks to the calculations of Emily Roebling and the hard work of countless engineers and workers who made the bridge reality, the Brooklyn Bridge is a city landmark, accessible to cars and foot traffic. When the bridge was built, it was 50 percent larger than any other suspension bridge on earth. Even though the Gothic-inspired bridge has lost that title, it’s still amazing to this day.
The biggest day in Brooklyn Bridge history came in 1883 on its grand opening. Thousands of people and ships gathered near the bridge, and the mayors of Brooklyn and New York crossed the bridge to a chorus of canon fire. Brooklyn was a separate city at the time, so it had its own mayor. Then US President Chester A. Arthur was there to preside over the festivities.
In the many years since the bridge opened, it’s become an icon of the city skyline and the city’s drive forward. At night, the bridge is lit, making it easy to admire its Gothic towers and suspension design. People are still walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, some for exercise, but it is also a popular thing to do with tourists. A dedicated pedestrian lane keeps the people separate from the traffic. Others discover the bridge on tours, learning just how long is the Brooklyn Bridge and the amazing story behind its construction.