Brooklyn Bridge - Length, Timeline and Facts

Brooklyn Bridge - Length, Timeline and Facts

The Brooklyn Bridge looms majestically over New York City’s East River, linking the two boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Since 1883, its granite towers and steel cables have offered a safe and scenic passage to millions of commuters and tourists, trains and bicycles, pushcarts and cars. The bridge’s construction took 14 years and cost $15 million (more than $320 million in today’s dollars). At least two dozen people died in the process, including its original designer. Now more than 125 years old, this iconic feature of the New York City skyline still carries roughly 150,000 vehicles and pedestrians every day.

WATCH: Deconstructing History: Brooklyn Bridge

The Man with the Plan

John Augustus Roebling, the Brooklyn Bridge’s creator, was a great pioneer in the design of steel suspension bridges. Born in Germany in 1806, he studied industrial engineering in Berlin and at the age of 25 immigrated to western Pennsylvania, where he attempted, unsuccessfully, to make his living as a farmer. He later moved to the state capital in Harrisburg, where he found work as a civil engineer. He promoted the use of wire cable and established a successful wire-cable factory.

Meanwhile, he earned a reputation as a designer of suspension bridges, which at the time were widely used but known to fail under strong winds or heavy loads. Roebling addressed these problems by combining structural elements from previous bridge designs—including cable arrays and stiffening trusses. Using this model, Roebling successfully bridged the Niagara Gorge at Niagara Falls, New York, and the Ohio River in Cincinnati, Ohio.

In 1867, on the basis of these achievements, New York legislators approved Roebling’s plan for a suspension bridge over the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn. It would be the very first steel suspension bridge, boasting the longest span in the world: 1,600 feet from tower to tower.

Just before construction began in 1869, Roebling was fatally injured while taking a few final compass readings across the East River. A boat smashed the toes on one of his feet, and three weeks later he died of tetanus. His 32-year-old son, Washington A. Roebling, took over as chief engineer. Roebling had worked with his father on several bridges and had helped design the Brooklyn Bridge.

A Perilous Process

To achieve a solid foundation for the bridge, workers excavated the riverbed in massive wooden boxes called caissons. These airtight chambers were pinned to the river’s floor by enormous granite blocks; pressurized air was pumped in to keep water and debris out.

Workers known as “sandhogs”—many of them immigrants earning about $2 a day—used shovels and dynamite to clear away the mud and boulders at the bottom of the river. Each week, the caissons inched closer to the bedrock. When they reached a sufficient depth—44 feet on the Brooklyn side and 78 feet on the Manhattan side—they began backfilling the caisson with poured concrete and brick piers, working their way back up to the surface.

Underwater, the workers in the caisson were uncomfortable—the hot, dense air gave them blinding headaches, itchy skin, bloody noses and slowed heartbeats—but relatively safe. The journey to and from the depths of the East River, however, could be deadly. To get down into the caissons, the sandhogs rode in small iron containers called airlocks. As the airlock descended into the river, it filled with compressed air. This air made it possible to breathe in the caisson and kept the water from seeping in, but it also dissolved a dangerous amount of gas into the workers’ bloodstreams. When the workers resurfaced, the dissolved gases in their blood were quickly released.

This often caused a constellation of painful symptoms known as “caisson disease” or “the bends”: excruciating joint pain, paralysis, convulsions, numbness, speech impediments and, in some cases, death. More than 100 workers suffered from the disease, including Washington Roebling himself, who remained partially paralyzed for the rest of his life. He was forced to watch with a telescope while his wife Emily took charge of the bridge’s construction. Over the years, the bends claimed the lives of several sandhogs, while others died as a result of more conventional construction accidents, such as collapses, fires and explosions.

By the early 20th century, scientists had figured out that if the airlocks traveled to the river’s surface more gradually, slowing the workers’ decompression, the bends could be prevented altogether. In 1909, New York’s legislature passed the nation’s first caisson-safety laws to protect sandhogs digging railway tunnels under the Hudson and East rivers.

WATCH: Emily Roebling Saves the Brooklyn Bridge – David McCullough

A Bridge Unveiled

On May 24, 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge over the East River opened, connecting the great cities of New York and Brooklyn for the first time in history. Thousands of residents of Brooklyn and Manhattan Island turned out to witness the dedication ceremony, which was presided over by President Chester A. Arthur and New York Governor Grover Cleveland. Emily Roebling was given the first ride over the completed bridge, with a rooster, a symbol of victory, in her lap. Within 24 hours, more than 150,000 people walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, using a broad promenade above the roadway that John Roebling designed solely for the enjoyment of pedestrians.

