Interesting Facts about New York’s Most Innovative Engineering Projects of the Past 200 Years

The Erie Canal: The Erie Canal, which this month celebrates 200 years since its groundbreaking, connects Albany and Buffalo and ultimately links New York to the agriculture of the Midwest. This project enabled the Empire State to become a frontrunner in transportation and business services. However, in the early days of the canal, it was known as “Clinton’s Big Ditch," so named after then New York Governor DeWitt Clinton. The canal was built by hand.

The Brooklyn Bridge: John Augustus Roebling, chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge, pioneered the design of the steel suspension bridge. Right before the bridge construction commenced in 1869, Roebling was injured when a boat crushed one of his toes. Soon after, he died of tetanus. His son, Washington A. Roebling, took over as chief engineer but eventually became bedridden with “caisson disease” or “the bends." In the wake of his illness, Washington Roebling’s wife Emily took charge as head of the bridge project.

Grand Central Terminal: A fatal train crash in the Park Avenue Tunnel in 1902 convinced state officials to ban steam locomotives. It was decided to make the switch to electric-run trains. In order to make the transition, the station needed a complete overhaul. The result was a perfect marriage of beauty and ingenious functionality. “Behind Grand Central’s decorative flourishes are ingenious solutions. Looping tracks let arriving trains drop off passengers, continue ahead to pick up new passengers, and depart without having to turn around. Layered levels of train and subway lines pack enormous capacity into a relatively small footprint.”

Ashokan Reservoir: Construction on the reservoir began in 1910. It was constructed with what was then known as the world’s strongest cement, which could be found in Rosendale, NY. This water source is still one of the major suppliers of New York City’s water. “In addition to being the oldest reservoir to serve NYC area, the Ashokan Reservoir is also the largest at over 8,000 sq. acres, and also the deepest at 190 feet at the reservoir's center. At its capacity the reservoir can hold up to 122.9 billion gallons of water!”

Radio City Music Hall Hydraulically Actuated Stage: Radio City Music Hall was completed in 1932. Its stage was designed by Peter Clark, and is one of the world’s largest moveable stages. The stage’s intricate elevator system was so advanced that it was a forerunner for the U.S. military’s aircraft carrier systems built during World War II.