Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge” as Want to Read:
The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge

4.22  ·  Rating Details ·  8,278 Ratings  ·  911 Reviews
From First published in 1972, The Great Bridge is the classic account of one of the greatest engineering feats of all time: the building of the Brooklyn Bridge.
This monumental audiobook, which presents extended unabridged passages from the book, brings back a heroic vision of the America we once had. It is the enthralling story of one of the greatest events du
Published August 5th 2004 by Simon & Schuster (first published 1972)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Great Bridge, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Kressel Housman I'm pretty sure it is. Certainly, the book is about John and Washington Roebling, the father and son team that they are playing.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Aug 27, 2015 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to David by: Hadrian
This is an engaging history of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge was one of the greatest engineering feats of its time. The book goes into great detail about the bridge itself, its design and construction techniques.

But most of the book is devoted to the people involved. And the two people who were most involved were father and son, John and Washington Roebling. Thus, the book can also be classified as a biography. These two men had a great vision, and the skills and experience to
James Van Duker
Oct 15, 2010 James Van Duker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I picked up this book, I was daring McCullough to get me to read the whole thing. How could a 562 page book about a bridge -- not to meantion an antiquated bridge, not the modern technological wonders of today -- keep me going that long, I thought? Yet I had heard reviews...I had to find out what they were talking about.

I finished the book in two weeks, and as it turns out, it's not just a book about a bridge (that really would be boring), it's a book about the people and events in one of
Sep 24, 2007 Jhopec rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in history, architecture, and New York City
As David McCullough is one of my favorite writers about history, I expected a lot from this book and was not disappointed. Aside from the immensely engaging story of the obstacles, both engineering and human, faced and overcome to build the bridge, I was struck once again by the cavalier way most of us take great accomplishments for granted. Thank goodness there are people like David McCullough who do not!

I've read this book and listened to it a couple of times on CD, and it never fails to fasci
Aug 25, 2016 Dave rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, nonfiction
As expected with a David McCullough book, this one is excellent, at least 4.5/5 stars. The book encompasses the entire 14 years of construction from 1869 to 1883. Those were years of rapid growth of the country, spanning from immediately after the devastating Civil War, to the dawning of electricity and the edge of the twentieth century. McCullough does a good job of giving the reader that historical perspective. The construction of the Brooklyn Bridge was an undertaking of mammoth proportions a ...more
Kressel Housman
Aug 28, 2015 Kressel Housman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, victorian
This is only the second David McCollough book I’ve ever read, and my motivation for it was exactly the same as with the last one: someone is planning on adapting it into a feature film. Unlike that other film, though, a biopic of Teddy Roosevelt’s years in the Dakotas that has disappeared from the American Film Company website, this one has an announced starring cast. *fangirl drumroll* DANIEL RADCLIFFE as Washington Roebling. Need I say more? Well, all right, that Oscar winner Sir Ben Kingsley ...more
Ally A
Nov 06, 2012 Ally A rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The book The Great Bridge by David McCullough was a very detailed account of the long and troublesome building of the Brooklyn Bridge. It starts with John Roebling and his design and plans for the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. When he eventually passes away his son Washington Roebling takes over and continues where his father left off. Washington Roebling and his team encounter many different problems and political situation that add time and frustration to the total time it will take to buil ...more
Mike Tully
Nov 12, 2012 Mike Tully rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best non fiction books I've read. David McCullough is an extraordinary historical writer. To understand that this bridge was built over 150 years ago without all the modern excavation tools and equipment that we have today is amazing. The Brooklyn Bridge is still standing and still a valuable asset to travelers to this day.
Michael Jones
For anyone not familiar with the great struggles involved in these terrific public works projects, this is a real eye-opener. This book is very THOROUGH. I was amazed by 3 things:

1. The brilliant engineering ingenuity and hard-fought struggle to implement.

2. The totally horrible corruption surrounding politics of that day. Makes me feel like our day is not necessarily the worst.

3. How totally captivated the general public was by the spectacle of its construction. Nowadays things are being built
It is not easy to build bridges.

Let me bring up a local case, of a bridge between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Canada, has led to years of heartache, political opposition from stubborn 80-year old billionaires, controversial political deals with the devil, and years of time spent. And the thing hasn't even been built yet.

McCullough covers not only the political side of Bridge-building, but the technical side well. This is arguably his most famous book, and with good reason. He makes the dulles
Apr 07, 2013 Tracy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thorough -- and I mean seriously thorough. Reading about the politics of the day was fascinating, but I found the discussion on the bridge's engineering to be tedious (it's not my thing). In the end, however, what really struck me was although the bridge was not without controversy, people got on board -- they wanted this thing built. This wonderful marvel of public works was built (and at great expense) so that generations could benefit. I wish the US would move more toward that sense of commun ...more
Czarny Pies
Aug 13, 2015 Czarny Pies rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Des gens qui aiment New York.
Shelves: american-history
David McCullough est le plus grand historien americain de notre époque. A mon avis il mérite le prix de Nobel de Littérature qui a déja été accordé a un historien a deux ou trois reprises.

