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Historic Unedited Photos They Don't Want You To See
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Entertainment
Historic Unedited Photos They Don't Want You To See
Publication: Historical Archives.
Posted by
760a631d0dea2ae92cb6e9f7b157b927
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Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge

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Where:
San Francisco, California
When:
1936-11-18
Summary:
Two sections of the Golden Gate Bridge's main span are joined in the middle.
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Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge


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  Where:
San Francisco, California

  When:
1936-11-18

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Next Photo
or read more about below

“This bridge needs neither praise, eulogy nor encomium. It speaks for itself. We who have labored long are grateful. What Nature rent asunder long ago, man has joined today.” One of the most iconic bridges in the world and now considered a Wonder of the Modern World, the Golden Gate Bridge stands as a symbol of San Francisco and the West Coast. The art deco bridge was the perfect solution to provide faster transportation between San Francisco, the largest American city still served by ferry boats at the time, and Marin County, but no one—at least not in the late 1800s and early 1900s—believed a bridge was feasible or could withstand the strong winds and current along the San Francisco strait.

Fortunately, renowned engineer Joseph Strauss knew a bridge was possible and promised to build a suspension bridge to connect the two regions. Strauss came through on his promise and built the longest and tallest suspension bridge in the world $1.3 million under budget and ahead of schedule after four years of construction between 1933 and 1937. With the bridge still in use today, let’s take a closer look at the iconic landmark and its history.

The History of the Golden Gate Bridge

Long before construction started on the Golden Gate Bridge in January 1933, the only route between San Francisco and present-day Marin County was by boat across a small section of San Francisco Bay. A local ferry service started in the early 1820s to provide transportation to the area and, by the 1840s, a regularly scheduled service was in place. By the end of the decade, the Sausalito Land and Ferry Company was well-established and renamed the Golden Gate Ferry Company as part of the Southern Pacific Railroad that would later become the largest ferry operation in the world by the 1920s. The service was ideal since it provided transportation for passengers and customers as well as a separate service for automobiles, which boosted the region’s economy.

With the ferry service costing $1.00 per vehicle and taking around 27 minutes one way, locals pushed for a faster route between San Francisco and Marin County. At the time, San Francisco was the largest American city still served by ferry boats since construction experts and engineers could not yet fathom a bridge that could span the 6,700-foot strait with its swirling tides, 372-foot depth, and powerful currents. Many believed a bridge was simply out of the question… or so they thought.

In 1916, engineering student James Wilkins submitted a plan for a bridge in the San Francisco Bulletin. The plan was initially dubbed a failure as experts argued it would cost around $100 million ($2.3 billion today) to construct. However, Wilkins refused to give up and reached out to renowned engineer Joseph Strauss who designed a 55-mile-long railroad bridge across the Bering Strait for his thesis. By then, Strauss had designed over 400 drawbridges and knew he could build the bridge for $17 million ($391 million today).

Once Strauss agreed to receive input from local committees on the design of the bridge, he was free to begin designing a practical suspension bridge. He spent the next decade garnering support throughout Northern California where many opposed the bridge on the grounds that it would interfere with ship traffic. The United States Navy argued that the bridge would block its entrance to one of the main harbors while local unions worried that the construction jobs would be outsourced rather than kept local. Fortunately, Strauss had plans in place and agreed to use local labor, which gained him enough support to start the official design process.

Building the Golden Gate Bridge

Strauss served as chief engineer and oversaw day-to-day construction but relied on other engineering experts to help finalize the design and specifications. Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge officially began on January 5, 1933 and ended on April 19, 1937. The bridge cost over $35 million to build and came in $1.3 million under budget and ahead of schedule. During the four-year build, 11 men were killed from fatal falls with ten of those deaths occurring on February 17, 1937, when the net failed under the stress of a scaffold that had fallen causing the platform to fall through the safety net. Only two of the 12 workers survived the 200-foot fall into the icy waters below.

The Golden Gate Bridge was officially opened on May 27, 1937, as the longest and tallest suspension bridge in the world with a span of 4,200 feet and a total height of 746 feet. Opening festivities were held throughout the entire week with over 200,000 people walking or roller skating across the bridge the day before it opened to vehicle traffic. Mayor Angelo Rossi and other city officials rode the ferry and crossed the bridge with a ribbon cutting ceremony just as President Roosevelt rang a bell in Washington D.C. to commemorate the official opening of the bridge at noon on May 27th.

As a tribute to his role in designing the Golden Gate Bridge, Strauss also made grand contributions to the ceremony and wrote several poems including “The Mighty Task is Done.” “At last the mighty task is done / resplendent in the western sun / the Bridge looms mountain high / its titan piers grip ocean floor / it’s great steel arms link short with shore / its towers pierce the sky…” His poem, “The Golden Gate Bridge” also addressed the marvel of the bridge after years of debate. “I am the thing that men denied / the right to be, the urge to live / and I am that which men defied / yet I ask naught for what I give…”

In the decades since the Golden Gate Bridge officially opened, the bridge has become an icon around the world and is often described as “possibly the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed bridge in the world.” The American Society of Civil Engineers also declared it one of the Wonders of the Modern World. Today, it stands tall as an icon of the San Francisco region as one author so eloquently wrote, “The Golden Gate Bridge is a triumphant structure, a testimony to the creativity of mankind.”