Monday, May 24, 2010

The Great Bridge 127 Years Old

127 years ago, on a cloudless sunny May 24th morning in 1883, an estimated 50,000 citizens from across the nation gathered in the City of Brooklyn to mark the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge, then hailed as the "Eighth Wonder of the World". With vessels in the harbor decorated with flags and bunting, the opening ceremony included dignitaries from President Chester A. Arthur and several members of the Cabinet, to NY Governor and soon-to-be President Grover Cleveland, New York Mayor Franklin Edson and Brooklyn Mayor Seth Low. Historian David McCullough's The Great Bridge (Call #KFX2071 .M138) in the New York Collection of the Brooklyn Law School Library, provides not only interesting facts about the engineering feats that created the Brooklyn Bridge, but also insight into New York and Brooklyn after the Civil War. The book describes the opening day ceremony as:
"the biggest celebration New York had seen since the opening of the Erie Canal nearly sixty years before. Some of the Irish were unhappy because the day chosen for the ceremony happened also to be Queen Victoria's birthday, but almost everybody else had a splendid time. Both cities went on a holiday and the fireworks on the bridge that night lasted a solid hour. In all some fourteen tons of rockets and flares were set off from the center of the river span and from the tops of the towers. Bands played on board excursion steamers on the river and the celebrating lasted until dawn."
The next day's NY Times front page story reported the festivities in greater detail.

Brooklyn Heights neighborhood historian Karl Junkersfeld put together this 10 minute video tribute to the Brooklyn Bridge for its 127th Anniversary with photos, drawings and paintings of the bridge's construction, opening day and views of the bridge since.

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