History of the Golden Gate Bridge

History of the Golden Gate Bridge, California

North America

According to Listofusnewspapers, the first plans for the Golden Gate Bridge were made in 1872, but were discarded because of the many problems to be expected such as strong currents, fog, wind and the risk of earthquakes. In 1921, engineer Joseph Strauss presented the first plans to bridge the bay. However, the plans of the later chief engineer and builder Strauss for the building could not inspire at that time. And so the vehicles continued to be transported across the bay by ferry.

But the vehicles grew more and more and when the ferry had to carry two million vehicles, the ship reached its capacity limits and more thought was given to a bridge to make it possible to cross the strait. And of course, the construction had to be able to withstand currents and storms while being as earthquake-proof as possible.

In 1924, the War Department released the two plots of land on the bay for the undertaking – in protest of the ferry operating company, which now filed a flood of over 2000 individual lawsuits to prevent the bridge builders from building the Golden Gate Bridge. In 1929 came the stock market crash and with it the Great Depression. But despite the stock market crash, the financing of the construction costs for the bridge construction in 1930 could be secured by bonds amounting to 35 million US dollars. These construction costs of 39 million US dollars (the bond plus the accrued interest) could be repaid in full in 1971.

Construction of the bridge with an eventual span of 1,280 meters finally began almost a decade later on January 5, 1933. First of all, the northern pylon of the structure was erected when the bridge was being built, although this pylon was child’s play in view of the challenges to come in the context of the construction work. On the north bank of the strait there was rocky subsoil on which the pillar was placed during the construction work.

The construction of the southern pillar, which had to be anchored 340 meters from Fort Point with its foundation at a depth of 33 meters, brought complications. The temporary bridge built for this purpose was destroyed by a ship and suffered multiple damage from high waves in storms. The pillar therefore took two years to complete, which delayed the project. The outer shape of the pylons was designed by the architect Irving F. Morrow.

To form the suspension cables, 27,572 wires had to be pulled over the pylons and then formed into a round parallel wire rope. During the construction work, the deck girder was installed from the outside, so that at the end the two sections met in the middle of the bridge. This happened on November 20, 1936. The work on the bridge over the strait could be finished cheaper and earlier than planned on April 19, 1937.

On May 28, 1937 12:00 local time, the Golden Gate Bridge was opened to traffic in the city of California after it was opened by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. And the traffic is neat on the bridge. Around 40 million vehicles use the lanes annually to cross the strait. So many every day that the toll income when entering the city is usually enough to cover the maintenance of the bridge. Incidentally, the President himself was not present at the time, but opened the bridge at 12 noon with a telegraphic signal from the White House.

Charles Alton Ellis – the “forgotten” designer of the bridge

Charles Alton Ellis was a professor, civil engineer and mathematician and, together with Joseph Strauss, submitted the final plans for the bridge in 1930. However, the actual designer of the Art Deco-style bridge was soon fired by Strauss and his work was not publicly recognized. It is said that Strauss wanted to be celebrated alone in his role as the builder of this masterpiece.

Where does the characteristic orange color of the bridge come from?

Anyone who sees the Golden Gate Bridge live or even only sees a view of it, will quickly notice the color of the paint. But why is the world famous bridge with the impressive towers actually painted orange? There are aesthetic reasons for this. Actually, the steel structure should have been painted gray according to the design by engineer Strauss. This color of the steel girders was discarded, among other things, due to the protest of the Navy.

An orange anti-rust paint was already applied from the factory upon delivery. The residents of the city liked this paint so much that they finally left the anti-rust paint. However, the “International Orange” is no longer the original. The anti-rust paint has been replaced several times over the years.

Where does the name Golden Gate Bridge come from?

One of the facts that is not mentioned that often when it comes to the world famous bridge is how the name of the Golden Gate Bridge actually came about. The fact is that the strait that spans the bridge is known as the Golden Gate. This name was given to it at the time of the gold rush, when numerous people on the trail of the precious metal traveled by ship across the sea to the city and used the Golden Gate as an entrance. In addition, the words are a reference to the nickname of the state of California, Golden State. The current through the Golden Gate changes with the tides. The water depth in this strait is up to 90 meters.

Notable events at the bridge

A place as famous as the Golden Gate Bridge naturally also attracts memorable events and, unfortunately, often also people who want to end their lives and commit suicide.

  • Protection for those at risk of suicide: The railing, which is only 1.20 meters high, is an insignificant obstacle for suicides and so there have been more than 1,700 successful suicides since President Roosevelt opened the bridge. It is now known that people who decide to commit suicide by jumping the bridge are impulse perpetrators and> 90% of them do not try to kill themselves a second time. Raising the railings is too much of a financial expense, so a net is being built on both sides of the bridge to prevent jumping into the bay. Hopefully this will save the lives of desperate people and reduce the number of deaths in the future.
  • 50th anniversary of the bridge: For the 50th anniversary of the bridge on May 24, 1987, there were around 300,000 people on the bridge at the same time. This led to a lowering of the bridge by about two meters. According to engineers, this is not a cause for concern as the bridge was designed for such fluctuations. However, this action was not repeated because there is fear of a mass panic on the landmark.
  • Half Way to Hell Club: The workers who laid the cables worked at dizzying heights in wind speeds of around 70km / hour. Nevertheless, one shift managed to lay 1000 miles of cable in one go. That corresponds to over 1,600 kilometers. Some workers also fell in the bay during the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge and died in the strait. A safety net was therefore installed, which inspired the men who fell into it to found the “Half Way to Hell Club”. There was never a complete list of all members of the club, and the first and last member died at the age of 95 in 2000. In February 1937, a machine fell into the safety net and carried away some workers. The machine perforated the net and 10 people were killed in the strait.
  • Closures: Since opening, the bridge has only had to be closed to car traffic three times due to strong winds. She survived a strong earthquake in 1989 unscathed. The longest closure in the history of the bridge occurred in 2015, when an adjustable central plank system was installed to reduce the risk of accidents.
  • Protection against earthquakes: Although the bridge in California had a strong earthquake as early as 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake, survived, so they wanted to make sure that future earthquakes could affect the bridge as little as possible. The bridge was therefore retrofitted in the 1990s and 2000s for possible earthquakes of magnitude 8.3. Among other things, the foundations were reinforced to protect against strong earthquakes.

History of the Golden Gate Bridge