Friday, May 23, 2008

A Venerable Icon Turns 125

The Brooklyn Bridge turns 125 years old this weekend. Begun in 1870, spanning 5,989 feet across the East River between the New York boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, it was the first steel wire bridge and the longest suspension bridge in the world. Completed in 1883, it's solid granite towers were the tallest structures in the Western Hemisphere. Built in the Gothic style, it was designed by John Roebling, who was also the inventor of wire cable. He designed the bridge to be six times stronger than was required, with three separate support sytems: suspension, stiffening, and diagonal stability. On opening day, 150,000 people paid one cent each to walk across. P.T. Barnum soon after demonstarted its safety by walking across with 21 elephants. At the time, it was used mainly by horse-drawn and trolley traffic and eventually an elevated train. Today it serves 6 lanes of car traffic. with a pedestrian/bicycle lane down the center, with no commericial traffic or busses allowed. It remains one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States, an architectural icon of New York City, and a shining example of 19th century American spirit.

No comments: