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Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge
Built between 1870 and 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge links Brooklyn and Manhattan by spanning the East River in New York City. Designed by a German immigrant, John Augustus Roebling, it was his son, Washington Roebling, and daughter-in-law, Emily, who actually oversaw most of the construction after John’s unexpected death just months before building commenced.

The bridge consists of two main elements. Firstly, there are the two anchorages that are positioned either side of the river and between them are two towers (also known as piers) which stand at approximately 84 metres (277 feet) high. Consisting of limestone, granite and cement, the towers – designed in a neo-Gothic architectural style – stand on concrete foundations that run 13.4 metres (44 feet) and 23.8 metres (78 feet) deep on the Brooklyn and Manhattan sides, respectively.
Secondly, the bridge itself is constructed from iron and steel-wire cables, with a layer of tarmac on the main deck. At 26 metres (85 feet) wide and 1,825 metres (5,989 feet) long, the Brooklyn Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world when first built and held the record for over 20 years.
Roebling’s design includes many redundancies, such as a diagonal stay system between cables and stiffening trusses, which make the bridge very safe; indeed, even if one of the main support systems were to fail altogether the bridge would sag, rather than completely collapse.
More unusually, the bridge also has its own nuclear fall-out shelter built into one anchorage. Having fallen out of use and been forgotten, the shelter was rediscovered in 2006, along with provisions from the Cold War era. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964, since the Eighties the bridge has been floodlit at night to highlight its distinct architectural features. Initially intended to carry motor vehicles, trains, street cars, bicycles and pedestrians, since the Fifties, the bridge has only taken cars, cyclists and foot traffic. Over 120,000 vehicles, 4,000 pedestrians and 3,100 cyclists cross it every day.

The origins of suspension bridges
In a suspension bridge the deck – the load-bearing portion – is hung below suspension cables on vertical suspenders which bear the weight. Although bridges of this design first seem to have been invented in 15th-century Tibet, it was really the 19th century which saw their application on a massive scale.
The materials used in the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge were sourced in the US. The granite blocks were quarried in Maine and delivered to New York by boat. The wire rope and steel cable were produced in local factories, while the pigment used in the red paint with which the bridge was originally covered came from the mines at Rawlins, Wyoming.
The design and construction techniques employed in the Brooklyn Bridge have changed little in their essentials over the last century or so. Although at least 81 suspension bridges today are longer than the Brooklyn Bridge, they are all fundamentally the same – except that now the materials tend to be drawn from all over the globe rather than sourced locally.

Cultural impact
Since its completion, the Brooklyn Bridge has inspired many an artist and poet. The modernist American poet Hart Crane, for example, famously published the ode To Brooklyn Bridge in 1930. Regarded as a wonder of its age, people flocked to see the structure’s opening with a spectacular fireworks display and regatta in 1883 – a celebration which was repeated on its 100th anniversary.
Many people have jumped off the bridge as publicity stunts or suicide attempts, while others have got married on it. In 1919 the Caproni heavy bomber, which was then the world’s largest aeroplane, was flown under the deck, while in 2003 it was the intended target of an Al-Qaeda terrorist plot.
The Brooklyn Bridge has also frequently appeared in Hollywood movies, such as I Am Legend, The Dark Knight Rises, Godzilla, and more recently The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Brooklyn Bridge, The origins of suspension bridges, Washington Roebling