Connecting Manhattan with Brooklyn for the first time, New Yorkers were mesmerized by the suspension bridge's immense granite towers, thick steel cables, and breathtaking panoramas. It took 14 years long years and about $15 million to complete and to this day remains a busy thoroughfare and one of New York City’s top tourist attractions. Despite its popularity, there are many things the public does not know about the Brooklyn Bridge and the many events surrounding its construction.

The idea for the Brooklyn Bridge began about seventy years before its construction

Constructing a crossing between Brooklyn and lower Manhattan in the early 19th century was contemplated, but plans were never realized because of the extreme turbulence of the East River.

In 1865, however, German immigrant and famous bridge designer, John Roebling, proposed a detailed design for a grand suspension bridge using steel for the bridge’s four cables, which at the time was used for railroads but never for bridges. He had created other suspension spans along the Niagara, Delaware and Ohio Rivers, but this was to be a bridge like no other.

There were at least twenty deaths and perhaps as many as thirty during the bridge’s construction

The first fatality occurred one afternoon in 1869 when John Roebling’s foot was crushed between some pilings and a ferry. Soon after, he died of tetanus. His son, Washington, was left to complete his father's plans. The working conditions were absolutely horrible and many toiled for 24 hours a day!

Some workers fell off the 276-foot-high towers, others were hit by falling debris or succumbed to Caisson's Disease, better known as “the bends,” which is caused by alterations in air pressure that affect the levels of nitrogen in the human bloodstream. Washington Roebling himself was also later incapacitated by the disease, and his wife, Emily completed the construction.

Tragedy occurred one week after opening

On Memorial Day of 1883, some 20,000 visitors were on the Brooklyn Bridge when a panic followed by a stampede erupted concerning a rumor that the bridge was about to collapse. Twelve people were crushed to death on a narrow stairway and police surveillance was increased.

Wine cellars, a café and a mysterious bomb shelter were discovered under the bridge

The Paris Café served as Thomas Edison’s second office during the bridge’s construction when he was developing the world’s first operational power station. Two wine cellars, one on the Brooklyn side and the other on Manhattan, were rented out; the former for $500 and the latter for $1,000 per year with proceeds going to repay the debts owed to developers. The Manhattan Blue Grotto was covered in frescoes depicting European vineyards. Both were closed in the 1930s.

In 2006, underneath the bridge along the Manhattan side, in an area undisclosed to the public, workers discovered a bomb shelter. The vaulted room was filled to the brim with many tons of water, 352,000 packets of crackers and countless blankets.

Rumors allege that there are many other secret rooms and tunnels awaiting discovery underneath the Brooklyn Bridge.

The next time you are in New York City, come and visit...and be amazed.

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