May 24, 1883
14 years, 20 fatalities and 15 million dollars – 9 million over budget, and the great bridge was finally finished. It soared above the city like a giant in a cornfield. Only the spire of Trinity Church, rising to 284 feet, could match its height; no other building in New York or Brooklyn was even half that height.
Even before it opened, the Brooklyn Bridge had become a symbol of not only the greatness of New York, but of the nation as a whole. Nowhere else in the world could there be found a similar feat of engineering. An editor from Scientific American wrote at the time:
“The bridge is a marvel of beauty viewed from the level of the river. In looking at its vast stretch, not only over the river between the towers, but also over the inhabited, busy city shore, it appears to have a character of its own far above the drudgeries of the lower business levels.”
On the day the bridge finally opened (almost fourteen years after John Roebling’s untimely death), the city was in such a fit of excitement that schools and businesses closed for the day. President Chester Arthur, himself a New Yorker, and Governor Grover Cleveland, soon-to-be-president, dedicate the bridge in front of 14,000 VIPs. Emily Roebling rode the first train car across the bridge, carrying a rooster in her lap as a symbol of victory.
As darkness fell, the fireworks began— a barrage that many would remember well into the 20th Century. Tens of thousands of rockets were used in a display that lasted two hours, and after that, the bridge opened for service. Though it cost millions of dollars and took many years to build the Brooklyn Bridge, in a very short time, the city would recoup every penny from the small fare charged to cross the expanse by train.
Experience these and other stories in our Brooklyn Bridge walk. We offer a unique NY tour experience, told with audio narration, hundreds of pictures, video clips, gps-enabled map, trivia quizzes, local recommendations, and much more. Walk New York with Racontrs and take a walk through history.