Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate, the one-mile-wide (1.6 km) strait connecting San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The structure links the U.S. city of San Francisco, California—the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula—to Marin County, carrying both U.S. Route 101 and California State Route 1 across the strait. It also carries pedestrian and bicycle traffic, and is designated as part of U.S. Bicycle Route 95. Recognized by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the Wonders of the Modern World, the bridge is one of the most internationally recognized symbols of San Francisco and California.

The idea of a fixed link between San Francisco and Marin had gained increasing popularity during the late 19th century, but it was not until the early 20th century that such a link became feasible. Joseph Strauss served as chief engineer for the project, with Leon Moisseiff, Irving Morrow and C...Read more

The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate, the one-mile-wide (1.6 km) strait connecting San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The structure links the U.S. city of San Francisco, California—the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula—to Marin County, carrying both U.S. Route 101 and California State Route 1 across the strait. It also carries pedestrian and bicycle traffic, and is designated as part of U.S. Bicycle Route 95. Recognized by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of the Wonders of the Modern World, the bridge is one of the most internationally recognized symbols of San Francisco and California.

The idea of a fixed link between San Francisco and Marin had gained increasing popularity during the late 19th century, but it was not until the early 20th century that such a link became feasible. Joseph Strauss served as chief engineer for the project, with Leon Moisseiff, Irving Morrow and Charles Ellis making significant contributions to its design. The bridge opened to the public in 1937 and has undergone various retrofits and other improvement projects in the decades since.

The Golden Gate Bridge is described in Frommer's travel guide as "possibly the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed, bridge in the world." At the time of its opening in 1937, it was both the longest and the tallest suspension bridge in the world, titles it held until 1964 and 1998 respectively. Its main span is 4,200 feet (1,280 m) and its total height is 746 feet (227 m).

Ferry service

Before the bridge was built, the only practical short route between San Francisco and what is now Marin County was by boat across a section of San Francisco Bay. A ferry service began as early as 1820, with a regularly scheduled service beginning in the 1840s for the purpose of transporting water to San Francisco.[1]

In 1867, the Sausalito Land and Ferry Company opened. In 1920, the service was taken over by the Golden Gate Ferry Company, which merged in 1929 with the ferry system of the Southern Pacific Railroad, becoming the Southern Pacific-Golden Gate Ferries, Ltd., the largest ferry operation in the world .[1][2] Once for railroad passengers and customers only, Southern Pacific's automobile ferries became very profitable and important to the regional economy.[3] The ferry crossing between the Hyde Street Pier in San Francisco and Sausalito Ferry Terminal in Marin County took approximately 20 minutes and cost $1.00 per vehicle,[when?] a price later reduced to compete with the new bridge.[4][better source needed] The trip from the San Francisco Ferry Building took 27 minutes.

Many wanted to build a bridge to connect San Francisco to Marin County. San Francisco was the largest American city still served primarily by ferry boats. Because it did not have a permanent link with communities around the bay, the city's growth rate was below the national average.[5] Many experts said that a bridge could not be built across the 6,700-foot (2,000-metre) strait, which had strong, swirling tides and currents, with water 372 ft (113 m) deep[6] at the center of the channel, and frequent strong winds. Experts said that ferocious winds and blinding fogs would prevent construction and operation.[5]

Golden Gate with Fort Point in foreground, c. 1891

Although the idea of a bridge spanning the Golden Gate was not new, the proposal that eventually took hold was made in a 1916 San Francisco Bulletin article by former engineering student James Wilkins.[7] San Francisco's City Engineer estimated the cost at $100 million (equivalent to $2.5 billion today), and impractical for the time. He asked bridge engineers whether it could be built for less.[1] One who responded, Joseph Strauss, was an ambitious engineer and poet who had, for his graduate thesis, designed a 55-mile-long (89 km) railroad bridge across the Bering Strait.[8] At the time, Strauss had completed some 400 drawbridges—most of which were inland—and nothing on the scale of the new project.[9] Strauss's initial drawings[7] were for a massive cantilever on each side of the strait, connected by a central suspension segment, which Strauss promised could be built for $17 million (equivalent to $423 million today).[1]

