Just as beautiful today as when it opened in 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge didn't officially get its name until 1915.

Illustration by Haasis & Lubrecht, courtesy Library of Congress

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    On May 24, 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge opened over the East River, New York, connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn. In fact, the bridge was originally called the New York and Brooklyn Bridge—the name wasn’t shortened until 1915. 
    The Brooklyn Bridge took 17 years to go from the planning stages to completion. The first steel suspension bridge in the world, it was an engineering marvel. The Brooklyn Bridge was designed by a German immigrant, John Augustus Roebling, and his son, Washington. The Roeblings also designed bridges crossing the Niagara Gorge in Niagara Falls, New York, and the Ohio River in Cincinnati, Ohio.
    The foundations for the enormous granite towers of the Brooklyn Bridge were secured with the use of watertight compartments called caissons, which were dug up to 22 meters (78 feet) beneath the bed of the East River. Many workers (including Washington Roebling) were afflicted with “caisson disease”—now known as decompression sickness or “the bends.” Some workers even died from the disease, which was caused as they left the high-pressure caisson and returned to the low-pressure atmosphere outside.
    The Brooklyn Bridge was very popular. It was built for pedestrian as well as vehicular traffic, and its graceful steel cables became an instant symbol of New York City. In fact, the bridge encouraged greater unity among New Yorkers. In 1898, the city of Brooklyn joined Manhattan and Staten Island as three of the Five Boroughs of New York City. (Queens and the Bronx became boroughs later).
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    atmosphere Noun

    layers of gases surrounding a planet or other celestial body.

    Encyclopedic Entry: atmosphere
    caisson Noun

    water-tight chamber that opens at the bottom and contains enough pressurized air to conduct underwater work.

    city Noun

    large settlement with a high population density.

    decompression sickness Noun

    serious condition resulting from gases forming tiny bubbles in the bloodstream as a body adjusts to a major change in atmospheric pressure. Also known as DCS, divers disease, and the bends.

    engineering Noun

    the art and science of building, maintaining, moving, and demolishing structures.

    enormous Adjective

    very large.

    Five Boroughs Noun

    nickname for New York City; the five boroughs are Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island.

    foundation Noun

    structure on which a building is constructed.

    granite Noun

    type of hard, igneous rock.

    immigrant Noun

    person who moves to a new country or region.

    pedestrian noun, adjective

    person who travels by walking.

    steel Noun

    metal made of the elements iron and carbon.

    suspend Verb

    to hang from an elevated structure.

    suspension bridge Noun

    bridge with its deck hanging from cables strung between towers.

    symbol Noun

    something used to represent something else.

    traffic Noun

    movement of many things, often vehicles, in a specific area.

    troop Noun

    group, often used for a military grouping.

    vehicle Noun

    device used for transportation.

    vehicular Adjective

    having to do with cars or other automobiles.