Manhattan to Brooklyn: “Was It Good For You?”

The joining of the then two cities by the Brooklyn Bridge on May 24, 1883 (this coming Monday is the Bridge’s 127th birthday) was a momentous occasion, and led to their merger into one city in 1898.

Gabe Pressman, in NBC New York: Edwin Burrows, a history professor at Brooklyn College, told me: “The bridge changed everything. You had two rapidly growing cities on either side of the river. Connecting them was a natural step but it took the Roeblings to accomplish it.”

Burrows compared the joining of the two boroughs to a marriage. Was this marriage better for Brooklyn or Manhattan? “I think that’s an open question,” he said. “When the two boroughs became one city it could be argued that it was good for Brooklyn but, perhaps, better for Manhattan.”

Pressman’s article recounts the story, perhaps familiar to most Heights residents, of the Roeblings: John Augustus, the brilliant German immigrant engineer who designed the Bridge but died before construction began; Washington, John’s son, who took over managing the Bridge’s construction; and Emily, Washington’s wife, who supervised work on the Bridge after Washington was crippled by “the bends”. He also describes the elaborate opening ceremony, attended by President Chester A. Arthur and New York Governor (and future President) Grover Cleveland, with Washington Roebling forced by his health to view the proceedings through binoculars from his Heights apartment.

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  • ashton

    The mistake of ninety-eight.
    There should have been a pre-nuptial.

  • Andrew Porter

    The 1983 fireworks show, with streamers of light coming off the bridge, was spectacular. The best fireworks I’ve ever seen in BH.

  • Sue Raboy

    The’83 fireworks can never be topped. Watching on the Promenade with friends and thousands of folk was just as spectacular as the fireworks-everyone sharing food & drink-priceless! long live the BB & our amazing neighborhood! Wasn’t that the year there was the parade on Court St? I was sitting in the reviewing stand.

  • Karl Junkersfeld

    83′ from my roof was one of the highlights of my life. I remember them vividly. Thanks for the reminder Andrew. I still get chills up my spine thinking of them. Wow.

  • nabeguy

    Saw the ’83 fireworks from the other side at South Street (if you can believe it). I’ve never seen a more incredible display of aerial pyrotechnics either before or since. I literally ducked at some of the bursts, as they seemed to be coming right at my head. And, no, I wasn’t under the influence of any “perception enhancers”. Well, at least none that I can remember ;)