A suspension-bridge design was chosen, using recent advances in bridge design and metallurgy.[1]

Strauss spent more than a decade drumming up support in Northern California.[10] The bridge faced opposition, including litigation, from many sources. The Department of War was concerned that the bridge would interfere with ship traffic. The US Navy feared that a ship collision or sabotage to the bridge could block the entrance to one of its main harbors. Unions demanded guarantees that local workers would be favored for construction jobs. Southern Pacific Railroad, one of the most powerful business interests in California, opposed the bridge as competition to its ferry fleet and filed a lawsuit against the project, leading to a mass boycott of the ferry service.[1]

In May 1924, Colonel Herbert Deakyne held the second hearing on the Bridge on behalf of the Secretary of War in a request to use federal land for construction. Deakyne, on behalf of the Secretary of War, approved the transfer of land needed for the bridge structure and leading roads to the "Bridging the Golden Gate Association" and both San Francisco County and Marin County, pending further bridge plans by Strauss.[11] Another ally was the fledgling automobile industry, which supported the development of roads and bridges to increase demand for automobiles.[4]

The bridge's name was first used when the project was initially discussed in 1917 by M.M. O'Shaughnessy, city engineer of San Francisco, and Strauss. The name became official with the passage of the Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District Act by the state legislature in 1923, creating a special district to design, build and finance the bridge.[12] San Francisco and most of the counties along the North Coast of California joined the Golden Gate Bridge District, with the exception being Humboldt County, whose residents opposed the bridge's construction and the traffic it would generate.[13]

South tower seen from walkway, with Art Deco elements

Strauss was the chief engineer in charge of the overall design and construction of the bridge project.[5] However, because he had little understanding or experience with cable-suspension designs,[14] responsibility for much of the engineering and architecture fell on other experts. Strauss's initial design proposal (two double cantilever spans linked by a central suspension segment) was unacceptable from a visual standpoint. The final graceful suspension design was conceived and championed by Leon Moisseiff, the engineer of the Manhattan Bridge in New York City.[15]

Irving Morrow, a relatively unknown residential architect, designed the overall shape of the bridge towers, the lighting scheme, and Art Deco elements, such as the tower decorations, streetlights, railing, and walkways. The famous International Orange color was Morrow's personal selection, winning out over other possibilities, including the US Navy's suggestion that it be painted with black and yellow stripes to ensure visibility by passing ships.[5][16]

Senior engineer Charles Alton Ellis, collaborating remotely with Moisseiff, was the principal engineer of the project.[17] Moisseiff produced the basic structural design, introducing his "deflection theory" by which a thin, flexible roadway would flex in the wind, greatly reducing stress by transmitting forces via suspension cables to the bridge towers.[17] Although the Golden Gate Bridge design has proved sound, a later Moisseiff design, the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge, collapsed in a strong windstorm soon after it was completed, because of an unexpected aeroelastic flutter.[18] Ellis was also tasked with designing a "bridge within a bridge" in the southern abutment, to avoid the need to demolish Fort Point, a pre–Civil War masonry fortification viewed, even then, as worthy of historic preservation. He penned a graceful steel arch spanning the fort and carrying the roadway to the bridge's southern anchorage.[19]

Below Golden Gate Bridge

Ellis was a Greek scholar and mathematician who at one time was a University of Illinois professor of engineering despite having no engineering degree. He eventually earned a degree in civil engineering from the University of Illinois prior to designing the Golden Gate Bridge and spent the last twelve years of his career as a professor at Purdue University. He became an expert in structural design, writing the standard textbook of the time.[20] Ellis did much of the technical and theoretical work that built the bridge, but he received none of the credit in his lifetime. In November 1931, Strauss fired Ellis and replaced him with a former subordinate, Clifford Paine, ostensibly for wasting too much money sending telegrams back and forth to Moisseiff.[20] Ellis, obsessed with the project and unable to find work elsewhere during the Depression, continued working 70 hours per week on an unpaid basis, eventually turning in ten volumes of hand calculations.[20]

