Friday, May 23, 2008

Happy Birthday, Brooklyn Bridge

Birthday lurve goes out today to the Brooklyn Bridge, which is celebrating its 125th birthday this week (the actual birthday is May 24) and which celebrated last night with a brilliant fireworks display to mark the occasion. Here are a few pics from last night's festivities and a portion of a wonderful report on the bridge by the New York Times:

Photo credit: Wireimage

It was so singular a marvel, so ambitious a feat, that its opening drew the president and a crowd of thousands. A leading national magazine said it stood poised to become "our most durable monument." Some 125 years later, the Brooklyn Bridge remains a powerful symbol of engineering might and imagination, and a revered fixture in the landscape of the nation's largest city. And it can still attract a crowd, like the one at the bridge's 125th birthday blowout Thursday night, which featured fireworks, a Navy flyover, a colorful new lighting scheme, a musical tribute to honor the storied span, and even a birthday cake in the shape of the bridge. "It's an icon for not only New York, but for America," says Brooklyn's official historian, Ron Schweiger, who was appointed by the borough president. The 6,000-foot-long landmark is one of the nation's oldest suspension bridges and among its most treasured. It opened on May 24, 1883. Tourists flock to see its interplay of architectural grace and muscle and its commanding views of the Manhattan skyline. Historians note its role in shaping the city: It linked Manhattan with what was then a largely rural Brooklyn, helping spur a growth spurt in the more rustic borough, Schweiger said. Brooklyn's population grew by 42 percent between 1880 and 1890, while Manhattan's grew by about 26 percent, census figures show. Engineers laud the bridge's strength and innovation. "There was nothing like this before, at least nothing like this that was of this scale built before," said Serafim Arzoumanidis, a New York-based engineer and bridge designer. The Brooklyn Bridge is roughly six times as long as the biggest earlier bridge of its type, and its Gothic-arched stone towers and web of steel cables are technically impressive even by today's standards, he said. Building the bridge took 13 years, cost $15 million and claimed several lives, including that of its celebrated designer, John Roebling. He succumbed to an infection after being hurt while looking over the site. His son, Washington Roebling, took over the project. Its dedication was dubbed "People's Day" and featured two parades, an hourlong fireworks show and an appearance by President Chester Arthur. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle called the occasion "an enormous stride in the march of American progress;" Harper's Weekly, a popular illustrated magazine, declared the bridge the manmade work "most likely to become our most durable monument, and to convey some knowledge of us to the most remote posterity." The bridge now carries about 126,000 cars per day, at the city's last count in 2006, and is used by numerous cyclists and pedestrians. It has been refurbished repeatedly, and some parts have been strengthened. But the towers, main cables and main beams are original. The anniversary events included performances by the Brooklyn Philharmonic and Oscar-winning composer Marvin Hamlisch, who said Thursday he had written "a little sweetness" of a tune for the occasion.

I managed to arrive here in NYC last night just in time to catch some of the fireworks display ... and let me tell you, it was a very nice welcome to the Big Apple. Click HERE to see a bunch of dazzling photos from last night's fireworks display and click HERE to visit the official website to honor the Brooklyn Bridge's 125th birthday. [Source]