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Brooklyn Bridge | by Wolfgang Staudt
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Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

 

he Brooklyn Bridge (originally the New York and Brooklyn Bridge), one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States, stretches 5,989 feet (1825 m) over the East River connecting the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. On completion, it was the largest suspension bridge in the world and the first steel-wire suspension bridge.

 

Construction began in January 3, 1870. The Brooklyn Bridge was completed thirteen years later and was opened for use on May 24, 1883. On that first day, a total of 1,800 vehicles and 150,300 people crossed. The bridge's main span over the East River is 1,595 feet (486 meters). The bridge cost $15.1 million to build and approximately 27 people died during its construction. A week after the opening, on May 30, a rumor that the Bridge was going to collapse caused a stampede which crushed twelve people.

 

At the time it opened, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world — fifty percent longer than any previously built — and it has become a treasured landmark. Additionally, for several years the towers were the tallest structures in the Western Hemisphere. Since the 1980s, it has been floodlit at night to highlight its architectural features. The bridge is built from limestone, granite, and Rosendale natural cement. The architecture style is Gothic, with characteristic pointed arches above the passageways through the stone towers.

 

The bridge was designed by an engineering firm owned by John Augustus Roebling in Trenton, New Jersey. Roebling and his firm had built smaller suspension bridges, such as the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge in Cincinnati, Ohio and the Waco Suspension Bridge in Waco, Texas, that served as the engineering prototypes for the final design.

 

As construction was beginning, Roebling's foot was seriously injured by a ferry when it crashed into a wharf; within a few weeks, he died of tetanus caused by the amputation of his toes. His son, Washington, succeeded him, but was stricken with caisson disease (decompression sickness, commonly known as 'the bends'), due to working in compressed air in caissons, in 1872. Washington's wife, Emily Warren Roebling, became his aide, learning engineering and communicating his wishes to the on-site assistants. When the bridge opened, she was the first person to cross it. Washington Roebling rarely visited the site again, actually residing in Trenton, New Jersey, and elsewhere during most of its construction. In truth, he spent little time looking through the telescope at the project, his near-sightedness causing the most trouble.

 

At the time the bridge was built, the aerodynamics of bridge building had not been worked out. Bridges were not tested in wind tunnels until the 1950s - well after the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in the 1940s. It is therefore fortunate that the open truss structure supporting the deck is by its nature less subject to aerodynamic problems. Roebling designed a bridge and truss system that was six times as strong as he thought it needed to be. Because of this, the Brooklyn Bridge is still standing when many of the bridges built around the same time have vanished into history and have been replaced. This is also in spite of the nefarious substitution of inferior quality wire in the cabling supplied by the contractor J. Lloyd Haigh - by the time it was discovered, it was too late to replace the cabling that had already been constructed. Roebling determined that the poorer wire would leave the bridge four rather than six times as strong as necessary, so it was eventually allowed to stand, with the addition of 250 cables.

 

At various times, the bridge has carried horses and trolley traffic; at present, it has six lanes for motor vehicles, with a separate walkway along the centerline for pedestrians and bicycles. The two inside traffic lanes once carried elevated trains of the BMT from Brooklyn points to a terminal at Park Row. Str

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Taken on July 12, 2005