Posts Tagged ‘New York in 1883’

The Brooklyn Bridge is celebrating its birthday

May 17, 2021

Work began in 1870 and was finally completed 13 years later (at a cost of $15 million and with more than 20 worker deaths). Now, the Brooklyn Bridge is marking its 138th birthday on May 24.

What better way to honor an icon than with a brilliant lithograph produced by a Pearl Street publisher depicting the fireworks, ship parade, and procession of 150,000 pedestrians walking across this engineering marvel for the first time on May 24, 1883? After politicians, including President Chester A. Arthur, gave speeches, the bridge was opened to the public just before midnight.

“From high water to roadway 120 ft—from high water to centre of span 135 ft—from roadway to top 158 ft—width of Bridge 85 ft—with tracks for steam cars, roadway for carriages, and walks for foot passengers, and an elevated promenade commanding a view of extraordinary beauty and extant,” the caption reads.

[Image: Metropolitan Museum of Art]

Men who gave their lives for the Brooklyn Bridge

March 26, 2012

Constructing the Brooklyn Bridge didn’t just claim the lives of up to 30 laborers.

John and Washington Roebling, the father and son engineers in charge of building the bridge, were also casualties.

John Roebling, right, lost his life early on. Named chief engineer and given the go-ahead to start construction in 1867, he died after a freak accident.

While surveying the bridge site at the river’s edge, a ferry boat crushed his toes. They had to be amputated, which led to tetanus. He was dead that July.

Washington Roebling then took over. In 1872, while submerged in a caisson to supervise construction, he suffered decompression sickness—paralyzing him.

Though he was unable to leave his bed in his Brooklyn Heights home, Washington Roebling wasn’t ready to give up his gig as chief engineer.

From his top-floor bedroom at 106 Columbia Heights, he directed daily operations through his wife, Emily, right, who was unofficially in charge until the bridge was completed in 1883.

He could look through binoculars (above illustration) and watch the bridge—the towers, the steel cables, the roadway—go up, just as he’d planned (below photo).

A plaque on the bridge gives big props to Emily, her husband, and her father-in-law. And Roebling Street in Williamsburg also pays them homage.