"The Great Bridge" qui raconte l'histoire de la construction entre 1869 et 1883 du pont de Brooklyn qui traverse l'East River afin de relier l'isle de Manhattan avec la vile de Brooklyn. Il est le deuxieme livre de McCullough. Il n'est pas encore au sommet de sa forme mais tres pres. Ce livre mérite incontestab
Jul 20, 2012 Bobbi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I feel like I've accomplished something as big as the Brooklyn Bridge now that I've read this book. While the building of the bridge was fascinating, McCullough's attention to detail got a but much at times, although certainly not enough to make me stop reading. Washington Roebling and his father John both had a hand in the design. After John died, Washington took over and saw it through to the end which took 14 years. It was a spectacular accomplishment and at the time was considered the eighth ...more
Oct 29, 2012 Kraig rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
David McCullough's "The Great Bridge" reveals to its readers the entire history of the Brooklyn Bridge, from the start of the construction in 1869 to its completion in 1883. The book contains little known facts about the lives of John A. Roebling, the engineer who originally developed the idea for the Brooklyn Bridge, and Washington Roebling, John's son, who continued directing construction on the bridge after his father died.

Overall, the book is thoroughly enjoyable. Especially impressive is
Jill Hutchinson
Now wouldn't you think that a book about the building of a bridge would be rather dry and uninteresting? Not if it is written by historian David McCullough, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. An amazing amount of research has gone into this history of the Brooklyn Bridge.....from the dream of a father (John Roebling) to a reality by the son (Washington Roebling). We sometimes take for granted such icons as this bridge spanning the East River and never realize what it takes to make an idea a reali ...more
Seth Jenson
I liked the latter half of this book better than the first. I got tired of the stories of political corruption in New York during that time as well as all the details about the the technical aspects of the construction and lowering of the caissons used for the foundations on the bridge on the New York and Brooklyn sides of the river. At the same time, I don't know how the author could've left much of it out. I guess I wish he would've made a bit more concise for guys like me that just wanna get ...more
Kasa Cotugno
So much minute detail, but worth the effort. As much a portrait of the era, political and social, as a portrait of the iconic bridge, its planning, execution, and the behind the scenes shenanigans by the scoundrels of the age.
I knew this wasn't worth continuing even before I got to the half way mark. Just like Bryson's One Summer: America, 1927 is not actually about that summer, this book is not actually about the Brooklyn Bridge. Various dry facts about the materials or dimensions of the bridge are sprinkled sparingly within random detailed rants about random people's lives, things only tentatively connected to the bridge by six degrees of separation. To me this book felt lifeless and pointless and boring.

Ah, well.
A truly magnificent accomplishment. As McCullough points out, he is not an engineer, yet he managed to describe in such detail the processes of sinking a caisson, designing various features such as the airlock, and "spinning the wire."

On top of that he had to deal with all the political chicanery going on in New York and Brooklyn. Building a bridge is revealed to be a complex matter that includes political influence, financial management, historical research, and sheer determination.

Only his sk
Aug 05, 2015 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I'd become familiar with David McCullough through television (his countless appearances in PBS documentaries, the excellent HBO series based on his biography of John Adams), but, to my private embarrassment, I'd never actually gotten around to reading any of his books. Once I resolved to address that deficiency, however, there was no question which of his books I would start with. The Brooklyn Bridge has been my favorite thing about New York for a long time. As a child of the NY suburbs, I alway
Feb 18, 2015 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
In all my years of biography reading, this was the first time an inanimate object, the Brooklyn Bridge, took centre stage. Under the guidance of McCullough, the story of the Bridge's conception and realisation emerged not only as an architectural feat, but as an exciting part of New York history. McCullough takes the reader through a historical adventure, similar to some of the other journeys he has undertaking in his biographical works, filling pages and chapters with the impact numerous charac ...more
Aug 31, 2014 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Top on my agenda for my next trip to New York City:
1. Dinner at the Red Rooster in Harlem: I read Yes, Chef! and my mouth is watering for the opportunity to dine at Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s restaurant.
2. Brooklyn Bridge: I plan to spend a significant amount of time walking, gazing, inspecting and admiring. I will also peer down at the East River and think about the caissons down there, and what it took to lay those foundations. I will think about the men who toiled day in and day out in horrid
Nov 15, 2014 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You would think that a 500 page book about a bridge would be boring. Just like you might think that a book about a flood would be boring (everyone should read Johnstown Flood), but it isn't. Not by a long shot.
Yep, there are lots of long parts here about trusses, different types of steel, caissons, and wire making. But surrounding all of the engineering basics is the rich story of Boss Tweed era New York politics, corruption, social justice, amazing characters including the Roebling family, and
Oct 05, 2011 Grace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to this story on audio book. There were a couple of spots where it was a little slow, but for the most part this was an intriguing story. One of the most interesting aspects, for me, was learning of the involvement of Emily Roebling. John Roebling was the man with the idea of the Brooklyn Bridge, but he died before the bridge had hardly taken off. His son, Washington, became the chief engineer, but he became very ill during the construction, so his wife, Emily, took over many of the r ...more
Jul 13, 2012 Judy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although I had to renew this book from the library, I could not stop talking about it to anyone who would listen. The story of this bridge begins with the father and his life in Germany, and how he came to America. Then there are the bridges he built. And the idea he had for spanning the East River (not a real river after all) from Brooklyn to New York City.

