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

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  10,364 Ratings  ·  1,087 Reviews
Published on the fortieth anniversary of its initial publication, this edition of the classic book contains a new Preface by David McCullough, “one of our most gifted living writers” (The Washington Post).

Built to join the rapidly expanding cities of New York and Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Bridge was thought by many at the start to be an impossibility destined to fail if not f
Published May 15th 2012 by Simon Schuster Audio (first published January 1st 1972)
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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.
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I first became interested in the story behind the design and building of the Brooklyn Bridge a few years ago when I watched the TV documentary 'New York' by Ric Burns. In one of the episodes it focused on this land-and-river-mark - on its novelty, its innovations and the human tragedy that it also brought about.

Around that time also I read, and was fascinated by, David McCullough's The Path Between the Seas. I have therefore wanted to read this book for several years.

I have to acknowledge, thoug
Nov 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you haven't read a book by David McCullough you are missing a VERY good author. He writes non-fiction. He works in collaboration with a large staff. Some people may call that cheating, but I don't care b/c everything he writes is thoroughly investigated, interesting and expressed with flair. His books are never dry, never boring. He knows what to put in and what to leave out. Here he writes about the Brooklyn Bridge! How in the world can you write about a bridge and make it fascinating? He ha ...more
Aug 26, 2015 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 05, 2010 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 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
Kressel Housman
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
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 18, 2016 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
Feb 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I apparently liked this book more than I originally thought I had (see below). There is an awful lot of detail in this book, maybe too much. I now know way more about caissons, the bends and different types of steel than I ever thought I would ever know or ever needed to know. I do understand why all the information was included, but it was a slog to get through it all. I also have a better understanding of the Tammany Hall scandal. The political scandals of that era were amazingly blatant.
Ally A
Nov 06, 2012 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
Feb 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
The Great Bridge was David McCullough’s second. It is throughly researched, and is not only a history of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, but also the politics that enabled and hindered that accomplishment and a history of the times. What makes this history very readable, though, are the personal stories revealed. John Augustus Roebling, the architect, Washington Roebling, son and chief engineer, and Emily Roebling, wife of Washington and true partner to both Washington and the project, are ...more
Mike Tully
Nov 12, 2012 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.
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't believe that I was hooked on a 500 page book about bridge building. This is truly an eloquently written and expertly researched epic story of building the Brooklyn Bridge in the late 19th century.

McCullough, a masterful storyteller brought the history of the Brooklyn Bridge to life. The Brooklyn Bridge would not have existed without John and Washington Roebling, father and son. John Roebling was a German immigrant and engineer who designed the bridge with great ingenuity, but died of
Erik Graff
Feb 12, 2012 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
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
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
Czarny Pies
Feb 24, 2015 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
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.
Nov 24, 2014 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
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This took me awhile but it was well worth finishing. I can't wait to go walk the Brooklyn Bridge again after learning so much about it!
There were definitely interesting bits and even some humor. It was very detailed. So much detail. Lost me during big stretches of politics and accounting. Perhaps it's just spring fever but it was so hard to stay with this one. I learned a lot but I'm so glad it's over.
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an excellent book. At first, I was curious how they could spend 500 pages talking about a bridge.

The author got into all kinds of technical details about the various stages of building the bridge.

He described the politics of the time, as well as the politics of the Board supervising the construction.

He also described a number of the challenges that were faced while building the bridge.

Building this bridge, in the 1870s, before electricity and before motor vehicles existed, is unbelievab
Lisa Miller
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this audio version
Oct 29, 2012 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
Oct 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love David McCullough. I have yet to be disappointed by a book of his, and I have read most of them, and will read them all. “The Great Bridge” is no exception, but there were times when I had to push myself to read through (only a few times). This is not the fault of the author, but my own. As this book is about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge McCullough at times (appropriately) talks about engineering and other matters of science and my mind does not naturally attach itself to such thing ...more
Jan 22, 2010 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
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
Aug 22, 2014 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
Dustin Tyler Joyce
David McCullough is one of my favorite writers, and the Brooklyn Bridge is one of my favorite bridges, as it is for so many, so this book was bound to be a favorite. It did not disappoint. Mr. McCullough is so thorough and yet his writing is so approachable and his perspective so human. The way Mr. McCullough tells it, the story of the Brooklyn Bridge is not merely the story of a great feat of engineering, it is a human story full of intrigue and disaster and empathy and triumph. This is a maste ...more
Nathan Schrock
Dec 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I never would have imagined a story about a bridge could be so interesting, but McCullough's story-telling takes an interesting story and makes it a fascinating story.
While the book focuses on the bridge, it's really about three things: it's a biography of Washington Roebling, the chief engineer of the bridge, it's the story of the actually building of the bridge, and it's the history of post-Civil War Brooklyn, all in one book.
I highly recommend it if you like history, especially the Audible
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David McCullough has twice received the Pulitzer Prize, for Truman and John Adams, and twice received the National Book Award, for The Path Between the Seas and Mornings on Horseback; His other widely praised books are 1776, Brave Companions, The Great Bridge, and The Johnstown Flood. He has been honored with the National Book Foundation Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Award, the Na ...more
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“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.” 2 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.” 1 likes
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