The Brooklyn Bridge
Growing up in California, I have seen my fair share of large bridges. I did not think that I could be quite so amazed by the Brooklyn Bridge. It really is an amazing structure, where form and function truly come together. But as we learned more about the bridge, I found myself much more captivated by it.
The original engineering plans for the Brooklyn Bridge was John Roebling, who never saw the plans come to fruition due to an accident where a docking boat crushed his foot, from which he caught tetanus and died sixteen days later.
John Roebling was succeeded by his son Washington Roebling. Washington Roebling had been involved in the development of the plans, and he proved himself worthy to take on the job.
To build the two towers of the Brooklyn Bridge, caissons (large wooden boxes with no bottoms) were used. Like an upside down bowl in a sink maintains an air bubble, the caissons provided a place for the men to work as they dug toward bedrock, although on the Manhattan side of the bridge, bedrock was never actually reached. The stone towers were built atop the caissons.
In a day when most suspension bridges were built with iron, Roebling chose steel for the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. The Brooklyn Bridge consists of 25,000 steel wires (about 15,000 miles) looped and cemented in on both sides of the East River.
I really think the Brooklyn Bridge might just be the lesson I want to teach about in class, because I have found a great article from Harper’s Monthly from the month the bridge opened for use.
The Brooklyn Bridge also serves as a place for inspiration. Poets like Hart Crane and Marianne Moore, musicians like Frank Sinatra, and many artists and photographers have looked at the imposing stone structures and the sturdy steel cables and still found an elegance and a beauty that has continued for over a century. I think I would like to have students really look into the bridge’s history and a sampling of poems and songs (and even artwork) and complete some close readings about what these different pieces are saying about the importance of the bridge itself.
It truly is a magnificent piece of engineering!