One of the engineering feats of the 19th century, the Brooklyn Bridge, turns 125 this month. The New York landmark connects the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan. Its Gothic stone towers and network of steel cables have long been a symbol of the city. New Yorkers are honoring the anniversary of the bridge with five days of celebration. From VOA's New York Bureau, Alex Villarreal has the story.
The Brooklyn Bridge links two of the most populous boroughs in the United States, Manhattan and Brooklyn, which was an independent city until 1898.
With a span of almost two kilometers, the Brooklyn Bridge was the world's longest suspension bridge when it opened in 1883.
The project took more than 13 years to build and cost more than $25 million. Engineer John Augustus Roebling came up with the design. The arched towers and network of steel cables in his plan have made the bridge a structural and cultural icon and an integral part of the New York skyline. After his death, Roebling's son, Washington, took over the project.
A year after the bridge opened, circus entrepreneur P.T. Barnum demonstrated its safety by leading a herd of 21 elephants across it. Now, 125 years later, more than 126,000 vehicles make that same trek every day.
The bridge is also a popular subject of architectural and photographic exhibits, and is often seen in movies set in New York City.
In 1964, it was declared a National Landmark.
Speaking at the bridge's 125th birthday celebration, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg called it an inspiration and an unparalleled engineering marvel.
"Since the brave sandhogs began digging the foundation in the 1870s, the Brooklyn Bridge really has been the stuff of dreams, a New York City icon and enduring symbol of America's greatness. And President Chester Arthur proclaimed it the eighth wonder of the world," he said.
A Navy flyover punctuated Bloomberg's comments at a park concert to kick off the festivities.
Hundreds of New Yorkers and visitors, young and old, participated in the party, listening to a range of musicians, including Brooklyn's own Philharmonic orchestra.
Other performers included Harlem-based youth choir IMPACT, with the song that earned them an Academy Award nomination, "Raise It Up."
Multi-award winning composer Marvin Hamlisch ended the concert with a special tribute. "So hip hip hooray, hip hip hooray, what more can we say or do? Happy Birthday Brooklyn Bridge, and many more Brooklyn Bridge, Happy Birthday Brooklyn Bridge to you!," he said.
Mayor Bloomberg and Brooklyn Borough president Marty Markowitz presented a cake in the shape of the bridge and led the crowd in a slightly tuneless version of "Happy Birthday."
A bridge lighting ceremony and fireworks ended the night to the oohs and ahs of the observers.
A film series, lectures and a bike tour are among the other events scheduled to celebrate the birthday of the Brooklyn Bridge.