The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest bridges in the United States and the first
ever steel-wire suspension bridge in the world. An icon of New York City, the Brooklyn
Bridge is built across East River. The bridge is not only a marvel of technology
but also a symbol of optimism.
A journey of determination
The journey of building the Brooklyn Bridge was not an easy one. Right from the
day its designer John Augustus Roebling presented his idea to the people, the hardships
started. A bridge so huge looked like an impossible feat for that time and John
Roebling was constantly under criticism for even thinking of building such an impossible
However, Roebling could not be deterred. He convinced his son Washington Roebling,
an upcoming engineer, that the bridge could be built. The father-son duo persuaded
people and did the best they could to start the work. But hardships had just begun.
A few months after the commencement of work John Roebling met with a fatal accident
on the site. Washington, however, did not let his father's dream die, working with
more determination and conviction than before.
One of the most difficult tasks on the site was clearing debris from the bottom
of the river and filling it with concrete. Wooden chambers called caissons were
used to collect mud and rocks from the river bed and bring it onto land. As workers
went down in these cabins under the sea, the air pressure increased resulting in
decompression sickness or "caisson disease". Washington Roebling suffered from the
disease and it left him paralysed. He could not even talk.
It was during this time that his wife Emily Warren Roebling showed immense support
to take forward the construction of the bridge. She learned to read her husband's
instructions from the way he tapped on her hand with his fingers. She translated
them to the engineers on site and the construction of the bridge was on track again.
Washington Roebling watched the progress from his window and it was sheer determination
that led to the glorious day of the opening of The Brooklyn Bridge on 24th May,
1883. Amid huge fanfare and celebrations the President Chester A. Arthur and Mayor
Franklin Edson inaugurated the bridge. A total of 1,800 vehicles and about 150,300
people crossed the Brooklyn Bridge on the first day.
An engineering marvel
The Brooklyn Bridge was the best of that time. Here are 10 facts that prove
that the bridge was truly an engineering marvel:
1. Airtight wooden chambers called caissons were used to carry construction
material and workers under water. The caissons were first used to remove mud and
rocks from the riverbed and then fill it with granite.
2. The total weight of the bridge is 14,680 tons including 6,620 tons which
is suspended. The towers are 270 ft. high and the height of the bridge road is 135
feet above mean-tide water.
3. Roebling became aware of the supply of inferior quality wire during the
construction of the bridge. Since it was too late to replace the wires, he added
250 extra cables to support the bridge. Eventually, the earlier wires were of no
use but they were kept to maintain the bridge's beauty.
4. The original plan of the bridge included a shopping arcade but the space
was used for art exhibitions instead. This Brooklyn Bridge anchorage was closed
in 2001 for security reasons.
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5. There are large vaults under the bridge that were used for wine storage
as the temperature there was always around 16 degree Celsius. These vaults were
rented out for wine and champagne storage to fund the bridge.
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6. The bridge and truss system used in the bridge by Roebling was six times
stronger than the bridges of that time. No wonder the Brooklyn Bridge stands tall
even today when all other bridges of that time have be reconstructed or no longer
7. The bridge has four supporting cables. Each cable is 15.5 inches thick
with a length of 3,578 ft., 6 inches. Each thick cable is made of 21,000 wires,
which if combined, would have a total length of 14,060 miles.
8. The bridge had an elevated track for trains till the year 1944.
9. On May 17, 1884, American showman and businessman P.T.Burman led a parade
of 21 elephants over the Brooklyn Bridge to prove its stability.
10. The United States Government declared the Brooklyn Bridge a National
Historic Landmark in 1964 for joining Manhattan and Long Island for 81 long years.
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