Secret Vaults, Elephants, and President George Washington

Secret Vaults, Elephants, and President George Washington

This week’s #flashbackfriday takes us to the Big Apple, as we admire the iconic Brooklyn Bridge.  Since 1883, its granite towers and steel cables have offered scenic passage to millions of commuters and tourists across the East River. The bridge’s construction took 14 years, involved 600 workers and cost $15 million (more than $320 million in today’s dollars).  This iconic bridge carries around 150,000 vehicles and pedestrians every day and holds some very interesting facts:

*The majority of the workers of the bridge were immigrants earning about $2 a day.  They used shovels and dynamite to clear away the mud and boulders at the bottom of the river.

*To achieve a solid foundation for the bridge, workers excavated the riverbed in massive wooden boxes called caissons. These airtight chambers were pinned to the river’s floor by enormous granite blocks; pressurized air was pumped in to keep water and debris out.

*On May 24, 1883, the Brooklyn Bridge opened, connecting the cities of New York and Brooklyn for the first time in history.

*For 20 years, it was the longest bridge in the world.

*The bridge was the first steel-wire suspension bridge.

*Within 24 hours, an estimated 250,000 people walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.

*Circus entertainer P.T. Barnum took 21 elephants over the bridge in May 1884 to show that it was safe.

*Engineers built sizeable vaults that were up to 50 feet tall into the bridge beneath its anchorages. Thanks to their cool temperatures, these granite-walled storage spaces made the perfect wine cellars, and they were rented out to the public until World War I.

*At some point during the Cold War, one of the bridge’s compartments transformed into a survival shelter stocked with food and water rations and medical supplies. This fallout shelter was rediscovered in 2006 during a routine structural inspection of the bridge.

*The Manhattan anchorage of the Brooklyn Bridge features a bronze plaque commemorating the land below as the former location of the country’s first presidential mansion, where George Washington lived during his first ten months as president.

Check back weekly for more fun facts about bridges across the world in our #flashbackfriday series!

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