Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Bridging the Gate

by Connie Cortright 

One of the most impressive accomplishments of the 1930s was the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge across the strait near San Francisco. In the early 20th Century, San Francisco had a hard time growing because it was so cut off of the surrounding land areas by water. The only way to access the city from the north was by Southern Pacific automobile ferries. It was a timely venture for anyone who lived north of the city to commute by ferry to work on a daily basis. 

By the early 20s, many people were attempting to design a bridge that would span the mile-wide distance between the points of land. Many experts fought the idea, saying it was impossible to build a bridge over the strait with its strong tides and currents with water up to 372 feet deep. The powerful winds blowing through the strait, plus the fog that comes and goes almost daily, would hinder the progress of building this bridge. 

The naysayers lost the battle when the Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District Act passed the state legislature in 1923. That act made it possible to do the necessary planning and financing for the bridge. Joseph Strauss, who had drawn up a design for the bridge before 1920, was the chief engineer for the project. With the help of Leon Moisseiff, the architect of the Manhattan Bridge in New York City, the final plans were drawn to make a suspension bridge to cross the expanse. 

Plans for the bridge proceeded until the stock market crash of 1929. After that time, another source of money had to be found when the finances of the country and city collapsed. The $30 million bond was approved in 1931 by the District so construction could now proceed. 

The construction of the bridge began in January of 1933. Thousands of men worked on this project during the next four years under many different contractors. The progress of the building can be seen by clicking on the following link Golden Gate BridgeConstruction/ Photos. The pictures in this link tell the story much better than words can.

The bridge was opened on May 27, 1937 for pedestrian traffic only. Two hundred thousand people walked across the suspension bridge that day to get a close look at the technical achievement accomplished by the brave men who built it. The next day it was open to vehicular traffic. Since that date it has been only closed three times due to high winds.

It's not the longest suspension bridge in the world today, but it was from 1937 until 1964. It is still one of the most photographed and recognized suspension bridges in the world.

Have you ever visited this amazing landmark?

Information taken from American Experience-Golden Gate Workers and from Wikipedia -Golden Gate Bridge. Photos taken from Wikicommons.


  1. I've been there. Now when I think of it, it's hard not to remember that the son of friends jumped off.

    1. That's too bad. I read that since the bridge is so high up, most people who commit suicide die instantly when they hit the water. What a tragedy.

    2. Those who survive say that in the four seconds of their fall, they had a change of heart about dying.