This Day In History: Work Starts On The Golden Gate Bridge (1933)

On this day in 1933,  work begins on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The bridge will become one of the most popular landmarks on the West Coast.  The bridge would take four years to complete. The finished bridge was a 4000-foot long suspension bridge and it held the record for the world’s longest suspension bridge for many years. The ridge opened to the public in 1937. It is estimated that over 2 billion automobiles and trucks have crossed the bridge since it opened.

The bridge is not as its name suggest Golden but it is actually orange. It was named after the Golden Gate Strait, this is where San Francisco Bay meets the Pacific.  The bridge was named after this strait. The bridge connects the northern suburbs of San Francisco with Marin County.  The bridge was painted orange in the interests of maritime safety. The San Francisco Bay area is notorious for its fog and it was decided that if the bridge was to be visible to ships that is should be painted orange.  Before the bridge was built the only way to cross the Golden Gate Strait was by ship – there was a regular ferry operating in the strait for many years.

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Golden Gate Bridge Architecture

The bridge’s chief engineer was Joseph B Strauss and he was recognized as a brilliant bridge builder. He had a proven track record of building bridges all over the country. He had been involved in the Golden Gate Bridge project from the start and he devote many years of his life to the project. There were many in San Francisco who believed that the city was doing fine and did not need a suspension bridge.  Then there was the issue of costs. The ferry operators also opposed the plans. Then there was some concern that the bridge was not technically possible. Many experienced engineers claimed that it could not be done. The bridge not only faced opposition but work on it began in the midst of the greatest economic crisis faced by America.  The total costs was approximately 36 million dollars and it took several years to raise this sum during the difficult years of the Great Depression. The strait is notorious for its strong currents, fog and winds. The work was dangerous. In total perhaps a dozen men died in the construction of the bridge.  In one instance nine men were killed when some scaffolding collapsed and they workers fell to their death. Many were desperate for work during the Depression and were many prepared to work on the project, irrespective of the dangers.

The bridge was finished in May 1937 and when it was opened some 100,000 people came to see the opening ceremony. President Roosevelt pressed a telegraph key in the White House that announced to America that the bridge was open. It cost 50 cent to cross the bridge in 1937.  The Golden Gate remained the longest suspension bridge until the 1960s.

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