Brooklyn Bridge Walk in NYC

If you travel to New York City, an iconic activity is to walk the Brooklyn Bridge. Many people will start in Manhattan, walk far enough to snap a nice picture, and then walk back, but if you want the complete experience, you should take the subway to the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn and walk to Manhattan.

The Logistics

Consider the weather – it might be less of an issue in the Spring or Fall, but in the summer, morning or evening might be less hot. Similarly, in the winter, ensure you have adequate clothing for potentially cold winds or ice. The pictures in this post are from a drizzly October morning.

With a bridge length of 1.1 miles, your walk is likely to take at least 20 minutes. If there are crowds (weekend late morning and afternoons are the worst), it could take longer. If you don’t want to become injured, make sure you stay out of the bike lane!

Brooklyn Subway Stations:

If you choose to walk the Brooklyn Bridge on your next trip to New York City, our suggestion is to take the subway to the DUMBO neighborhood and start your walk from there. The views of Manhattan are quite lovely when walking this direction!

Depending on how far you want to walk and which line you want to take, there are many options for Brooklyn Subway Stations. Two good choices are York St. or High St., but if another line is more convenient, a little extra walking might be a better choice.

For those who are curious, no, DUMBO is not a reference to the elephants that have walked across the bridge, but is instead an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.

While in this neighborhood, consider visiting the Brooklyn Bridge Park, get some lunch (there are quite a few good restaurants), see a few of the historic landmarks, and brave the crowds to take an iconic picture of the bridge from Washington Street. You could also visit the New York Transit Museum before you cross the bridge.

Sights Along the Way

Along the way, make sure that you not only admire the stunning architecture of the Brooklyn Bridge, but that you also take in the views and admire the Manhattan skyscrapers, the Statue of Liberty, Hudson Yards, the Manhattan Bridge, and more!

Manhattan Subway Stations:

Once you arrive in Manhattan, there are quite a few good subway options. Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall/Chambers St. is the closest, but walking a little farther from a different subway station may save you time and be much more convenient.

While in this area, consider exploring either the Financial District or Chinatown before hopping on the subway to your next destination. Seeing the 9/11 Museum, the Freedom Tower, Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange, and more are all great options!

The History

Built over the East River and completed in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States. It took 14 years to complete, cost $15,000,000 (over $400,000,000 in today’s dollars), required $65,000 in bribes (almost $1,800,000 in today’s dollars) to get the project going, and several people died during the process of building the bridge.

The most notable death was of the designer, John Roebling. Apparently, early in the construction of the bridge, an arriving ferry crushed his foot and he had several toes amputated. Rather than seeking further treatment, he decided to pursue a water-cure, which poured water continuously over his appendages. In the end, he developed tetanus, ended up with lockjaw, and died on July 22, 1869.

Roebling’s son, Augustus, took over his position and was the engineer on record until the completion of the bridge. Interestingly enough, he managed to develop the bends (decompression sickness) as part of the construction process. Apparently, they had to keep the riverbed dry during the digging and laying of the foundation, and the way they chose to do this was by building sealed compression chambers for the workers. Exiting these chambers could have the same effect as divers who rise to the surface too quickly.

Augustus’s wife, Emily, came to the rescue and took command of the project. Even though she started by simply taking over basic management of the construction site, she had took up the study of engineering (after all, just because her husband was bed-ridden, it didn’t mean that he couldn’t pass on his wealth of knowledge to a very intelligent woman) and became so talented that she was performed the duties of chief engineer during the majority of the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. When the bridge was complete, Emily and a rooster took the first trip across the bridge!

Other misfortunes also occurred. This was the first steel wire suspension bridge ever constructed, but unfortunately, they were swindled by the contractor in charge of the wire, Lloyd Haigh. Some of the wire was of inferior quality, but this was not discovered until it was too late to remove it. At this point they tried to hide it from the public, and covered up the mistake by adding extra wire as reinforcement.

Shortly after opening, there was a panic when a woman tripped and fell on the stairs. Her misfortune was followed by another woman screaming that the bridge was collapsing, which created a stampede of people trying to flee to safety. Since the stairs were not wide enough, many people fell and were trampled. 12 people died and at least 36 people were seriously injured.

In 1884, the public still wasn’t completely convinced of the safety, so the city asked circus showman P. T. Barnum to walk his elephants across the bridge. Not being accustomed to the type of bridge traffic that we have today, seeing a line of 21 elephants marching across the Brooklyn bridge without catastrophe was enough to convince many that the bridge was safe.

One little known fact about the bridge is that until prohibition, storage compartments inside the 60,000 ton granite entrances were rented out as wine cellars. Apparently, the Roebling’s decided that this was an ingenious way to help pay for the cost of the bridge. I agree! During prohibition, the compartments were converted into newspaper storage, but then in 1934, wine was allowed back into the vaults until the city took over the management after WWII. Today, they are closed to the public and are used less glamorously to house maintenance equipment.

On your next trip to NYC, ponder the history and consider taking your whole family for a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge!

More Adventures of the 4 JLs!

NYC Sights

NYC Stories

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