Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Bridge, the App: Also built by the Roeblings

Kriss Roebling Tells Story of `Great Bridge’

May 15, 2013 By Raanan Geberer Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Kriss Roebling, a lifelong New Yorker and great-great-great grandson of Washington and Emily Roebling, the husband-and-wife team who built the Brooklyn Bridge, has now developed a new tour app for people who want to explore the bridge and learn more about it.

“I’m a true lover of my smartphone,” he said, “so I was disappointed to find that my ancestor’s bridge wasn’t very efficiently represented in the app world.

“As a result, my wife and I set out to create a truly comprehensive, flexible and multi-functional Brooklyn Bridge tour app for people who want to explore and learn about the bridge using their phones rather than tour books or live guides. I feel that we accomplished that task.”

He provided the content and hosted the audio-video portion of the app, while his wife designed a premium user experience. The app includes an extensive points-of-interest map, an archive gallery packed with historical information and a detailed audio/video tour.

More information about the app, which has been rated five stars by the App Store, can be found on the site The app is free for download for a short time on the App Store and Google Play.

“Growing up, I loved the tales my family would share around the dinner table about John, Washington and Emily Roebling. Their lives and their work were the stories of my heritage and the stories of my city – they shaped my love of history and of New York,” Roebling said. “With the launch of this app, I have the opportunity to share these legends, not just as an academic or tour guide, but as a storyteller.”

The story of the Brooklyn Bridge began with German immigrant John Augustus Roebling. He pioneered the concept of the suspension bridge using twisted wire cables, and in 1846 built a suspension bridge over the Monongahela River in Pittsburgh. A later bridge, the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge over the Ohio River, looks like a prototype of the Brooklyn Bridge.

He designed the Brooklyn Bridge starting in 1867, but died in a ferry accident two years later, shortly after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved the plans to build it.

At that point, his son Washington Roebling, who had studied civil engineering, and his wife Emily took over the project. Unfortunately, Washington then fell ill with Caisson’s Disease. This disease left him bedridden, and although he continued to be involved in the planning of the bridge, his wife Emily – who had developed a knowledge of strength of materials, stress analysis and cable construction – took on more of the responsibility and shepherded the project to completion. When the bridge opened in 1883, Emily was the first to walk across it.

Early pictures of the bridge show a very different bridge than the one we see today, although the towers and suspension cables are the same. The bridge originally was dedicated to horse traffic, cable cars and walking. Soon afterward, elevated trains made their way across the bridge, and they continued to run until 1944. Streetcars ran until 1950. In recent years, bicycling and walking across the bridge have become newly popular.

As for the Roebling family, they continued to be involved in various tech-related ventures, including the Mercer, an early 20th century sports car that was produced until 1925.


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