10 Fascinating Secrets of The Brooklyn Bridge
Riding all the way across the Brooklyn Bridge is not just about crossing a bridge. Every single step towards Brooklyn (from Manhattan) – or the other way around – offers a new possibility to explore views of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Statue of Liberty, and the bridge itself. You have to cross the Brooklyn Bridge before sunrise, at noon, to watch the sunset, in the middle of the night – at 3 a.m. For each one of these walks, you will have different stories to tell, different and fantastic photos to share, different moments to keep to yourself. Enjoy some great pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge, and some of its secrets.
10 FASCINATING SECRETS OF THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE
Visual Storytelling by Lucas Compan
The Brooklyn Bridge looms majestically over New York City’s East River, linking the two boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Since 1883, its granite towers and steel cables have offered a safe and scenic passage to millions of commuters and tourists, trains, and bicycles, pushcarts and cars.
10. The winter that forced to build the bridge
A Polar Vortex is an upper level low pressure zone, that lies near the Earth's pole. Every time it comes down towards the East Coast of the United States, New York freezes up. In 2014, 2015, and 2016 we were feeling like penguins. Well, that was nothing compared to the winter of 1867.
The weather was so frigid that the East River completely froze over, preventing ferries from carrying Brooklyn commuters into Manhattan. That was the sixth time on record that this happened in the 1800s, and it was the final straw–as Brooklynites were forced to take a perilous walk over the frozen river to work, it was decided that a bridge must be built once and for all.
9 – A woman with zero formal engineering training built the bridge
Three architects created the bridge over the 14 years of its construction. German-born John Augustus Roebling started the project, as he was trained in creating suspension bridges. Just before construction began, Roebling was injured in a boat accident, and died of tetanus several weeks later. His son, Washington A. Roebling, took up the project's mantle—only to get the bends, severely, while working on it. Who was the person who finished the work, then?
Emily Warren Roebling, wife of Washington. She was already well-versed in the business of bridges thanks to her husband, but she started her duties simply as a messenger, relaying Washington's orders to his staff. Before long, however, Emily was the face of the Brooklyn Bridge, taking on everything from inspections to contracting to publicity. Before the bridge even opened, she was the first to ride all the way across it.
Today, there is a plaque on the bridge in Emily's honor that reads, "Back of every great work we can find the self-sacrificing devotion of a woman."
Look for the plaque honoring Emily, which doesn't convey the extent of her contributions, as you traverse the bridge.
8 – There is a Cold War bunker in the vaulted chambers
The end of New York (and perhaps the world) was envisioned by the Pentagon, who stuffed one of the vast, vaulted chambers under the main entrance ramp on the Manhattan side with supplies to ride out the aftermath of a nuclear attack.
Discovered by city bridge inspectors in 2006, the hoard included 17.5-gallon water drums, medical supplies, paper blankets, drugs and 352,000 still-edible, high-calorie “survival crackers,” all sealed in watertight metal canisters and boxes ink-stamped 1957 and 1962. Several boxes of blankets were marked, “For Use Only After Enemy Attack.” Whether the supply would actually have been effective is up for debate, but city officials continue to keep the room’s exact location a secret.
7 – Abandoned champagne cellars
The Cold War-era bunker isn’t the only secret hidden inside the Brooklyn Bridge. On both sides, hidden under ramps leading to the anchorages, are enormous stone caverns, some reaching 17 meters (55 ft) high. Today, they store maintenance supplies, and from time to time, the occasional homeless gets inside and sets up camp. But back when the bridge first opened, these mysterious vaults were lined with rows and rows of champagne bottles. Cheers!
6 – Elephants crossing the bridge
One year after the bridge opened, tragedy struck: A simple stumble by a woman on the Manhattan side stairs caused a shriek, followed by a full-blown stampede that crushed 12 people to death and injured scores of others, as the crowds rushed off the bridge they believed was collapsing. To reassure the public of the stability of the bridge, and to earn a great deal of self-promotion, showman P.T. Barnum led 21 elephants, the famous Jumbo included, across the bridge on May 17, 1884.
5 – There is an abandoned subway station
There's a gorgeous tiled, Art Deco-style station designed in 1904 by Rafael Guastavino, whose signature tile vaults are found throughout New York City, most notably in the dome of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. The adornments of the station are no less exquisite, especially the brass chandeliers, intricate skylights, stained glass and graceful arches.
Though it's been closed since 1945, the subway station was never demolished. To this day, after the 6 train makes its final downtown stop at the Brooklyn Bridge station, it travels through the old City Hall station in its route to turn back uptown.
4 – Not always called the Brooklyn Bridge
Today, the name of the Brooklyn Bridge seems as solid as the masonry, and most can’t imagine it with any other, but several preceded it. Before its completion, the growing structure was referred to as the “East River Bridge,” the “Great East River Bridge” and the “Great East River Suspension Bridge.” It was the Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper who first named it the “Brooklyn Bridge” in 1867.
At the dedication, however, President Chester Arthur called it the “New York and Brooklyn Bridge.” Eventually, Brooklyn spirit and pride swayed public opinion, earning the official designation of the “Brooklyn Bridge” in 1915.
3 – The Corrupt Boss
NYC’s most infamous corrupt politician got a real piece of the bridge. For city approval on the project, he was paid $60,000 in cash and given stock of the New York Bridge Company, while also sitting on its board of directors. After Tweed’s arrest and trial, the bridge was made public property with the mayors of Brooklyn and Manhattan in charge.
2 – The Love Locks
The global fad of attaching Love Locks to bridges finds its New York home on the Brooklyn Bridge, where thousands now crowd the cables, fences, pipes and anywhere else they can find. As with their European counterparts, messages of love and commitment are scratched and etched in the padlocks of all shapes and sizes. But with typical New York peculiar style, locals have taken to adding much weirder additions, including condoms, bras, trash, feminine products, baby pacifiers, shoelaces, scrunchies, police tape, clothespins — you name it.
City officials, on the other hand, are less than enthused, fearing some could fall on passing cars below or damage the bridge. (A railing collapsed under the weight of them on the Pont des Arts in Paris.) As of October 2014, cleaning crews have cut down 9,000 locks.
1 – Figure your own secret relationship with the bridge
You can always explore your way, discover more, and create new angles and perspectives to share your particular way to creatively represent the Brooklyn Bridge.
When you get a chance, watch these excellent documentaries directed by Ric Burns, an American documentary filmmaker and writer.