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The Making of a Global Icon: Golden Gate Bridge Construction

Mention the City and County of San Francisco in California and the majestic Golden Gate Bridge will surely be one of the first to come to mind. If you've ever wondered about the making of the world-famous icon, we bring you some photographs telling the story behind its history and construction. Take a look and find out more after the jump!

Just in time for the 80th anniversary of its construction, we’re inviting you to take a look back at the beginnings of the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge, one of the best known icons of San Francisco, California, and the United States. Towering over San Francisco Bay at 746 ft. in height, 90 ft. in width, and spanning a total length of 8,981 ft (2.7 km), the world-famous suspension bridge is crossed by over 100,000 cars daily, heading to Marin County from San Francisco Peninsula and back.

Prior to the bridge’s construction, ferry service was the only short and practical means of travel between San Francisco and present-day Marin County. Many proposed that a bridge be built to connect the two counties, but it was the proposal made in 1916 by James Wilkins, a San Francisco Bulletin editor and structural engineer, that caught the attention of city engineer Michael O’Shaugnessy. The city engineer, faced with the estimated construction cost of over $100 million, sought the insights of bridge engineers as to whether the bridge can be built for less. An ambitious engineer named Joseph Strauss came forward and said that it was not only possible, but could also be built for $25 to $30 million.

The first sketches Strauss presented showed a cantilever-suspension hybrid design, which the engineer said would cost $17 million. However, it was deemed visually unacceptable and a more graceful suspension bridge design by Leon Moisseiff (the designer of Manhattan Bridge in New York) prevailed. Strauss was joined by architect Irving Morrow, who designed the overall form of the bridge’s towers and took care of the lighting scheme, Art Deco elements, and the famous International Orange color that was originally used as the sealant for the bridge (Morrow was persuaded to paint it vibrant orange instead of the bland and common silver or gray); and Charles Alton Ellis as the project’s principal engineer who provided the basic structural design.

Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge began on January 5, 1933, costed $35 million, and was completed on April 19, 1937. It was opened on May 27, 1937 with an opening celebration that lasted for one week. Before vehicles were allowed to pass, 200,000 people crossed the newly-opened Golden Gate Bridge by foot and roller skates. Mayor Angelo Rossi, accompanied by other officials, crossed the bridge from Marin in a motorcade, passing through three ceremonial barriers, the last of which involved Joseph Strauss presenting the bridge to the Highway District before allowing them to pass.

Here are some construction photos of the Golden Gate Bridge:

The San Francisco Public Library also has a Flickr Set on the Golden Gate Bridge construction so you might want to check it out as well!

If you liked this article, you might also want to check out other articles on The Making of a Global Icon series!

All information for this article were sourced from Golden Gate Bridge Highway & Transportation District, and Golden Gate Bridge on Wikipedia.

written by plasticpopsicle

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