Brooklyn Bridge: Granite and Steel, Poetry and Radio

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One of Brooklyn's most recognizable landmarks, the Brooklyn Bridge is not just a static monument to innovation in the borough. It continues to undergo developments and WNYC has been following the recent, $508 million renovation project. But we've also been looking at its early beginnings.

"Woman, don’t you realize that today, New York and Brooklyn are being linked?"

Those were the words of an actor from a 1943 radio drama about the 1883 opening of the Brooklyn Bridge. Looking past the gross stereotypes of the time (the accent of the actor playing “Officer O’Leary” is particularly grating), you’ll get a real sense of how momentous the opening of the bridge was -- and how frightening it was for New Yorkers to have a physical link between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The Brooklyn Bridge itself narrates the proceedings, and many of the day’s big political figures -- President Chester Arthur, Gov. Grover Cleveland, the mayors of New York and Brooklyn, New York Tribune publisher Horace Greeley, and even future New York Gov. Al Smith (who appears as a sneaky, if well-intentioned, pre-adolescent) -- are folded into the mix as well as nods to the Spanish-American war, the Maine sailing into Manila Bay and Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, among other events.


Each year, Poet’s House leads a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, reciting site-specific poetry as traffic and bicycles zoom by. In 1997, WNYC went on the walk. You can hear pieces like Victor Hernandez Cruz’s “A Poem to the Brooklyn Bridge,” Audre Lorde’s “Bridge Through My Window,”  Marianne Moore’s “Granite and Steel,” and Hart Crane’s “To Brooklyn Bridge.” Better yet, download it, put it on your favorite portable audio device and hit play while you walk across the Brooklyn Bridge!


Special thanks to WNYC's Andy Lanset and the New York City Municipal Archives.