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Brooklyn Bridge in New York

World's Great Bridges: Brooklyn Bridge

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Constructed between 1870 and 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge in New York was an impressive feat of engineering marred by tragedy. Find facts below.
The Brooklyn Bridge in New York

The Brooklyn Bridge in New York. This photo was taken before terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center Twin Towers (shown in background).

Photo © VisionsofAmerica/Joe Sohm, Getty

Location: New York, over the East River connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn
Opened: May 24, 1883
Type: Suspension bridge with cable-stays
Length: 1,825 meters / 5,989 feet
Cables: 4 cables, each 15 3/4 inches in diameter; each cable is made up of 5,434 wires
Designer: John Augustus Roebling
Engineer: Washington Roebling, and then Washington's wife, Emily Warren Roebling

About the Designer

The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States. German-born John A. Roebling had designed important suspension bridges in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Texas. By 1850, Roebling held several patents for wire cable-roping and had established John A. Roebling's Sons Company near Trenton, New Jersey. In June 1869, while surveying the East River site, Roebling accidentally crushed some of his toes. What seemed to be a typical accident of the day turned mortal when a month later John Roebling died of tetanus.

Completing the Bridge

Washington Roebling, John's son, completed the design and oversaw the groundbreaking for the Brooklyn tower in January 1870. The two towers had to be completed before the wires could be strung—the Brooklyn side was completed in June 1875 and the New York tower was finished in July 1876. Washington Roebling supervised the engineering, but became too ill to complete the project. Over a decade after it began, the Brooklyn Bridge was completed by Washington Roebling's wife, Emily Warren Roebling.

A Famous Foot Bridge

The new bridge had been designed for horse-drawn carriages and foot traffic. A week after the Bridge opened, thousands of pedestrians visited the structure that they had heard stories about for years. Fired by a rumor that the bridge was about to collapse, the crowd panicked, which stirred a stampede that killed twelve and injured thirty-five people.

The photo of the Brooklyn Bridge shown here was taken before the World Trade Center Twin Towers (in background) were destroyed. Thousands of people walked over this bridge to escape lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001.

More About the Brooklyn Bridge

Learn More

  • The Great Bridge (1972) by historian David McCullough is the definitive biography of this national landmark
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  • Brooklyn Bridge (1981) by filmmaker Ken Burns is highly acclaimed and widely available
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