With an eye toward self-promotion and posterity, Strauss downplayed the contributions of his collaborators who, despite receiving little recognition or compensation,[14] are largely responsible for the final form of the bridge. He succeeded in having himself credited as the person most responsible for the design and vision of the bridge.[20] Only much later were the contributions of the others on the design team properly appreciated.[20] In May 2007, the Golden Gate Bridge District issued a formal report on 70 years of stewardship of the famous bridge and decided to give Ellis major credit for the design of the bridge.

Panorama showing the height, depth, and length of the span from end to end, looking west
Panorama of the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset, as seen from just north of Alcatraz Island

The Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District, authorized by an act of the California Legislature, was incorporated in 1928 as the official entity to design, construct, and finance the Golden Gate Bridge.[5] However, after the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the District was unable to raise the construction funds, so it lobbied for a $30 million bond measure (equivalent to $473 million today). The bonds were approved in November 1930,[8] by votes in the counties affected by the bridge.[21] The construction budget at the time of approval was $27 million ($438 million today). However, the District was unable to sell the bonds until 1932, when Amadeo Giannini, the founder of San Francisco–based Bank of America, agreed on behalf of his bank to buy the entire issue in order to help the local economy.[1]


Construction began on January 5, 1933.[1] The project cost more than $35 million[22] ($550 million in 2021 dollars[23]), and was completed ahead of schedule and $1.3 million under budget (equivalent to $25.7 million today).[24] The Golden Gate Bridge construction project was carried out by the McClintic-Marshall Construction Co., a subsidiary of Bethlehem Steel Corporation founded by Howard H. McClintic and Charles D. Marshall, both of Lehigh University.

An original rivet replaced during the seismic retrofit after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. A total of 1.2 million steel rivets hold the bridge's two towers together.

Strauss remained head of the project, overseeing day-to-day construction and making some groundbreaking contributions. A graduate of the University of Cincinnati, he placed a brick from his alma mater's demolished McMicken Hall in the south anchorage before the concrete was poured.

Strauss also innovated the use of movable safety netting beneath the men working, which saved many lives. Nineteen men saved by the nets over the course of the project formed the Half Way to Hell Club. Nonetheless eleven men were killed in falls, ten on February 17, 1937, when a scaffold with twelve men on it, and secured by undersized bolts, fell into and broke through the safety net; two of the twelve survived the 200-foot (61 m) fall into the water.[25][26]

The bridge can be seen whilst under construction in the 1936 movie Follow the Fleet with the main cable especially noticeable.

The bridge opened May 27, 1937.[27]

The Round House Café diner was then included in the southeastern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, adjacent to the tourist plaza which was renovated in 2012.[28] The Round House Café, an Art Deco design by Alfred Finnila completed in 1938, has been popular throughout the years as a starting point for various commercial tours of the bridge and an unofficial gift shop.[29] The diner was renovated in 2012[28] and the gift shop was then removed as a new, official gift shop has been included in the adjacent plaza.[29]

During the bridge work, the Assistant Civil Engineer of California Alfred Finnila had overseen the entire iron work of the bridge as well as half of the bridge's road work.[30]


Plaque of the major contributors to the Golden Gate Bridge lists contractors, engineering-staff, directors and officers:[31]


Foundations - Pacific Bridge Company Anchorages - Barrett & Hilp Structural steel - Main span - Bethlehem Steel Company Incorporated Approach steel - J.H. Pomeroy & Company Incorporated - Raymond Concrete Pile Company Cables - John A. Roebling's Sons Company Electrical work - Alta Electric and Mechanical Company Incorporated Bridge deck - Pacific Bridge Company Presidio Approach Roads and Viaducts - Easton & Smith Toll Plaza - Barrett & Hilp

