It’s hard to imagine a world without the Brooklyn Bridge but to get to us today it has been through some serious history.
We’ve ran, walked, and biked across it. We’ve wondered at it and taken countless pictures of it. But we’ve never known all of the wondrous tidbits and history that the famous bridge has been hidding from us…until now! So without further ado, here are 10 things you might not already know about the Brooklyn Bridge.
1. It used to be the longest bridge of its kind in the world
It took 600 men to turn 6,114 tonnes of material to build this engineering masterpiece. Brooklyn Bridge achieved international fame after opening in 1883 for being the longest suspension bridge in the world at 1,595 ft. It remained so until 1903 when they built the Williamsburg Bridge and made it 4.5 ft. longer.
2. The Brooklyn Bridge project was kickstarted with a bribe
Architect John A. Roebling had already been hired, but construction on the bridge could not be started because of a lack of funds. To get the ball rolling, the Brooklyn Bridge project needed a little help so political kingpin, William “Boss” Tweed, gave out $65,000 in bribes to members of the city council to secure funding for the bridge.
3. The bridge is connected to the fight for gender equality
After John A. Roebling died as a result of a freak accident in which he lost his toes his son, Washington A. Roebling took over but he also got sick. He got a case of “the bends” (decompression sickness) and was bedridden in 1872. That’s when his wife Emily Warren Roebling took over. She began running orders between her husband and his workers but she soon took over command of the project, overseeing the design, construction and management of the enterprise. She then went on to study law at NYU and published several papers on gender equality. Nowadays, she’s widely considered as a pioneering female engineer and driving force behind the Brooklyn Bridge project.
4. The first individual to cross the bridge was a rooster
Well…technically Emily Roebling was the first person to cross the bridge, but a rooster did sit on her lap while she crossed it! After her contribution to the undertaking, Emily earned the honor of being the first one to cross the bridge a week before the official opening. She did it in a carriage and carried a rooster on her lap as a symbol of good luck and victory.
5. It used to connect two different cities until 1898
Brooklyn didn’t become a New York City borough until 1898. Until it merged with NYC, Brooklyn was the 4th most populated city in the US, only behind New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. So when the bridge was opened in 1883, it served as a link between Manhattan and the city of Brooklyn.
6. 21 elephants crossed over the bridge once
The stampede that occurred shortly after the bridge’s inauguration in 1883 had people wary about the bridge’s stability. So in May 1884, circus entertainer P.T. Barnum was invited to parade 21 of his elephants across Brooklyn Bridge to reassure citizens of its safety.
7. People used to use it as a wine cellar
Compartments within the bridge were used for storing wine up until World War I. Engineers build vaults that were up to 50 ft. tall beneath the anchorages. Their granite walls kept the chambers relatively cool, so they made perfect cellars that people could actually rent out, for a rather high price. The liquor distributor Luyties is said to have paid $5,000 for the chambers beneath the Manhattan anchorage.
8. And a bomb shelter as well
Back in 2006 during a routine inspection of the bridge, city workers discovered a bomb shelter from the Cold War era. The shelter was packed full with boxes from the years of the Sputnik launch and the Cuban missile crisis, ready for a nuclear attack on the city. The boxes were packed full with shock medication, water drums, blankets and over 300,000 packets of expired high-calorie crackers…yum!
9. It was built on the site of George Washington’s first presidential mansion
On the Manhattan anchorage of the bridge you’ll find a bronze plaque commemorating the land below it as the former location of the country’s first presidential residence. The mansion, known as the Samuel Osgood House or the Walter Franklin House, was home to George Washington during his first months as America’s president. It stood there, at the intersection of Cherry and Pearl Street, until its demolition in 1856.
10. The Brooklyn Bridge grows taller every now and then
It’s alive!! The bridge actually grows a little (every once in a while) because of its wires. These keep contracting and expanding in extremely cold weather which makes the bridge rise about 3 inches when it’s cold outside.
Main image source: Shutterstock