I had no idea it was built a few years after the Civil War or that it was built in a time when so many other important events were happenin
James Christensen
The Great Bridge
The Great Bridge by David McCullough (Hist) '08 the story of the design and building of the Brooklyn Bridge by John and Washington A. Roebling (father and son).

Fascinating story of the building of something never built prior to that day on that scale, the incredible sacrifices made, the political graft, the honour of the designer and builder, and the ingenuity of two very brilliant minds.


"Mark Twain said of New York, 'Every man seems to feel he has got the duties of two li
Erik Graff
Apr 27, 2013 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: McCullough fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
McCullough has improved as a writer since this book came out in 1972, but he was writing well enough even back then to carry this reader through almost seven hundred pages in three days.

One of the first grownup books I remember reading was a history of scams involving the sale of the Brooklyn Bridge. Now, finally, I've read about the construction of the thing, years after having lived in Manhattan and driven across it repeatedly and unappreciatively.

Of course McCullough, a social historian, wri
Sarah H
The first half of this book is riveting, as it describes the people and times that led to building the Brooklyn Bridge. The middle sags a bit (not to use too much of a bridge metaphor) with very detailed descriptions of 19th-century cable production and engineering techniques. (Although no doubt this level of detail will be appealing to some readers.) But McCullough ends on a triumphant note. Definitely worth a read if you love the bridge. And why wouldn't you?
CV Rick
Dec 03, 2009 CV Rick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Amazingly good, and completely engaging. I didn't have high hopes for a history of the Brooklyn Bridge, but I've liked other books by the author so I picked it up and once started I couldn't stop reading.

This is one of those history books where the reader discoveries unique treasures on page after page - from the early research and treatment of the bends to the amazing story of Washington Roebling who supervised and created the bridge engineering from his bed where he was infirmed for most of th
Aug 03, 2016 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lots of great stories on how the bridge came to be, the crazy engineering challenges overcome, scandals, and inner politics with the board. I thought a few hundred pages of the ~1,500 could be edited out though, specifically some of the background of the politicians that weren't as relevant to the engineering, corruption, or board decisions segments of the book.
Alec Glucksman
Aug 05, 2011 Alec Glucksman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Put simply, David McCullough could make reading about grass growing sound like a fascinating and profound topic. The Great Bridge is the first book of his that I have read, and I am interested in reading more--when I can devote proper time to getting through another of his tomes.

The book chronicles the entire history of the Brooklyn Bridge, from the history of suspension bridges to the backgrounds of the architects and engineers to the political machines on the board of the bridge... all that,
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Conquering Gotham: A Gilded Age Epic: The Construction of Penn Station and Its Tunnels
  • Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898
  • Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad 1863-69
  • Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky and the Making of a City
  • Five Points: The Nineteenth-Century New York City Neighborhood That Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections and Became the World's Most Notorious Slum
  • The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America
  • Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center
  • Downtown: My Manhattan
  • The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream
  • Engineers of Dreams: Great Bridge Builders and the Spanning of America
  • The Americans, Vol. 3: The Democratic Experience
  • The Epic of New York City: A Narrative History
  • Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century
  • American Passage: The History of Ellis Island
  • Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation
  • The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways
  • Ship Ablaze: The Tragedy of the Steamboat General Slocum
  • A Sense of Where You Are: Bill Bradley at Princeton
David McCullough has been widely acclaimed as a “master of the art of narrative history,” “a matchless writer.” He is twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize, twice winner of the National Book Award, and has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award.

(update: His most recent book is The Wright Brothers, published on May 5th 2015 by Simon & Schuster.)

Mr. McCullou
More about David McCullough...

Share This Book

“Roebling rejoined the Army of the Potomac in February 1863 back at Fredericksburg, where he was quartered late one night in an old stone jail, from which he would emerge the following morning with a story that would be told in the family for years and years to come. The place had little or no light, it seems, and Roebling, all alone, groping his way about, discovered an old chest that aroused his curiosity. He lifted the lid and reaching inside, his hand touched a stone-cold face. The lid came back down with a bang. Deciding to investigate no further, he cleared a place on the floor, stretched out, and went to sleep. At daybreak he opened the chest to see what sort of corpse had been keeping him company through the night and found instead a stone statue of George Washington’s mother that had been stored away for safekeeping.” 1 likes
“But even if a person were ignorant of such things, the sight of a moving train held aloft above the great gorge at Niagara by so delicate a contrivance was, in the 1860’s, nothing short of miraculous. The bridge seemed to defy the most fundamental laws of nature. Something so slight just naturally ought to give way beneath anything so heavy. That it did not seemed pure magic.” 0 likes
More quotes…