Engineering staff

Chief engineer - Joseph B. Strauss Principal assistant engineer - Clifford E. Paine Resident engineer - Russell Cone Assistant engineer - Charles Clarahan Jr., Dwight N. Wetherell Consulting engineer - O.H. Ammann, Charles Derleth Jr., Leon S. Moisseiff Consulting traffic engineer - Sydney W. Taylor, Jr. Consulting architect - Irving F. Morrow Consulting geologist - Andrew C. Lawson, Allan E. Sedgwick


San Francisco - William P. Filmer, Richard J. Welch, Warren Shannon, Hugo D. Newhouse, Arthur M. Brown, Jr., John P. McLaughlin, William D. Hadeler, C.A. Henry, Francis V. Keesling, William P. Stanton, George T. Cameron Marin County - Robert H. Trumbull, Harry Lutgens Napa County - Thomas Maxwell Sonoma County - Frank P. Doyle, Joseph A. McMinn Mendocino County - A. R. O'Brien Del Norte County - Henry Westbrook, Jr., Milton M. McVay


President - William P. Filmer Vice President - Robert H. Trumbull General manager - James Reed, Alan McDonald Chief engineer - Joseph B. Strauss Secretary - W. W. Felt, Jr. Auditor - Roy S. West, John R. Ruckstell Attorney - George H. Harlan
Torsional bracing retrofit

On December 1, 1951, a windstorm revealed swaying and rolling instabilities of the bridge, resulting in its closure.[32] In 1953 and 1954, the bridge was retrofitted with lateral and diagonal bracing that connected the lower chords of the two side trusses. This bracing stiffened the bridge deck in torsion so that it would better resist the types of twisting that had destroyed the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1940.[33]

Bridge deck replacement (1982–1986)

The original bridge used a concrete deck. Salt carried by fog or mist reached the rebar, causing corrosion and concrete spalling. From 1982 to 1986, the original bridge deck, in 747 sections, was systematically replaced with a 40% lighter, and stronger, steel orthotropic deck panels, over 401 nights without closing the roadway completely to traffic. The roadway was also widened by two feet, resulting in outside curb lane width of 11 feet, instead of 10 feet for the inside lanes. This deck replacement was the bridge's greatest engineering project since it was built and cost over $68 million.[34]

Opening festivities, and 50th and 75th anniversaries
A plaque on the south tower commemorating the 25th anniversary of the bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge and Fort Point

The bridge-opening celebration in 1937 began on May 27 and lasted for one week.[35] The day before vehicle traffic was allowed, 200,000 people crossed either on foot or on roller skates.[1][36] On opening day, Mayor Angelo Rossi and other officials rode the ferry to Marin, then crossed the bridge in a motorcade past three ceremonial "barriers," the last a blockade of beauty queens who required Joseph Strauss to present the bridge to the Highway District before allowing him to pass. An official song, "There's a Silver Moon on the Golden Gate," was chosen to commemorate the event. Strauss wrote a poem that is now on the Golden Gate Bridge entitled "The Mighty Task is Done." The next day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt pushed a button in Washington, D.C. signaling the official start of vehicle traffic over the Bridge at noon. Weeks of civil and cultural activities called "the Fiesta" followed. A statue of Strauss was moved in 1955 to a site near the bridge.[7]

As part of the fiftieth anniversary celebration in 1987, the Golden Gate Bridge district again closed the bridge to automobile traffic and allowed pedestrians to cross it on May 24. This Sunday morning celebration attracted 750,000 to 1,000,000 people, and ineffective crowd control meant the bridge became congested with roughly 300,000 people, causing the center span of the bridge to flatten out under the weight.[37][38][39] Although the bridge is designed to flex in that way under heavy loads, and was estimated not to have exceeded 40% of the yielding stress of the suspension cables,[40] bridge officials stated that uncontrolled pedestrian access was not being considered as part of the 75th anniversary on Sunday, May 27, 2012,[41][42][43] because of the additional law enforcement costs required "since 9/11."[44]

A pedestrian poses at the old railing on opening day, 1937. 

