Location: Golden Gate Strait, San Francisco, California
The Golden Gate Bridge links the city of San Francisco with Marin County to the north. Since the suspension bridge opened in 1937, it has been one of the principal landmarks of both San Francisco and California from around the world.
The concept of bridging the vast Golden Gate Strait was proposed as early as 1872 by railroad entrepreneur Charles Crocker. It was not until 1916, however, that the idea of a bridge was revived by James Wilkins, newspaper editor of the San Francisco Call Bulletin. He began an editorial campaign for a bridge which caught the attention of San Francisco City Engineer Michael M. O'Shaughnessy. O'Shaughnessy in turn began a national inquiry among engineers regarding the feasibility and cost of such a project. The majority of engineers said a bridge could not be built. Some speculated it would cost over $100 million. However, Joseph Baermann Strauss, a designer of nearly 400 bridges, said such a overpass was not only feasible, but could be built for only $25 to $30 million. Strauss submitted his preliminary sketches to O'Shaughnessy with a cost estimate of $27 million on June 28, 1921.
The time was right to span the Gate. Population centers were growing, and traffic congestion at the ferry docks was becoming intolerable. Unfortunately, there was no federal or state funding to build the Golden Gate Bridge because the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, which was being promoted during the same time period, had already received the limited funds available.
On August 11, 1930, the War Department issued its final permit for the construction of a 4200-foot main span with a vertical clearance of 220 feet at mid-span. On August 27, 1930, Strauss submitted final plans to the Golden Gate Bridge District Board.
In November 1932, contracts totaling $23,843,905 were awarded for the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge which commenced on January 5, 1933.
The Bridge was completed and opened to pedestrian traffic on May 27, 1937. The following day it was opened to vehicular traffic. The last of the construction bonds were retired in 1971, with $35 million in principal and nearly $39 million in interest being financed entirely from Bridge tolls.
The most conspicuous precaution was the safety net, suspended under the floor of the Bridge from end to end. During construction, the net saved the lives of nineteen men who became known as the "Half-Way-to-Hell Club."
Until February 17, 1937, there had been only one fatality, setting a new all-time record in a field where one man killed for every million dollars spent had been the norm. On February 17, ten men lost their lives when a section of scaffold carrying twelve men fell through the safety net.