With its unprecedented length and two stately towers, the Brooklyn Bridge was dubbed the “eighth wonder of the world.” For several years after its construction, it remained the tallest structure in the Western hemisphere. The connection it provided between the massive population centers of Brooklyn and Manhattan changed the course of New York City forever. In 1898, the city of Brooklyn formally merged with New York City, Staten Island and a few farm towns, forming Greater New York.

Brooklyn Bridge

The iconic Brooklyn Bridge connects Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn Heights. Known for its stone arches, the Brooklyn Bridge supports six lanes of vehicles (no trucks) and a shared pedestrian and bicycle path. As of 2018, an average of over 116,000 vehicles, 30,000 pedestrians and 3,000 cyclists travel over the Brooklyn Bridge each day.

Bridge Facts

  • Total length of bridge and approaches: 6,016 feet
  • Main span: 1,595.5 feet
  • Clearance at center: 135 feet


The Brooklyn Bridge was designed by John A. Roebling. Construction began in 1869 and was completed in 1883. At the time, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. The Brooklyn Bridge connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning the East River.

Because of the elevation of the span above the East River and the relatively low-lying shores, the rest of the bridge, sloping down to ground level, extends quite far inland on both sides of the river.

Between 1944 and 1954, a comprehensive reconstruction took place. The inner and outer trusses were strengthened, new horizontal stays were installed between the four main cables, the railroad and trolley tracks were removed, the roadways were widened from two lanes to three lanes, and new approach ramps were constructed. Additional approach ramps to the FDR Drive were opened to traffic in 1969.

The Brooklyn Bridge was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1972. The bridge and multiple Manhattan and Brooklyn lots comprising the approaches were designated as NYC Landmarks in 1967. In recent decades, the structure has been refurbished to handle the traffic demands during its second century.

Walking Across the Bridge

Of course miles and kilometers are useful for plotting the time you'll need to cross the bridge, there are other factors when crossing the bridge. You might want to take a leisurely walk or you might want to run across the bridge, which means you will cross the bridge at different times.

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is a highlight on any trip to Brooklyn. There are many places you'll want to stop to take pictures of the views of lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. The path is quite wide, and there is a designated bike lane, so you'll be able to navigate your way across the bridge fairly easily. There are spots which are perfect for taking pictures. Of course, you will see people congregated at those parts of the bridge, To avoid crowds, try to cross the bridge earlier. At that point, locals run and bike the bridge, but there are less tourists taking pictures.

Fun Facts about the Bridge

If you want to impress the folks walking across the bridge with you, here's a few quirky facts about the Brooklyn Bridge. Next time you cross the bridge, be sure to impress your companions with this information.

Sandhogs built the Brooklyn Bridge. Does the word sandhog evoke images of animals that should reside in Sedona? Well, the sandhogs weren't animals at all, but were people. The term sandhog was a slang word for the workers who built the Brooklyn Bridge. Many of these immigrant workers laid granite and other tasks to complete the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge was completed in 1883. And who the first person who walked across the bridge? It was Emily Roebling.

Elephants walked Across the Brooklyn Bridge. ​P.T Barnum's elephants walked across the Brooklyn Bridge in 1884. The bridge had been opened a year when twenty-one elephants, along with camels and other animals crossed the bridge. Barnum wanted to prove the bridge was safe and also wanted to promote his circus.

Falcons nest on the Brooklyn Bridge. According to, there are about 16 pairs of Peregrine Falcons living in New York City and some nest on the Brooklyn Bridge. They also nestin other spots around the city.

Previous Contracts

Contract 5D (1998-2000): Brooklyn Bridge Emergency Re-Decking Contract, $37M

Contract 5 (2007-2009): Brooklyn Bridge Travelers Replacement, $45M

Contract 6 (2010-2017): Rehabilitation of Approaches and Ramp Super Structure, Painting of the Whole Bridge, $650M

Contract 6A (2017-2019): Rehabilitation of Stone Masonry Walls at Bridge Approaches and Ramps, Sandy Related, $18M

Brooklyn Bridge Facts, History and Type

Brooklyn Bridge is a suspension/cable-stay hybrid bridge in New York City that connects Manhattan and Brooklyn. It is one of the oldest suspension bridges in United States (completed in 1883) and a first steel-wire suspension bridge in the world.

