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.