Happy birthday, Brooklyn Bridge! Here's where to celebrate

The iconic East River crossing turns 130 next week—here are the events, tours and exhibits where you can celebrate.

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Photograph: Michael Kirby


The Brooklyn Bridge turns 130 next week—and thanks to a rehabilitation project that began in 2010, the massive structure is on its way to looking better than ever. Want to celebrate the landmark’s birthday? You’re in luck: There are a few events over the next week that mark the anniversary—check out these tours, readings and more:

Who better to offer some historical perspective on the landmark than Kristian Roebling? His great-great-grandfather was Washington Roebling, the engineer who directed much of the bridge's construction—and the younger Roebling is embracing his lineage with a new Roebling's Brooklyn Bridge Tour app. You can listen to a guided walking tour or plot out your own exploration using a Google Map dotted with historical points of interest, while a photo gallery offers insight into the men and women who helped make the bridge's construction possible. Available for iPhone and Android; visit brooklynbridgetour.com for more information. Free.

There couldn't possibly be a better location for a reading of Hart Crane's 1930 poem "The Bridge" than Brooklyn Bridge Park. During the Brooklyn Bridge 130th Anniversary Poetry Reading, more than 20 writers—including Eileen Myles, John Irwin and Mary Jo Bang—will read sections from Crane's lengthy poem, written nearly 50 years after the bridge first opened. The event kicks off with a recitation of Walt Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," which famously describes the poet's love of Brooklyn's "ample hills" and more. Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 1 (at the Granite Prospect), Old Fulton St at Furman St, Dumbo, Brooklyn (brooklynbridgepark.org). May 19 at 3pm; free.

Earlier this year, tattoo artist Adam Suerte (Brooklyn Tattoo) snagged five gallons of brown paint used by the DOT on the Brooklyn Bridge; he then invited more than 30 artists to create works inspired by the landmark that incorporated the material. Those pieces will be on view in Urban Folk Art's Fourth Annual Brooklyn Bridge Anniversary Group Art Show. You'll see cartoonish depictions of the structure, pieces inspired by tattoo art and more; plus, as it does every year, Brooklyn Tattoo is letting people get inked for just $30 on May 23—provided you're willing to get a Brooklyn Bridge–inspired piece on your person. 99-101 Smith St between Atlantic Ave and Pacific St, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn (718-643-1610, urbanfolkart.com). Mon–Sat 1–9pm; free. May 24–June 10.

Guides from Big Onion Walking Tours delve into the history of the Great Bridge and its surrounding neighborhoods on the Brooklyn Bridge and Heights walking tour. The jaunt begins on the Manhattan side of the structure, and as you cross its span, you'll learn about the Roeblings, the family responsible for its construction, and the hardships involved in getting the damn thing built. You'll then wander through Brooklyn Heights, learning about its famous residents and what they had to do with the bridge. Meet at the southeast corner of Broadway and Chambers St (bigonion.com). May 25 at 5pm, May 28 at 2pm; $20.

Check out our photo tour of the iconic structure below:

  • Photograph: Michael Kirby Smith

    Find out cool historic tidbits about the Brooklyn Bridge, one of the city's most iconic landmarks, by clicking through our slide show.

  • Photograph: Jakob N. Layman

    When the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world, with a span of just over one mile. That record held until 1903, when another East River crossing, the Williamsburg Bridge, was completed. The Brooklyn Bridge was also the world’s first steel-wire suspension bridge.

  • Photograph: Courtesy the Library of Congress

    When the Manhattan side was built, chief engineer Washington Roebling got the bends as well. Washington spent the next decade watching the bridge’s progress through a telescope and relaying directions through his wife, Emily. According to Seth Kamil of Big Onion Walking Tours (bigonion.com), Emily became quite the powerhouse, eventually making decisions about the bridge, which she carried out without her husband’s approval. A plaque on the Brooklyn tower honors her with this quote: “Back of every great work we can find the self-sacrificing devotion of a woman.”

  • Photograph: Lauren Foy

    The bridge’s construction began on the Brooklyn side, pictured here (the Manhattan skyline is in the distance). To lay the foundation on bedrock 44 feet below water, workers in airtight containers chipped away at the riverbed. More than 100 were paralyzed with the bends—caused by the change in air pressure when they surfaced.

  • Photograph: Courtesy the Museum of the City of New York

    This photo, taken by Silas A. Holmes in 1872, depicts workers atop equipment that was used during the construction of the bridge.