A pedestrian poses at the old railing on opening day, 1937.

Opening of the Golden Gate Bridge

Official invitation to the opening of the bridge. This copy was sent to the City of Seattle. 

Official invitation to the opening of the bridge. This copy was sent to the City of Seattle.

Commemorative Bricks

On the 50th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1987, individuals and organizations were invited to buy a commemorative brick to fund the 50th anniversary celebration. Those bricks were installed on the ground creating a brick promenade. Its location is shown on the map.

More than 7,500 donors responded, personalizing their brick with inscriptions and tributes.

Unfortunately, 25 years later, for the upcoming 75th of the Golden Gate Bridge, the need for a DDA compliant area, as the slope was too steep, implied remodeling the whole promenade. Doing so, and contractors being unable to properly take bricks out one by one, the brick promenade was demolished and the contributors were unable to get their bricks back.

List of donors.jpg 

However, to honor and respect their contributions, all the donors' names and the inscriptions they had chosen for their bricks have been preserved and written on panels.

The panels are located inside the "Equator Coffees", on its rounded walls. The names and inscriptions are listed in the alphabetical order, to make them easier to read and find.

This website has been keeping a maps view of the original brick promenade and the database of all donors' names and inscriptions, to help find and locate them on the original layout. As of October 2022, the website is currently down.

