Walk the Majestic Brooklyn Bridge
A 2-hour walking tour over New York’s majestic bridge highlighting its engineering and amazing history.
Join us for a 2-hour walking tour highlighting the engineering marvel, the city politics, historical personalities, family tragedies and civic triumphs that resulted in the building of the most famous Bridge in America. Our tour includes a 45-minute walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, and a stroll through DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass – an industrial-turned-boutique neighborhood) to Fulton Ferry Landing and Brooklyn Bridge Park for awe-inspiring views of Manhattan and the New York Harbor.
History of the Brooklyn Bridge:
The Brooklyn Bridge: a work of art, architecture, civil engineering, civic pride & history. A job with absolutely no precedent – when the Great Bridge was completed in 1883, it was twice as tall, twice as long and twice as heavy as any bridge in comparison. And it was built by hand and steam-driven construction cranes – well before the age of electricity! But it wasn’t done without personal tragedy befalling both its designer and its Chief Engineer.
The bridge took 14 years to construct, claimed the lives of 20 construction workers AND the bridge’s designer. This man, John Augustus Roebling was a genius (as well as slightly daffy) of a German inventor who not only designed the Brooklyn Bridge but also invented the steel wire cables that suspend her mass. Horrifically, Herr Roebling died in a freak ferry accident before the bridge even began; 3 days after the US Army Corps of Engineers approved the plans to the Great Bridge, an inebriated ferryboat captain driver crashed his ferry into Herr Roebling’s foot as he was surveying the East River, looking for a place to put the Manhattan tower. The foot turned gangrenous, John Roebling contracted lockjaw, and died within 17 days.
Luckily for John, his son Washington Roebling had studied suspension bridge Engineering alongside his wife Emily, at L’Ecole de Beaux-Arts in Paris. The couple took over the project, backed by an army of immigrant workmen who slaved away digging up the riverbed in the hellish underwater caissons. Unfortunately, Washington then fell ill with Caisson’s Disease, 4 years into the 14 year long construction. The disease left him bedridden for the rest of his life, leaving no choice but for his brave wife Emily to assume control of the spectacular project. They said it couldn’t be done, and it took a woman to do it – the building of the Brooklyn Bridge! In fact, on Celebration day, they said that “Behind every great man stands an able-bodied woman,” describing Emily supporting her stricken husband Washington.
The Brooklyn Bridge was so one-of-its-kind upon its completion that it quickly became a worldwide sensation. And no wonder – at the end of the 1800s, the tallest a standard “skyscraper” building could rise would be to an absolute apex of 16 stories. And once at 16 stories up, all one could do was walk around in a small circle. Once the Brooklyn Bridge was completed, Victorian Americans to walk for a mile and a third, 15 stories into the air! The ability to gaze down at clipper ships and steam lined traversing the East River was literally nowhere else in the world.
The first person to jump OFF of the Brooklyn Bridge was swimming instructor Robert Odlum, from Washington DC, in 1885. Mr. Odlum wore a red one-piece bathing suit, very fashionable at the time. His gimmick to jumping off the bridge and surviving was to leap with one arm up and one arm down, as pictured above. Therefore, he would slice directly into the East River and survive the impact of a 15-story jump. Alas, it didn’t work – he died upon impact. Hitting water from a height of 15 stories is akin to hitting concrete. He didn’t live long enough for hydrothermia to set in. Poor, odd Mr. Odlum!
2008 was the Brooklyn Bridge’s 125th birthday, and what did NY’s First Family of Tour Guides do but dress up at the Roeblings to celebrate the World’s Greatest Bridge. From Left to right, you have Matthew Baker portraying a Sandhog, Jonah Levy (Sandhog,) Julie Wiener as Miss Emily Roebling, Mark Levy in black as the doomed John Roebling, Gideon Levy (in top hat and gray) as Washington Roebling, and Matt Levy as yet another sandhog. Good times!
In 2011, Matt had the awesome circumstance to lead Chris Roebling, direct descendant of John, Washington & Emily Roebling, on a walking tour of the Brooklyn Bridge. Chris said he was duly impressed with our knowledge of the Great Bridge. We were duly impressed that we were giving a walking tour to the great-great-great-grandson of Washington Roebling!
15 Fun Facts About the Brooklyn Bridge!
1. The People’s Day, May 24th 1883, was the biggest party NYC had ever seen since the opening of the Erie Canal, almost 60 years earlier. Fireworks erupted over the East River for an hour and celebrations lasted until dawn. All this despite the fact that Washington Roebling and William Kingsley (the driving political force behind the bridge) simply wanted to put up a sign saying “The Bridge is Finished.”
2. 150,300 people crossed the bridge on opening day in 1883, including President Chester A. Arthur and NY Governor (and future President) Grover Cleveland. Chief Engineer Washington Roebling never stepped foot onto the bridge.
3. 1,800 vehicles crossed the bridge on opening day in 1883, each paying five cents.
4. The length of the river span is 1,595 feet 6 inches.
5. Total length of the Bridge is 5,989 feet.
6. The height of the towers above the water is 276 feet.
7. Total length of wires in each of the 4 cables is 3,515 miles.
8. Ultimate strength of each cable: 24,621,780 pounds.
9. Total weight of the bridge is 14,680 tons.
10. Cost of original construction was $15,100,000.
11. 21 people died in the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, including John Roebling.
12. John Roebling initially estimated that the bridge would take 5 years to complete. It took almost 14 years.
13. The bridge was designed to be 6 times stronger than needed. Because of low-grade wires used to make some of the cables, the bridge is only 4 times stronger than needed.
14. Con man William McCloundy was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for “selling” the Brooklyn Bridge to a tourist in 1901.
(We would NEVER do something like that!)
15. 144,000 vehicles cross the Brooklyn Bridge each weekday.