  • Photograph: Courtesy the Library of Congress

    Construction on the bridge began in 1870 and wasn’t completed until 1883. This photo shows the structure in the middle of the process. The crossing was called, at various times, the East River Bridge and the New York and Brooklyn Bridge, and was officially given the moniker of Brooklyn Bridge in 1915.

  • Photograph: Courtesy the Library of Congress

    This cartoon, depicting the bridge’s grand opening on May 24, 1883, was published in Puck, a humor magazine owned by Austrian immigrant Joseph Ferdinand Keppler. Among the New York City–based figures pictured in the illustration are editors Joseph Pulitzer and Carl Schurz, Republican politicians George Robeson and Roscoe Conkling, and 18th president Ulysses S. Grant.

  • Photograph: Lauren Foy

    The iconic East River crossing is supported by giant anchorages, pictured here, which are the massive stone and concrete structures underneath the entrance ramp on both sides of the bridge. Our Secrets of Classic New York issue revealed that these supports were originally intended to serve another purpose. “John Roebling, the engineer, envisioned that they would double as shopping arcades. He gave the inside [of each] the same Gothic design as the towers, with beautiful 50-foot-high cathedral ceilings,” says Julie Golia, public historian of the Brooklyn Historical Society. “But that plan fell through, and for most of history they’ve been municipal storage.”

  • Photograph: Marielle Solan

    Situated underneath the massive crossing and its next-door neighbor, the Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge Park is one of the newest additions to the Brooklyn waterfront. Plenty of amenities are found within the green space: You can lounge on a grassy lawn at Pier 1, ride along a bike path that hugs the shoreline, or chow down on snacks from Bark Hot Dogs and Ditch Plains on Pier 6. Best of all, those activities come with a gratis view of the iconic structure.

  • Photograph: Lee Magill

    Opened in 2011, Jane’s Carousel is a refurbished merry-go-round dating to 1922. The retro ride is enclosed in a glass pavilion, and as you go for a spin, you’ll have glorious vistas of the Brooklyn Bridge and lower Manhattan.

  • Photograph: Etienne Frossard

    Bargemusic, a floating chamber-music concert hall, hosts a number of concerts each week, along with a free show every Saturday. The stage has a glittering view of lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge as its backdrop, and you can also admire an expanded, panoramic vista (stretching from the Empire State Building to the Statue of Liberty) from the barge’s roof during intermission.

  • Photograph: Jena Cumbo

    In early July, a pop-up pool opened on Pier 2 of Brooklyn Bridge Park. The small basin is 3.5 feet deep and can fit 60 swimmers at a time; to prevent overcrowding, patrons are let in during timed sessions. (You’ll have to queue up for a wristband—be prepared, as lines have been long.)

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  • Photograph: Imogen Brown

    Another spot that provides stunning views of the bridge is the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. It’s easy to forget that you’re standing atop the hectic Brooklyn-Queens Expressway while strolling along the esplanade, which opened in 1950. But the thoroughfare is inextricably linked to the Promenade’s existence: Community opposition to the BQE—originally intended to cut through Brooklyn Heights—led city planner Robert Moses to reroute the highway along the waterfront. He also proposed building a park atop the road to block noise.

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  • Photograph: © Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    Hailed as a wonder of the age when it opened in 1883, the bridge had become ho-hum by the 1920s, when photographer Walker Evans’s views of the structure helped to reawaken the public’s interest. Up until that point, most photographs depicted the entire span from the side. Evans, who lived near the Bridge at the time, decided on an entirely new approach: He captured parts of the Bridge at angles that emphasized its grandeur, transforming it into an indelible New York symbol.

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  • Photograph: © Associated Press

    With this image, photographer Stephanie Keith captured a moment in recent history: This young woman is being arrested by police on the Brooklyn Bridge during an Occupy Wall Street protest in October 2011. It's one of the images selected as one of our top 50 New York photographs.

  • Photograph: Cinzia Reale-Castello

    The Brooklyn Bridge is a spectacular vantage point from which to watch the sun set—here, you can see the Statue of Liberty off in the distance, as the glowing orb descends on the horizon.

Photograph: Michael Kirby Smith

Find out cool historic tidbits about the Brooklyn Bridge, one of the city's most iconic landmarks, by clicking through our slide show.


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