On this night 127 years ago, 14 tons of fireworks, more than 10 thousand pieces, were set off from the Brooklyn Bridge in an outstanding display of pyrotechnics that lasted an hour. Hundreds of thousands of spectators gathered along the shores of Manhattan and Brooklyn to witness the biggest celebration the cities had ever experienced.
It was the first bridge to cross the strong and swift East River. And for a time it was known as “The Eighth Wonder of the World” as it towered far above any other building in New York. It cost just one cent to walk along the Great Bridge’s Promenade and later that year had two streetcars that would carry almost 10 million people across in their first year of service.
The Brooklyn Bridge was officially opened on May 24th 1883. It was deemed an official holiday known as “The People’s Day” and the president of the United States, Chester A. Arthur, was one of the first to walk across with the Governor of NY and soon to be next president, Grover Cleveland.
They walked over on, still to this day, the only elevated promenade on a bridge.
150,300 people crossed that first day the New York Brooklyn Bridge was open to the public.
If you have never walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, you are missing one of the most amazing views and feelings a human can have. I am lucky to bike over this Great Bridge on a weekly basis. It is like being on the top of the world. You can see the Statue of Liberty to the left and the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges to your right. The cityscapes surround you and the cars whiz by without notice below. You have an unobstructed view of the world, except for the cables which safely envelope you as well as hold the 6,620 tons of weight that is suspended over the East River.
Below is a direct quote by David McCullough, who wrote The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge, from Ken Burns America Collection – Brooklyn Bridge:
I feel that the bridge makes one feel better about being alive.
I think it makes you glad that you are part of the human community.
That you are part of a species that could create such a structure.
We are builders and we when see something that we built well, our hats are off!
We stand there and say, “Isn’t it marvelous?”
But isn’t it marvelous that it was built by people, people like you and I.
People like we would like to be, at least.
And brave, courage, the tenacity of those people, the confidence.
All of those are… they sound like platitudes
But they are truths, they are simple truths.
But some truths need repeating generation after generation after generation.
And the Brooklyn Bridge continues to repeat truths that we need to remember.
I highly recommend taking a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge sometime soon…