5 Fascinating Facts About The Brooklyn Bridge

Today marks the anniversary of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge which opened to traffic on May 24, 1883.  To celebrate, the Trivia Today team put together these five fascinating facts you may not know about the Brooklyn Bridge...


27 People Died Building The Bridge Though the Brooklyn Bridge was a feat of engineering for its time, it came with a cost. 27 people lost their lives during the 14 years that the bridge was under construction. Many died as a result compression sickness (otherwise known as the "bends"), contracted while constructing the bridge towers' foundations under the East River. However, the most bizarre death was actually the first one: John Roebling, the bridge's designer and chief engineer, died suddenly of a freak accident just weeks before construction kicked off. While he was taking a compass reading at the East River, a boat smashed into his foot and crushed some of his toes. Two weeks later, Roebling was dead from tetanus.

There's a Bunker And Wine Cellar Built Into The Bridge Those looming towers aren't just for show—inside, there are several secrets from the bridge's 135-year-long history. Up until World War I, the city rented out space within one of the towers for wine storage. And in 2006, maintenance workers discovered a Cold War-era fallout shelter still fully-stocked with supplies. Workers found large canisters of water, boxes of crackers, medical supplies, and paper blankets all intended to protect a select few in the event of a nuclear attack.


A Female Engineer Completed the Project Emily Warren Roebling, Washington Roebling’s wife, stepped in when her husband became ill and took over as a liaison of the project for her husband by overseeing the management, construction and design of the bridge. Progressive for times, she later earned a certificate in law from New York University, which didn’t allow women to attend law school. A plaque located on the bridge honors John A. Roebling, Washington Roebling, and his wife, Emily.

A Rooster Made the First Trip Across the Bridge Emily Warren Roebling, with a rooster in her lap, was the first person to travel across the Brooklyn Bridge. This was one week before the bridge was officially opened with attendees such as President Chester A. Arthur and the Governor of New York Grover Cleveland attending the ceremony. The rooster rode along as a symbol of luck and victory.

The Name of the Bridge Changed Over The Years The span across the river from Brooklyn to Manhattan was first called the Brooklyn Bridge back in 1867. It was also called the Great East River Suspension Bridge and the Great East River Bridge. In 1915, the name was officially changed to the Brooklyn Bridge.