History of the Design and Construction of the Bridge: Bridging the Gate - The Beginning

San Francisco grew rapidly in the early 1900s, but the mile-wide Golden Gate Strait limited access and development to the north. Traveling north to Marin County and the Redwood Empire beyond required a lengthy trip by ferryboat.

In 1923, popular support to build a bridge across the strait united behind the slogan “Bridge the Gate.” Bridge supporters convinced the California state legislature to create a special district, the Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District, as the entity to finance, build, and operate such a bridge. In 1928, the District was incorporated and included the counties of San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, Del Norte, and parts of Napa and Mendocino.

A bridge over the Golden Gate Strait was the ambition of Joseph B. Strauss, who overcame many obstacles to secure official approvals and win public support. Strauss faced strong opposition from ferry operators, conservationists, and even some in the engineering community. He assembled and directed an outstanding team of engineers, architects, geologists, and construction workers to design and build a bridge that set a world record for longest span (the distance spanned between the towers) and united a growing metropolis.

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Chief Engineer Strauss reviews plans with some of the key design consultants

Image courtesy of the San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library


In November 1930, despite the ongoing hardships of the Great Depression, district voters approved $35 million in bonds.


The Golden Gate Strait, 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) wise, as it was before (shown above) and after the Bridge was built. Marin County is at left and San Francisco is at right.

   
Bridging the Gate - The Dead Hand of Greed The Dead Hand of Greed from the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District - A political cartoon in the October 17, 1930 Sausalito, California Sausalito News. It depicts the owners of the ferries (whose business would be hurt by a bridge) in a negative light.
   
Bridging the Gate - Tolls Not Taxes Tolls Not Taxes Will Pay for the Golden Gate Bridge from the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District - An ad in the November 1, 1930 Ukiah, California Dispatch-Democrat advocating passage of the bond measure in the November 4, 1930 election.
   
Bridging the Gate - Bay Cities Connected Bay Cities to Be Connected by Big Spans from the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District - An excerpt of an August 13, 1930 Sacramento Union article on the federal government's approval of the plans for the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges.
   
Bridging the Gate - Bond One of the original bonds issued to finance the Bridge from the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District - The issuance of bonds followed the successful election of November 4, 1930 and dismissal of subsequent legal challenges.
   
Bridging the Gate - Logo 1933 Bridge District logo 1933 from the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District - The Bridge District's logo changed over the years.
   

Explore this Topic Further

Early History of Golden Gate Bridge

Concept for a Bridge from the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District (grade 3 to adult)
This provides a brief overview of the early work of San Francisco City Engineer Michael M. O’Shaughnessy in developing a proposal for the Bridge.

Urban Planning in the San Francisco Bay Area from PBS American Experience (grade 3 to adult)
The rise in popularity of the automobile, the expanding population of San Francisco, the beaches and other attractions to the north, and the limitations of the ferry system all contributed to the proposal to build a bridge across the Golden Gate.

Overview of Early Bridge History from PBS American Experience (grade 3 to adult)
This summary of the documentary Golden Gate Bridge by PBS American Experience provides a brief overview of Joseph Strauss’s strategies in gaining support for the bridge and in assembling his design team.

Formation of the Bridge District from the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District (GGBHTD) (grade 3 to adult)
This short history of the six years of battles in the formation of the Bridge District discusses the people and governmental organizations that were instrumental in creating and pushing for this controversial idea.

Opposition to the Bridge from PBS American Experience (grade 3 to adult)
Those opposed to the building the Bridge expressed a multitude of concerns, arguing that it was too costly, too risky, too environmentally harmful, and too ugly.

San Francisco Examiner article in favor of the Bridge from PBS American Experience (grade 3 to adult)
This March 26, 1923 article entitled "Span Golden Gate!" Progress Demands Conservatives Wail at "Blasphemous" Idea by San Francisco Examiner writer Annie Laurie supports the concept of a bridge across the Golden Gate strait.

Golden Gate Bridge Bonds from the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District (grade 3 to adult)
Find out about the history of financing the Bridge by issuing bonds, including public opposition, legal battles, and when the bonds were paid off.

A. P. Giannini Biography from PBS American Experience (grade 3 to adult)
Amadeo Peter Giannini, founder of the Bank of America, played an instrumental role in the success of the bond sales to fund the Bridge.

The Groundbreaking Celebration from the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District (grade 3 to adult)
Construction began on January 5, 1933 while the official groundbreaking ceremony was held at Crissy field on February 29, 1933. The celebration included prayers, music, speakers, U.S. Navy planes flying by, marching bands and floats, and an 80 foot model of the Bridge. Mayor Rossi used a golden spade to turn the first spadeful of earth.

Overview of Golden Gate Bridge History

Key Dates in Bridge History from Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District (all ages)
This timeline chronicles important events in Golden Gate Bridge history from 1846, when Captain John Fremont declared California independent from Mexico, to the present day when two white-tailed deer stopped all traffic on the Bridge as they ran from San Francisco to Marin County.

Construction Timeline from Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District (all ages)
This provides a summary of the key dates in the design and construction of the Bridge from December 1932 to April 1937

Major Projects on the Golden Gate Bridge from Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District (all ages)
This web page summarizes the Bridge improvement projects between 1953 and 2008.

Golden Gate Bridge Chronology from PBS American Experience (all ages)
This timeline chronicles important events in the history of the Golden Gate Bridge from 1849 until 1994 when it was declared a Wonder of the Modern world by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Recent Documentaries about the Golden Gate Bridge (all ages)
The Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District has compiled a list of documentaries about the Golden Gate Bridge.