May 24, 1883: Brooklyn Bridge opens after 14-year-long construction
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most recognizable landmarks of New York City. Opening on May 24, 1883, the bridge connected New York City and Brooklyn for the first time, helping advance transportation methods. To many, the bridge has always been a part of New York, but it was a long and difficult process to construct the historic bridge. So, what exactly was involved?
John Roebling, the great pioneer
The construction of the Brooklyn Bridge would not have been a success without John Roebling, a German-born pioneer in the design of steel suspension bridges. Roebling is credited with a major breakthrough in suspension-bridge technology with his invention of a web truss added to either side of the bridge roadway. This invention added more stability to bridges, whereas beforehand bridges would fail under strong winds or heavy loads.
Roebling was the successful designer of the Niagara Gorge at Niagara Falls and the Ohio River bridge (now known as the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge), in Cincinnati, Ohio. Noticing these achievements, New York State accepted his design for a bridge connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan, and Roebling was appointed chief engineer.
Involving many deaths
Sadly, Roebling wouldn’t live to see the construction of his bridge. Just before construction began in 1869, Roebling was busy taking compass readings across the East River when a boat smashed the toes of one of his feet. He died three weeks later of tetanus. His son, Washington A. Roebling, took over as chief engineer, but Roebling’s death wouldn’t be the first of its kind while constructing the Brooklyn Bridge. Over the course of 14 years, 27 workers would die while constructing the bridge’s timber caissons. Many suffered from illnesses, while others died as a result of collapses and a fire. Everyone thought the bridge project would never be complete.
The eighth wonder of the world
The Brooklyn Bridge finally opened on May 24, 1883. Thousands of residents of Brooklyn and Manhattan attended the dedication ceremony, presided over by President Chester A. Arthur and New York Governor Grover Cleveland. The bridge was referred to as “the eighth wonder of the world.” The new connection between Brooklyn and Manhattan improved transportation. The Brooklyn Bridge changed New York City forever, and you can’t visit the city today without driving or walking across the historic bridge.