Happy 2020, everybody! It’s hard to believe that a new decade is upon us. Certainly, one of the highlights of the 2009-2019 decade for us was starting Metro Tours! We have met so many wonderful people from all over the world thanks to this great city we call home. We have received some fantastic feedback about our guides and our tour content, and towards the end of 2019, we got to thinking about ways to expand our presence in Lower Manhattan and broaden our offerings. And then, as luck would have it, we met Kriss Roebling. If you are an architecture or history buff or simply a NYC enthusiast, you might recognize the name Roebling. That’s because the Roeblings are responsible for building one of the city’s most cherished landmarks – THE Brooklyn Bridge.
A lifelong New Yorker, Kriss has been sharing his intimate knowledge about the Brooklyn Bridge and its history on walking tours for the past 25 years. If the experience alone weren’t enough, how about this – Kriss’s great-great-great-grandfather, John Roebling, designed the bridge, and then his great-great-grandparents, Washington and Emily Roebling, oversaw the construction. Not only does Kriss regale groups with historical facts and more personal family anecdotes, but he also brings along some actual tools used to construct what is arguably the most famous bridge in the world.
When we met Kriss, we knew that we had to find a way to work together an incorporate his incredibly unique perspective and content into the Metro Tours lineup of tour offerings. We are so proud to announce that beginning on Thursday, January 23rd, Kriss will be part of the Metro Tours family. Now, we want to be clear about something. The information that visitors will get on a tour with Kriss is solely a result of his own work, research and, of course, insider knowledge. Metro Tours is just excited to be able to be associated with him, and so we are here to provide you all with another great option for a fun way to spend a few hours in NYC.
So, without further ado, we would like to introduce you to Kriss Roebling!
MT: Tell our readers a bit about what it was like growing up in New York with such a famous last name.
KR: I was raised in Manhattan by parents who both acted for a living. Our home was full of Brooklyn Bridge artifacts, many of which I share on my bridge walks nowadays. I was given a children’s book about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge when I was about four years old, which is one of my earliest memories of being aware of my familial association with this structure. After that, dinner time bridge stories and artifact sharing became regular means of teaching me about my bridge building ancestors.
MT: What inspired you to start giving tours of the Brooklyn Bridge?
KR: I started giving Brooklyn Bridge tours to friends, and friends of friends, almost 30 years ago. So many people took me up on this tour (and apparently enjoyed it) that I started to do it as a side business.
MT: What is your favorite thing-which could be anything from historical fact or design element-about the Brooklyn Bridge?
KR: I love the bridge’s use of both vertical and diagonal cable suspension. Combining both methods in a single bridge is rare. It creates an amazing sense of being immersed in some sort of vibrant celestial architecture, an all-encompassing perfection . Walking through this latticework of cables reminds me of the last section of “2001, A Space Odyssey”.
MT: Why do you think that the Brooklyn Bridge is among the must-see attractions for visitors to NYC?
KR: I believe that the Brooklyn Bridge is a must-see New York City attraction because it is both an architectural and engineering anomaly and an incredible work of functional art. At the time it was built, it accomplished the impossible by spanning such a length at such a height, and it did so with immense grace and rich symbolism.. There really is very little in the universe of bridges to compare it to. It is the icing on the cake which is New York City.
MT: Can visitors on your tour expect to learn “inside information” about the Brooklyn Bridge that they wouldn’t on another tour?
KR: My tour tells the story of the Brooklyn Bridge as it was transferred orally from generation to generation. As such, my story is sprinkled with family asides, extra details and interpretations that are not part of the “common record”, but rather reflect the memories and temperaments of my ancestors.
MT: So many people are fascinated with the Brooklyn Bridge and its building that it has been the subject of both books and movies. Any stand out to you as, in your opinion, doing a particularly good job with historical accuracy?
KR: Historical accuracy is the absolute ground level requirement for any sort of quality non-fiction media. If people don’t bother to check their historic non-fiction books or movies for absolute accuracy, then don’t bother with them! That said, amongst the world of historically accurate books and movies about The Brooklyn Bridge, David McCullough‘s The Great Bridge and Ken Burns’ The Brooklyn Bridge come to mind as especially compelling.
MT: Favorite NYC neighborhood or other favorite NYC landmarks?
KR: I love Dumbo, the neighborhood which the Brooklyn Bridge crosses over on the Brooklyn side. it is a beautiful amalgam of 19th century industrial architecture, waterfront beauty and wonderful eateries, cafes, shops and night spots. I am very lucky to call Dumbo home. I also love Breezy Point Tip. It feels as if you are on a deserted beach when you go there, but then you round the tip and find yourself in the middle of New York Harbor! I love it, but it’s challenging to access.
MT: Favorite way to spend a sunny Saturday (if you’re not booked giving tours, of course)?
KR: I love biking around Brooklyn with my family (I am married and have two sons), and also producing music in various recording studios with my friends, even though that involves staying indoors on a beautiful Saturday!
We encourage you to also check out this New York 1 feature on Kriss! New York 1 Feature