Brooklyn Bridge was designed by John Augustus Roebling. While conducting some of the last measuring across the East River ferry crushed his foot against the piling. HIs foot had to be amputated but he got tetanus from it, fell into a coma and died from tetanus 3 weeks after the amputation and just few days after he placed his son Washington Roebling in charge of the building the bridge. Construction began on January 3, 1870. First step was building of solid foundations for the bridge. That was achieved by using “caissons”, closed wooden boxes that were placed under water and filled with compressed air that allowed workers to dig the riverbed. Problem with caissons is a danger of getting so-called “caisson disease” - a decompression sickness that appears in construction workers when they leave compressed atmosphere to fast and enter normal atmosphere. One of the first victims of caisson disease was Washington Roebling, which left him paralyzed and bedridden, so his wife, Emily Warren Roebling had to step in and spend next 11 years as his assistant and supervisor of the construction of the bridge.

On May 24, 1883, Brooklyn Bridge was opened for public. Thousands of people were present and the opening ceremony as well as many ships. American president Chester A. Arthur and New York Mayor Franklin Edson crossed the bridge from the New York side to Brooklyn side where Brooklyn Mayor Seth Low greeted them to cannon fire in celebration of the opening. Washington Roebling was not able to attend ceremony so President Chester A. Arthur visited Roebling at his home shook hands with him. Nevertheless, Roebling held a banquet at his home on that day, in celebration of the opening of the bridge. On a first day after opening, some 1.800 vehicles and 150.000 people crossed the bridge. First one to cross the bridge was Emily Warren Roebling.

At the time when constriction was finished, Brooklyn Bridge was the longest bridge in the world with total length of 1825 meters. It stayed longest until 1903. Its cost was $15.5 million and 27 lives was lost during construction. On 30 May 1883, mere six days after the bridge was opened, a rumor spread that Brooklyn Bridge will collapse. That rumor cased stampede in which caused some twelve people to be trampled and killed. To remove rumors that the bridge is not stable (and to promote his circus at the same time), P. T. Barnum led 21 elephants across the bridge on May 17, 1884.

At the time when the bridge was constructed, there were no conditions to test aerodynamics of the bridge (tests of aerodynamics started in 1950s) but, luckily, there was no need for them. John Augustus Roebling designed the bridge six time stronger than it is needed and with that assured that it will last.

Woolly Mammoths Were Still Alive While Egyptians Were Building The Pyramids (2660 BCE)

Scientists have determined that wooly mammoths were still roaming the Earth until about 1650 BC, the giant creatures could be found on an island off the coast of eastern Russia at the time. Meanwhile, the oldest of the 'Great Pyramids' in Egypt, the Pyramid of Djoser was constructed between 2630 BC–2611 BC, meaning that while man was busy building some of the most incredible structures ever made, wooly mammoths were still doing their thing.

Also Cleopatra was alive closer to the moon landings than the pyramids being built

Breuckelen (Brooklyn)

In 1636, about twelve years after Dutch settlers began to establish the community of New Amsterdam at the southern tip of Manhattan Island, a handful of pioneers among them spread across the East River to set up plantations on the western-most edge of Long Island. In 1646, the first Dutch community on the island was incorporated. It was called Breuckelen, after a town in the Netherlands. The first settlers placed their farms along the Indian trail that ran from the river southward. When regular ferry service began in 1642 to bring residents back and forth across the East River, it docked at the property of Cornelis Dircksen Hooglandt, who became the first ferryman. In a later period, the road from the ferry was named Fulton Street, in honor of the steamboat inventor Robert Fulton.

