As impressive as the New York City skyline is, the iconic Brooklyn Bridge is just as much a part of the city’s cultural and architectural history. The granite suspension bridge stands out from the surrounding metalwork bridges and serves as a major thoroughfare for millions of New Yorkers each year, as well as a photo op for countless tourists.
5 It Was Overseen By a Woman
Despite the male-centric society of the late-1800s, a woman played a vital role in the Brooklyn Bridge’s construction. Emily Roebling, wife of project engineer Washington Roebling, took over day-to-day supervision of the bridge project when her husband became ill and was forced to work from their home. When the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883, Emily Roebling was the first person to cross the main roadway, riding in a carriage.
4 It Once Housed a Nuclear Fallout Shelter
In 2006, city workers inspecting the Brooklyn Bridge discovered a long-forgotten fallout shelter in the bridge’s Manhattan foundation. The shelter contained a stockpile of water, medical supplies and food, some of it still edible. The supplies were placed there secretly in the late 1950s and early ’60s, but records indicating who built the shelter and how it was to be used have been lost to history.
3 It Started a Trend
When it opened in 1883 the Brooklyn Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world. It was also the only bridge over the East River, connecting Manhattan to Brooklyn and the rest of Long Island. Since the Brooklyn Bridge, several other bridges have spanned the East River, including the Triborough Bridge, the Williamsburg Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge, which is located just to the north of the Brooklyn Bridge.
2 It Was a Magnet for Corruption
In 1873, notorious industrialist William “Boss” Tweed, who served on the board of trustees of the New York Bridge Company, was convicted of stealing public funds and sent to prison for the rest of his life. Five years later, J. Lloyd Haigh, whose company produced faulty bridge cables, was found guilty of fraud and imprisoned. In 1882, schedule and budget problems almost forced the chief engineer off the project.
1 It Was Central to New York City Politics
The process of constructing the Brooklyn Bridge was much more than just an engineering challenge. It also shaped the politics of late-19th century New York. President Ulysses S. Grant showed support for New York when he signed the bill authorizing the bridge project. Brooklyn was an independent city prior to the bridge’s construction, but within a few years, the newly connected cities undertook a plan to merge, enlarging the geographical scope of New York City.