FEATURE image: The Brooklyn Bridge (looking westward), August 2005. Author’s photograph.
The Brooklyn Bridge over the East River is the oldest extant bridge in New York City—a city of bridges—and is also the city’s most architecturally famous. The opening of the hybrid cable-stayed and suspension bridge in May 1883 has been called “the Dawn of Modern New York” as it is the world’s first steel-wire suspension bridge.
Spanning the East River between the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, it was designed and built by a father-son team. Construction began in January 1870 after being approved by Congress in 1869 whose concern was that the bridge project would in no way impede free and open navigation. Over the next over 13 years, an estimated 27 men died during the bridge’s construction. The New York terminus rests on bedrock while the Brooklyn terminus rests on clay. Following its opening in 1883 by the end of that year more than one million passengers crossed the bridge.
The total length of the bridge is 6,537 feet—nearly one-and-one-quarter miles. From the middle of the span, it is about 135 feet above the river with the span’s weight around 7,000 tons. The railroad on the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1888. The cables on the bridge are over one foot wide (16 inches) and took almost a year and a half (15 months) to string. Their calibration had to include calculations for variables such as wind and expansion and contraction due to temperature. The height of the Gothic-inspired towers are 159 feet above the roadway.
SOURCES: The Sun, New York, New York, June 11, 1891.