A bridge that symbolizes everything that is great and eternally inspiring about a city, that stands towering high bringing joy to the beholder from far or near, at the same time functioning as a major artery of traffic connecting the city, and has contributed to the lexicon of English language… is there any other bridge in the country – no, the world – as grand as the Brooklyn Bridge?
And one of the key figures behind the construction of this great bridge was Emily Warren Roebling, the daughter in law of John Roebling who designed the bridge and started the construction. When John Roebling died of tetanus, his son Washington Roebling took over charge of the construction. Unfortunately, Washington was afflicted by caisson disease, the decompression sickness caused apparently by long hours spent under water. He became bed-ridden, his wife Emily stepped in as the ‘first woman field engineer’ and saw to the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Emily functioned as the construction supervisor and project manager for the construction. And as the only person who saw Washington Roebling in his sick bed, she was the link between him and his assistants at the work site. She gained extensive knowledge and understanding of the technologies involved, with training from her husband. She performed the chief engineer’s duties and supervised the day-to-day construction while her husband watched the bridge going up, through binoculars, from their residence at 110 Columbia Heights in Brooklyn. According to reports, Emily Roebling was the first person to cross the bridge by carriage ahead of the official opening, carrying a rooster as a sign of victory. I found this a very interesting story and went looking for some image of the event. And see what I found!
When it was opened to the public on May 24, 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world and the tallest man-made structure in the American continent. It has been designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service, and a New York City Landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.
As the name implies, the Brooklyn Bridge connects the burroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan in New York city. At present, the bridge carries 6 lanes of automobile traffic, with an elevated walkway for pedestrians and bicycles in the center.
As you can imagine, the view from the bridge is breathtaking. And it is a vantage point to observe the way the look of the New York city skyline changes to reflect the time of day. Whether in the day or night, it is something that you can keep watching!
A rather new phenomenon I noticed on the bridge is the way people have attached all sorts of things to the sides of the bridge. It used to be locks previously, following the belief that if couples put their names on a lock that is locked onto a bridge and throw down the keys into the water below, their love will be everlasting!
Brooklyn Bridge has featured in many books, movies and songs. Most noteworthy is ‘The Bridge’, an epic poem by Hart Crane, the well-known American poet. What a coincidence that he lived for a while at 110 Columbia Heights, the same address where the Roeblings used to live!
And there are plenty of works about the bridge as well. The Great Bridge by David McCullough, published in 1972 and the PBS documentary film, Brooklyn Bridge, made by Ken Burns in 1981 are prominent among the lot.
By the way, the usage “If you believe that, then I have a bridge to sell you” has its origin with George Parker, a master con man who managed to sell the Brooklyn Bridge, several times, to gullible customers. Apparently, he convinced them that they could make a fortune controlling the access to the bridge! Other public landmarks he managed to sell, again many times over, included Madison Square Garden, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grant’s Tomb and the Statue of Liberty. 🙂
These days the word ‘amazing’ has lost all meaning, through overuse. But this is one case where it should be used in its true full meaning… AMAZING! And that is the most apt word to describe this great icon of this great city!
19 Aug 2014