Brooklyn Bridge

sights / Architecture

Brooklyn Bridge information

Location
New York City , USA
Getting there
Subway: 4/5/6 to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall; J/Z to Chambers St; R to City Hall
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A New York icon, the Brooklyn Bridge was the world’s first steel suspension bridge. Indeed, when it opened in 1883, the 1596ft span between its two support towers was the longest in history. Although its construction was fraught with disaster, the bridge became a magnificent example of urban design, inspiring poets, writers and painters. Today, its pedestrian walkway – which begins just east of City Hall – delivers a soul-stirring view of lower Manhattan; you should reach Brooklyn after about a 20-minute walk.

Ironically, one man deprived of this view was the bridge's very designer, John Roebling. The Prussian-born engineer was knocked off a pier in Fulton Landing in June 1869, dying of tetanus poisoning before construction of the Brooklyn Bridge even began. Consequently, his son, Washington Roebling, supervised its construction, which lasted 14 years and managed to survive budget overruns and the deaths of 20 workers. The younger Roebling himself suffered from the bends while helping to excavate the riverbed for the bridge’s western tower and remained bedridden for much of the project; his wife Emily oversaw construction in his stead. There was one final tragedy to come in June 1883, when the bridge opened to pedestrian traffic. Someone in the crowd shouted, perhaps as a joke, that the bridge was collapsing into the river, setting off a mad rush in which 12 people were trampled to death.

Connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn, the bridge entered its second century as strong and beautiful as ever following an extensive renovation in the early 1980s. When walking across it, take care to stay on the side of the walkway marked for folks on foot, and not in the bike lane.