The Golden Gate Bridge is a well-recognized landmark in the United States. Planning for the Golden Gate Bridge began in 1916, but the design underwent many changes before construction finally started in 1933. The Golden Gate Bridge was completed in 1937 and opened to pedestrians (it was opened to cars one year later). Its detailed Art Deco styling, International Orange color, extraordinary illumination, and the arch over the Historic Fort Point all set the Golden Gate Bridge apart from all other suspension spans of the era as an architectural masterpiece. Because the Golden Gate Bridge is the first sight for many people arriving in the United States by ship, it is sometimes called the “Statue of Liberty” for the West Coast. The bridge itself connects the city of San Francisco with Marin County on the other side of the Strait. The most photographed structure in the United States, it is an engineering marvel, a thing of beauty and a joy to behold. It is one of the tallest bridges in the world.
The idea for a bridge across the strait had been around for many years, due in part to the fact that San Francisco suffered from its isolated location. The only other practical way to get across the San Francisco Bay was to take a ferry. Planning for the Golden Gate Bridge began in 1916, but the design underwent many changes before construction finally started in 1933.
Joseph Strauss was the chief engineer in charge of the bridge project. However, he had little experience with the construction of suspension bridges. For this reason, other engineers, architects, and designers made vital contributions to the design and construction of the bridge. For example, the bridge owes its art deco style and distinctive orange color (“international orange”) to the architects Irving and Gertrude Morrow. Charles Alton Ellis, an expert on structural design, was the main engineer on the project, and did much of the technical work necessary to build the bridge.
The construction of the bridge finally began in 1933. The construction work set new standards for safety – workers were among the first required to wear hard hats, and an innovative safety net saved the lives of nineteen men while the bridge was built. Approximately eleven men were killed during the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge. Ten of them died when the safety net failed from the stress of the scaffold. The beginning stages of construction began at a time when the United States was in an economic crisis, the Great Depression. Employment and financial stability was hard to come by and the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge helped not only to bridge the gap between Marin County and San Francisco, but helped to feed a family and stay afloat. By the time that the bridge was finished it was competed in less time than expected and under budget, sitting at $35 million.
Today, the Golden Gate Bridge has a main span of 4,200 feet (almost a mile) and a total length of 8,981 feet, or about 1.7 miles, making it one of the longest bridges in the world (it was the longest until 1964). The bridge is 90 feet wide, and its span is 220 feet above the water. The towers supporting the huge cables rise 746 feet above the waters of the Golden Gate Strait, making them 191 feet taller than the Washington Monument. Each steel cable is 7,650 feet long and has a diameter of 36 inches. About 40 million automobiles cross the bridge every year: proof that the bridge serves a vital function.
The bridge is owned, operated and maintained by The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District as a tool facility. The structure has provided excellent service over its more than half century history because the District has recognized the importance of maintaining the bridge’s structural integrity.