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ASCE Volunteers Help Celebrate Brooklyn Bridge Anniversary

July 2008 Volume 33, Number 7

Volunteers from ASCE’s Metropolitan Section manned information booths along the Brooklyn Bridge as part of a five-day celebration of the historic structure’s 125th anniversary. The office of Brooklyn’s president and the New York City mayor’s office invited ASCE to provide information about the structure to the many visitors who were expected for the celebration. 

Designed by John A. Roebling, the Brooklyn Bridge is considered to be among the most innovative and daring engineering feats ever undertaken. Completed on May 24, 1883, it set the pattern for all suspension bridges subsequently built. At its grand opening, President Chester A. Arthur referred to it as the eighth wonder of the world.
“The Brooklyn Bridge really has been the stuff of dreams, a New York City icon, and an enduring symbol of America’s greatness,” said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg during a speech at the celebration. Brochures and laptops in the ASCE information booths displayed facts about the bridge’s construction and engineering. Those visiting the bridge included descendents of the Roebling family and civil engineers from Europe and Asia.

Raymond Paul Giroux, A.M.ASCE, the chair of the committee set up by ASCE’s Metropolitan Section to oversee the anniversary, spoke at a meeting of the Brooklyn Historical Society as well as at a gathering convened at Brooklyn’s Surrogate’s Court. He discussed the roles of John Roebling and of his son Washington, who at the age of 32 oversaw the construction of the bridge after his father’s untimely death. Giroux also paid tribute to Emily, Washington’s wife, who assumed much responsibility for completing the bridge after her husband had been incapacitated with caisson disease, now known as decompression sickness or the bends. “Nearly fifty years before women gained the right to vote in America, she had the courage to become her husband’s presence in the field and communicate his vision,” Giroux stated.

The celebration ran from May 22 to May 26 and included lectures, films, musical performances, art exhibitions, tours of the bridge, and fireworks. The bridge is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and has been formally recognized in ASCE’s Historic Civil Engineering Landmark Program.