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Review: "The Great Bridge," by David McCullough


An incredible masterwork of unparalleled research and writing, this non-fiction tome, running over 500 pages, never ceases to satisfy, inform, and fascinate. McCullough found a trove of uncatalogued papers, letters and plans at RPI and combed through them over the course of a few years. He built the entire story of the Bridge, focused on the Roeblings, father and son architects, in an historical framework replete with villains and heroes, catastrophes and successes, life, illness and death. Enjoyment is not the highest accolade I can deliver regarding "Bridge". Awe would be a better word. Having listened to this book on audio upon finishing I went immediately to the local library, read the last chapter once again, and viewed all the photographs within. Remarkably, in the most outstanding fashion, the images that had been "painted" in my mind by McCullough were almost exact to the real photographs. Caissons, cabling, costumes; all were precisely what I had envisioned. I also learned more about the history of New York, Brooklyn and the country as a whole, from 1865 through 1883, than I could have ever imagined. I now understand better the entire Boss Tweed Ring than I ever have. Technology, science, politics were all covered in great detail. But most importantly, presented in this engrossing book, was the genius and dedication of both Roeblings, especially Washington Roebling who saw the bridge through to completion after his father's untimely death. I respect Roebling's commitment and pure engineering prowess to the ultimate degree. The Brooklyn Bridge still stands and functions today as his testament. I have received a gift of a bicycle ride across the Bridge and cannot wait to spend a few hours enjoying this remarkable structure as a functioning bridge, the connector between two magnificent New York cities, and a marvel of technological engineering and perseverance. If you are so inclined, immerse yourself in this book. My highest recommendation.