Places that Matter

Brooklyn Bridge

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Brooklyn Bridge. Photo by Prithi Kanakamedala
Brooklyn Bridge. Photo by Prithi Kanakamedala
Photo by Prithi Kanakamedala
Photo by Prithi Kanakamedala
Photo by Prithi Kanakamedala
Photo by Prithi Kanakamedala
Iconic suspension bridge connecting Lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn
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Place Matters Profile

Written for Place Matters by Prithi Kanakamedala 

Dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World” when it opened in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge, which spans the East River from City Hall Park to Brooklyn Heights, is one of the oldest bridges in the United States. The Brooklyn Bridge is a designated National Historic Landmark and New York City landmark, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. The bridge continues to receive worldwide recognition both as an historic engineering milestone and for its elegant architectural design. 

On January 23, 1867, five thousand New Yorkers walked across the frozen East River. According to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, one man “with more lungs and vanity than the majority” ran across six times. The frozen ice restrained the ferries that usually transported commuters between the separate, vibrant cities of Brooklyn and New York (or Manhattan) and crippled business. Brooklynites had often remarked during the nineteenth century that their city contained none of the chaos and overcrowding that typified neighboring New York. The Brooklyn Bridge eventually changed these neat distinctions. 

The unusually harsh winter of 1866/ 1867 provided the impetus for city officials to promote the creation of a bridge that would connect Brooklyn and Manhattan. The Bridge Company hired John A. Roebling, a German immigrant who had settled in Pennsylvania in 1831, as the chief engineer based on his work for the International Suspension Bridge at Niagara Falls. On September 1, 1867, Roebling submitted a plan for a suspension bridge of unprecedented dimensions. It would be wider than Manhattan’s Broadway to allow for streetcars, and tall enough to avoid the East River’s strong currents and allow ships to pass through. At the time, it was one of the largest structures ever built in North America, and it was the longest suspension bridge in the world.