Brooklyn Bridge - History and Facts | History Hit

Brooklyn Bridge

New York, United States

Lily Johnson

03 Feb 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge in New York City connects the two iconic boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. It provides breathtaking views of the city, while allowing visitors to traverse one of history’s most important feats of engineering.

Brooklyn Bridge history 

Planning for a bridge to connect New York and Brooklyn, then two separate cities, began as early as 1800, however its construction did not begin until 1869. Its groundbreaking design was the masterwork of John Augustus Roebling, who tragically died in an on-site accident very early in construction, after which his son Washington Roebling took over operations. Washington himself would suffer a vicious attack of decompression sickness while working on the site, forcing him to dictate its construction from his apartment in Brooklyn with the help of his wife Emily (a fellow engineer), and a pair of binoculars!

When it was at last unveiled on 24 May, 1883, it was the longest suspension bridge ever built, and its towers made it the tallest construction in the Western Hemisphere. It was also the first to use steel wires and explosives in the underwater caissons used in construction.

6 days after it opened however, a panicked stampede broke out on the bridge crushing and killing 12 underfoot. The public’s uneasiness regarding its stability may have been the reason for this, with people believing it to have been falling into the river. In 1884, P.T. Barnham marched a herd of 21 elephants, led by the famous Jumbo, over the bridge to lessen fears of its instability and promote his circus. 

Brooklyn Bridge today

Today, Brooklyn Bridge remains an iconic feature of New York City’s skyline. The mile-long central walkway takes you over the bustling East River, usually awash with boats, while directly below your feet a buzz of traffic meanders to and from the boroughs. 

The bridge’s iconic cables cut an intricate silhouette overhead, while walking towards Manhattan you are afforded a stunning view of the city.

A pleasant visit while on the Brooklyn side of the bridge is Jane’s Carousel, situated in Brooklyn Bridge park. At almost 100 years old, the carousel provides a charming ride against the dramatic backdrop of the famous bridge and accompanying river.

Getting to Brooklyn Bridge

If walking the bridge from Brooklyn there are two entrances – The Brooklyn Bridge Pedestrian Walkway at the intersection of Tillary Street and Boerum Place, and the underpass on Washington Street that leads up to the walkway itself. The closest subway station is High Street-Brooklyn Bridge Stop, however to incorporate a walk through historic Brooklyn, Clark Street Station is also a good option. 

On the Manhattan side, Brooklyn Bridge Pedestrian Walk is situated in the northeast corner of City Hall Park on Centre Street. The closest subway stations are Brooklyn-Bridge-City Hall, Chambers Street and City Hall.