The earliest mention of the name Breuckelen in the records of the colony of New Netherland is a contract dated 1646, which begins: "Gerrit Douman, sergeant, and Jan Tonissen, schout of Breuckelen, have this day agreed and contracted in manner as follows, to wit: Jan Tonissen promises to cut at Breuckelen, or wherever he can best do so, the following timber and to properly hew and deliver the same out of the woods near the ferryman on the strand…"

The village of Breuckelen is not synonymous with the borough of Brooklyn today, but was one of six towns settled under Dutch rule within the area of the borough. The others were Amersfoort, New Utrecht, Boswyck, Midwout and Gravesend. Breuckelen was located directly across the East River from New Amsterdam, on the southern tip of Manhattan, at what is now Brooklyn Heights. It was only in the nineteenth century that the then rapidly expanding city of Brooklyn annexed the neighboring areas of Bushwick, Gravesend, Flatbush, New Utrecht, Williamsburg and New Lots, becoming the third largest city in the nation by 1860. Then Brooklyn itself was incorporated into New York City in 1898. Thus, the infamously patchwork street pattern of Brooklyn, with its seemingly chaotic thicket of neighborhoods, is a direct result of the area having started life as six separate Dutch towns.

What's going on in Brooklyn? Find out.

The area around the original Breuckelen waterfront is now known as Dumbo, short for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. It's a neighborhood of warehouses converted into artist's studios, with a lively arts festival.

Concerts on the water, at the spot where the original Breuckelen ferry docked:

The Brooklyn Academy of Music is the nation's oldest performing arts center, and one of the finest.

St. Ann's Warehouse is one of the hippest performing arts spaces in New York, or anywhere.

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About the New Netherland Institute

For over three decades, NNI has helped cast light on America's Dutch roots. In 2010, it partnered with the New York State Office of Cultural Education to establish the New Netherland Research Center, with matching funds from the State of the Netherlands. NNI is registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. More

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10 Years of Brooklyn Bridge Park

Emily Roebling Plaza

Located beneath the majestic span of the Brooklyn Bridge, this space is envisioned as the Park’s grand civic space that will finally connect the DUMBO section of the Park north of the Brooklyn Bridge with the southern piers. Here the shoreline curves dramatically, enhancing views to the East River and Lower Manhattan.

This space will include elements in keeping with the overall Brooklyn Bridge Park design vocabulary. Future programming might include seasonal markets, festivals and educational programming.

15 Fascinating Facts About the Brooklyn Bridge

Don't agree to buy it, but you can never know too much about the most famous way to get across the East River—which officially opened 135 years ago, on May 24, 1883.


In its initial conception, the Brooklyn Bridge had an honorable goal: Providing safe passage across the rough and frigid East River for Brooklyn residents who worked in Manhattan. In the 1850s, Prussian-born engineer John Augustus Roebling dreamed of a suspension bridge that would make the commute easier for these working class New Yorkers.

However, the methods employed to get the project rolling weren’t quite as honorable. After Roebling was hired by the New York Bridge Company to help span the river, infamous political kingpin William “Boss” Tweed funneled $65,000 in bribes to city aldermen to secure funding for the bridge.


“Brooklyn Bridge” seems like a natural handle for the hybrid suspension and cable-stayed bridge connecting lower Manhattan to its neighbor across the East River, but the name evolved over time. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle first referred to the project as the “Brooklyn Bridge” in 1867, but in its early days it was still referred to as the “Great East River Bridge” as well as the “Great East River Suspension Bridge." At its 1883 dedication, it took on the clunky official name the “New York and Brooklyn Bridge.” (Brooklyn wouldn’t become a part of New York City until 1898.) Brooklyn civic pride led to the name officially changing to the “Brooklyn Bridge” in 1915.


The Brooklyn Bridge was Roebling’s brainchild, but he wouldn’t live to see its completion. While making measurements for the future bridge in 1869, a ferry crushed Roebling’s foot. The engineer developed tetanus as a result of these wounds and passed away in July 1869.


After Roebling’s death, his son Washington Augustus Roebling stepped in as the bridge project’s chief engineer. The younger Roebling soon developed a problem of his own. To build the structure’s massive foundation, workers labored in caissons, sealed chambers that kept the riverbed dry and allowed for digging. Breathing and working deep in the caissons required compressed air, which meant workers who came up from the depths were vulnerable to “caisson disease,” better known today as the bends. In 1872, Roebling came down with this decompression sickness and was confined to bed.


After Washington Roebling fell ill, a third Roebling stepped in as the de facto chief engineer of the bridge, his wife, Emily Warren Roebling. Although Emily began her tenure running orders between her husband, who was laid up in a Brooklyn Heights apartment with a view of construction, and his workers, she soon took bona fide command of the project, overseeing the design, construction, and business management of the tremendous undertaking. Emily Warren Roebling is now widely recognized as a pioneering female engineer and a driving force behind the bridge. Following her work on the bridge, Emily went on to earn a degree in law from New York University and published essays in favor of gender equality.