^ a b c d e f g h i "Two Bay Area Bridges". US Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved March 9, 2009. ^ Fimrite, Peter (April 28, 2005). "Ferry tale – the dream dies hard: 2 historic boats that plied the bay seek buyer – anybody". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved October 31, 2007. ^ Harlan, George H. (1967). San Francisco Bay Ferryboats. Howell-North Books. ^ a b Span, Guy (May 4, 2002). "So Where Are They Now? The Story of San Francisco's Steel Electric Empire". Bay Crossings. Archived from the original on October 23, 2007. Retrieved October 31, 2007. ^ a b c d e Sigmund, Pete (2006). "The Golden Gate: 'The Bridge That Couldn't Be Built'". Construction Equipment Guide. Retrieved May 31, 2007. ^ Barnard, Hanes, Rubin, Kvitek (July 18, 2006). "Giant Sand Waves at the Mouth of San Francisco Bay" (PDF). Eos. 87 (29): 285. Bibcode:2006EOSTr..87..285B. doi:10.1029/2006EO290003. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 18, 2018. Retrieved April 22, 2012.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link) ^ a b c Owens, T.O. (2001). The Golden Gate Bridge. The Rosen Publishing Group. ISBN 0-8239-5016-6. ^ a b "The American Experience:People & Events: Joseph Strauss (1870–1938)". Public Broadcasting Service. Archived from the original on November 17, 2007. Retrieved November 7, 2007. ^ Denton, Harry et al. (2004) "Lonely Planet San Francisco" Lonely Planet, United States, ISBN 1-74104-154-6 ^ "Bridging the Bay: Bridges That Never Were". UC Berkeley Library. 1999. Archived from the original on July 18, 2006. Retrieved April 13, 2006. ^ Miller, John B. (2002) "Case Studies in Infrastructure Delivery" Springer, ISBN 0-7923-7652-8. ^ Gudde, Erwin G. (1949). California Place Names. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. p. 130. OCLC 37647557. ^ "Special District Formed – Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District". Retrieved January 17, 2015. ^ a b "People and Events: Joseph Strauss (1870–1938)". Public Broadcasting Service. Archived from the original on November 17, 2007. Retrieved December 12, 2007. ^ "Golden Gate Bridge Design". Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District. Archived from the original on December 10, 2017. Retrieved November 27, 2017. ^ "Irving Morrow | American Experience | PBS". Retrieved October 5, 2019. ^ a b "American Experience:Leon Moisseiff (1872–1943)". Public Broadcasting Service. Archived from the original on November 17, 2007. Retrieved November 7, 2007. ^ Billah, K.; Scanlan, R. (1991). "Resonance, Tacoma Narrows Bridge Failure" (PDF). American Journal of Physics. Undergraduate Physics Textbooks. 59 (2): 118–124. doi:10.1119/1.16590. Archived (PDF) from the original on September 19, 2000. ^ "The Point of Fort Point: A Brief History". Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District. Retrieved November 2, 2018. ^ a b c d e "The American Experience:Charles Alton Ellis (1876–1949)". Public Broadcasting Service. Archived from the original on March 27, 2009. Retrieved November 7, 2007. ^ Jackson, Donald C. (1995) "Great American Bridges and Dams" John Wiley and Sons, ISBN 0-471-14385-5 ^ "Bridging the Bay: Bridges That Never Were". UC Berkeley Library. Retrieved February 19, 2007. ^ Johnston, Louis; Williamson, Samuel H. (2023). "What Was the U.S. GDP Then?". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved January 1, 2023. United States Gross Domestic Product deflator figures follow the Measuring Worth series. ^ "72 years ago today, iconic Golden Gate Bridge finished construction ahead of schedule & $1.3 million under budget". May 27, 2009. Retrieved April 10, 2013. ^ "Life On The American Newsfront: Ten Men Fall To Death From Golden Gate Bridge". Life. March 1, 1937. pp. 20–21. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions about the Golden Gate Bridge". Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District. Retrieved November 7, 2007. ^ "Key Dates - Moments & Events | Golden Gate". ^ a b King, John (May 25, 2012). "Golden Gate Bridge's Plaza Flawed but Workable". San Francisco Chronicle. ^ a b Kligman, David (May 25, 2012). "From Sea to Shining Sea: PG&E's Earley Joins Tribute to Golden Gate Bridge". Currents. PG&E. Archived from the original on October 22, 2013. Retrieved April 12, 2013. ^ San Francisco Examiner. May 27, 1982. No. 147, p. 2. Golden Gate Bridge – 45th anniversary of completion. ^ Castaldo, Gaetano (October 24, 2013), Plaque of the major Contributors to the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California, USA, retrieved June 8, 2022 ^ Van Niekerken, Bill (June 13, 2016). "When the Golden Gate Bridge was closed by a violent storm". Retrieved August 2, 2020. ^ "Resisting the Twisting". Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District. Retrieved July 29, 2019. ^ "Bridge Deck Replacement (1982–1986)". Retrieved August 2, 2020. ^ "Bay Bridge fete opens today". Lodi News-Sentinel. (California). United Press. May 27, 1937. p. 1. ^ "Thousands rush to Golden Gate". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. May 28, 1937. p. 1. ^ Tung, Stephen (May 23, 2012). "The Day the Golden Gate Bridge Flattened". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved January 17, 2016. ^ "1 million celebrate a symbol". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. May 25, 1987. p. 1A. ^ "Human gridlock brought Golden Gate Bridge to a standstill". Lodi News-Sentinel. (California). UPI. May 26, 1987. p. 3. ^ Pollalis, Spiro N.; Otto, Caroline (1990). "THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE" (PDF). Harvard Design School. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 11, 2011. Retrieved April 3, 2011. ^ McCarthy, Terrence (May 26, 1987). "Golden Gate Crowd Made Bridge Bend". The New York Times. Retrieved April 3, 2011. ^ Prado, Mark (July 23, 2010). "Golden Gate Bridge officials nix walk for 75th anniversary". Marin Independent Journal. Archived from the original on December 27, 2010. Retrieved April 3, 2011. ^ "Golden Gate Festival :: Golden Gate Bridge 75th Anniversary". Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. Retrieved March 21, 2012. ^ Fowler, Geoffrey A. (May 24, 2012). "A Historian's Long View of Golden Gate Bridge". The Wall Street Journal. pp. A13C. Retrieved August 31, 2013.
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