New York City is full of iconic landmarks the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, The Empire State Building, Times Square, and others. All of these are often featured on NYC postcards and pictures. Another landmark of New York City is the Brooklyn Bridge. The incredible history and story of this bridge may not be well appreciated just by seeing it (it really is a marvel of 1800s engineering). It should be part of anyone's NYC itinerary when visiting the Big Apple.


When it was first built there were no automobiles - it really is an old bridge (but there are some pics of its construction)! The Brooklyn Bridge was originally intended to carry non-automotive traffic of horse-drawn carriages and the like. After construction, it almost immediately became a New York icon and attraction. See here for why one should visit the Statue of Liberty and why book in advance.

A History About The Brooklyn Bridge

The Brooklyn Bridge is a hybrid cable-stayed and suspension bridge (the Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge). It spans the East River connecting the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

  • Date: Opened On May 24, 1883
  • Length: Main Span 1,595.5 Feet or 486.3 Meters

At the time of its construction, the Brooklyn Bridge broke multiple engineering records. It was the first bridge crossing the East River and it was the longest suspension bridge in the world at the time.

To keep it safe and able to bear the voluminous traffic continuously crossing the bridge, it has been renovated several times to counter the gradual deterioration that comes with use and age. It even took six years to give the bridge a new coat of paint.

  • Toll: Unlike Many Other Bridges In The Area, It is Toll-Free
  • Traffic Type: Only Passenger Vehicles and Pedestrian/Bicycle Traffic Are Permitted
  • Status: It Is Listed As a National Historic Landmark And A National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark

The bridge has two suspension towers that are 278 feet fall with a footprint of 140 feet at the high water line. They are called the Manhattan tower and the Brooklyn tower.

Related: 20 Secrets About The Mole People Living In New York City's Tunnels

Construction Of The Brooklyn Bridge

At the time of the proposal to connect Brooklyn and New York with the bridge, they were separate cities. Until the Brooklyn Bridge was constructed, it was only possible to move between these two cities by ferry. Constructing a bridge across the East River was formidable, and numerous designs were suggested and dismissed. There were even proposals for building tunnels under the river.

  • Rail Traffic: Formerly There Were Rail Traffic And Cable Cars Running On The Bridge

The engineer who designed the bridge was John A. Roebling (although he died from a freak accident in 1869 just before the start of the construction of the bridge). He was an immigrant from Prussia (Prussia would go on to form the German Empire). The project was then taken over by his son, Washington Roebling.

Laying the foundations for the mighty bridge was a nightmare - to put it mildly. They had to dig through the soft mud of the river all the way down until they found a solid rock bed to support the bridge. To do this they had to sink water-tight boxes down and dig down from within them. The pressure was intense, and the heat was unbearable, while the water was fridged. Everyone had to go down underwater at a time when the complications of being underwater were not well understood.

Washingon Roebling ended up suffering painfully from the bends, and it was then left to his wife, Emily, who ultimately oversaw the construction.

Visiting The Brooklyn Bridge

Today anyone visiting the city should enjoy a leisurely stroll across the elevated pedestrian walkway on the bridge.

  • Manhattan Side Access: At Park Row And Centre Street
  • Brooklyn Side Access: At Cadman Plaza East

Related: The High Line Is Completely Free To Visit, And This Is What NYC Tourists Can Expect

Viewing The Brooklyn Bridge

While everyone should definitely walk or cycle across the bridge, perhaps to get the best view of the bridge one can't be on it. To take in the whole bridge one will need to be nearby. A couple of places affording great views are:

  • Pier 1: Or Main Street At The Brookly Bridge Park
  • The Brooklyn Heights Promenade: Also Has Excellent Views
  • Pier 15: Over In Manhattan, One Can Get Great Views Here. Pier 15 Is down By The Seaport District

Whether one is a fan of engineering marvels or not, the Brooklyn Bridge is a central piece of NYC history and much more than just a bridge. For those interested in more of the secrets and mysteries of NYC, see here to read if there are tunnels under New York City.

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