Technically, the rooster was tied for first. Emily Warren Roebling earned the honor of being the first human to make the trip across the historic bridge, riding proudly in a carriage a week before its official opening in front of an audience that included President Chester A. Arthur. Sitting in Emily’s lap all the while was a rooster, a symbol of good luck.


John Augustus Roebling himself is credited with introducing the steel-wire innovation into bridge design. The engineer proudly referred to steel as “the metal of the future.”


Construction materials were accumulated under the watch of John Augustus Roebling, who failed to notice that he had been swindled on his cable wire. Contractor J. Lloyd Haigh snuck a substantial amount of inferior, even faulty, wire into the mix. The flaw went unrecognized until after the wires were incorporated into the standing bridge, at which point replacing them was impossible. Instead, the construction team doubled down on its security measures, introducing far more wire than calculations deemed necessary while working desperately to keep the discovery from reaching the public. For his part, Haigh escaped prosecution for this crime, but was arrested and convicted for forgery in an unrelated case.


The Brooklyn Bridge opened to the public on May 24, 1883 and enjoyed a fairly harmonious first five days in operation. On May 30, however, disaster struck when either a woman tripping or a rumor of a pending collapse sparked a panic among the massive crowd of pedestrians crossing the bridge. The mob’s frantic race to escape the bridge resulted in the deaths of 12 people and serious injuries to 36 more.


How do you convince one of America’s busiest cities that its newest bridge can offer safe transport to its many commuters? Elephants. Since the most common haven for trained elephants in the 1880s was a circus tent, the city called upon entrepreneurial showman P.T. Barnum to march 21 elephants across the Brooklyn Bridge in May of 1884 to show just how sturdy the span was.


If you think a nice glass of wine would be the perfect companion for a moonlit stroll across a river, this is the bridge for you. Engineers built sizeable vaults that were up to 50 feet tall into the bridge beneath its anchorages. Thanks to their cool temperatures, these granite-walled storage spaces made the perfect wine cellars, and they were rented out to the public until World War I. The company A. Smith & Co. Productions forked over $500 a month as rent for the Brooklyn-side vaults, while the liquor distributor Luyties Brothers paid a pretty $5000 for the prime real estate beneath the Manhattan anchorage.


At some point during the Cold War, one of the bridge’s compartments transformed into a survival shelter stocked with food and water rations and medical supplies. After fading into obscurity after the close of the Cold War, this fallout shelter was rediscovered in 2006 during a routine structural inspection of the bridge.


Upon the announcement of a plan to repaint the Brooklyn Bridge in 2010, controversy erupted over the landmark’s original color. Some historians insisted that the young suspension bridge wore a proud buff color, renamed “Brooklyn Bridge Tan” for the modern makeover. (The option of “Queensborough Tan” drew groans.) On the other side of the battle, old documents and hand-colored lithographs supported the argument that the icon’s original color was “Rawlins Red,” a hue derived from the iron-oxide from the eponymous mountain town of southern Wyoming. In the end, Brooklyn Bridge Tan won out.


The Manhattan anchorage of the Brooklyn Bridge features a bronze plaque commemorating the land below as the former location of the country’s first presidential mansion. Known alternatively as the Samuel Osgood House and the Walter Franklin House, the Lower Manhattan mansion served as the home of George Washington during his first ten months as America’s Commander-in-Chief. The residence stood at the intersection of Cherry Street and Pearl Street for 85 years before its demolition in 1856.


Just two years before starting work on his New York project, John Augustus Roebling made a bit of suspension bridge history with the humbly named John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, which spanned 1057 feet over the Ohio River between Covington, Ky. and Cincinnati. Roebling put that endeavor to shame with the Brooklyn Bridge, which bested its predecessor’s principal span by about 50 percent. Boasting a main span of 1595 feet and a total measurement of 5,989 feet, the Brooklyn Bridge held the superlative of longest suspension bridge in the world for two decades. When it finally lost the title in 1903, its successor was none other than its fellow East River crossing the Williamsburg Bridge. The latter’s main span bested the Brooklyn Bridge’s by only four and a half feet, though its total length reached 7308 feet.

Watch the video: Evoluce nebo stvořeni, zakladni vědecka fakta