Seventy-five years ago, an icon opened up for the world to admire.
This icon was seen as a solution to a problem: Navigating across the treacherous waters of the Golden Gate. San Franciscans wanting to head to the North Bay, especially to Mount Tamalpais and the Headlands, had to take a ferry across the water to get into Sausalito. The same goes for the people on the other side of the bay. The ferry was one of the busiest on the Pacific Coast even through the deepest part of the Great Depression.
Before the nation’s economy went into the tank, plans were already being made to build a bridge across the Golden Gate. It had been delayed due to World War I, but momentum picked up in the new decade. A district was created to facilitate the design and construction of the span. With a dreamer for the chief architect – Joseph Strauss – the story of the Golden Gate Bridge remains a part of Bay Area lore.
What makes this span very special is not just the design. The suspension bridge design won over – a smart move considering the microclimate of the Golden Gate. Suspension bridges are designed to withstand any movement from the elements – especially the wicked winds of the Golden Gate. Construction of the bridge called for two anchor towers standing 230 meters above sea level – one built on the edge of the Sausalito, the other built right into the bay. The span totaled just short of two kilometers in length with the distance between the two towers at 1.2 kilometers.
When it opened on May 27, 1937, the red-orange colored bridge was seen as an engineering marvel. Building it was no picnic, either. Though a moveable net was secured underneath the workers building the span, only eleven of them were killed in the name of the bridge. Yet, the bridge opened its six lanes of variable traffic to create one of the finest visions in automotive history.