The Brooklyn Bridge: Steel Wonders of the World

It’s one of the most famous pieces of steel and granite architecture in the world, but how much do you really know about the Brooklyn Bridge? This is the second post in our four-part series on Steel Wonders of the World. Our first blog post featured another amazing engineering project – the Panama Canal and next, we’re going to look at another American icon – the Hoover Dam. But now, back to Brooklyn for some very impressive steel facts and figures.

Towers built with bare hands

When construction of the bridge began in 1869, the first items to be built were the towers, which required a huge quantity of mud to be removed to get down to the bedrock – this work was all done by hand. Teams worked around the clock 24 hours a day, seven days per week – to make just six inches of progress through the silt, mud, soil and rock on the Brooklyn side.

Over on the Manhattan side of the bridge, serious disease was wreaking havoc with the workforce and although the aim was to reach bedrock 32.6 metres down, the workers stopped at 24.3 metres. So while the Brooklyn tower is built on bedrock, the foundation for the Manhattan tower is a sandbed.

Weird and wonderful facts

  • At the time of construction, the bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world
  • It was the first steel-wire suspension bridge ever constructed
  • The bridge is 487 metres long spanning New York’s East River
  • Construction of the bridge took 14 years, starting in 1869, it was complete in 1883
  • Sadly, the bridge’s chief architect John A Roebling was killed during the first year of construction due to a ferry crushing his foot, requiring amputation. He died of tetanus 10 days later.
  • The granite towers of the bridge weigh 90,000 tons
  • The iconic steel cables consist of a total of 22,500 kilometres of steel wire
  • Because of the amount of steel used in the bridge, it expands and contracts due to changes in the temperature. The Brooklyn Bridge can rise up to three inches in cold weather

A movie star in its own right

There’s a reason you feel as though you’ve seen this bridge before – you probably have. As far as dramatic backdrops go, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most evocative props used in American movies and because it’s so well known, just a single shot of the bridge is enough to make movie viewers understand that the story is taking place in New York. The bridge is the star of:

  • On the Town (1949)
  • A Fine Madness (1966)
  • Three days of the Condor (1975)
  • If Lucy Fell (1996)
  • Godzilla (1998)
  • Two for the Money (2005)
  • Enchanted (2007)
  • Sex and the City (2008)
  • Transporters: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
  • The Amazing Spiderman 2 (2014)

There is currently a film in production that is about the construction of the bridge itself. Based on real-life events, the period film will focus on its famous chief architect John A Roebling and his son who finished the project after his death, engineer Washington Roebling and his wife Emily, who played a pivotal role in the construction of this Steel Wonder of the World.

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