Throwback Thursday: Golden Gate Bridge "Then and Now" celebrates 86th birthday

GG Bridge
Mark Prado

The Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District is celebrating the 86th anniversary of the span with an online "now and then" retrospective: and on Instagram @goldengatebridgedistrict.

Backed by a $35-million bond issue the bridge came in under budget by $1.3 million and opened May 27, 1937. It provided an easy way for the people of San Francisco and parts south to get to Marin County and the Redwood Empire. The North Bay boomed. Three years after completion of the bridge, Marin County’s population was roughly 52,900. By 1950, Marin had grown to 85,600, and by 1960 to 146,800. In 1970, the population was 206,000.

The idea of spanning the Golden Gate took root in 1916, although the idea had been considered earlier, according to an account from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration site. An ex-engineering student, James Wilkins, was working as a journalist with the San Francisco Bulletin when he kicked off the idea that year by calling for a suspension bridge with a center span of 3,000 feet, nearly twice the length of any in existence.

San Francisco's city engineer, Michael M. O'Shaughnessy, thought the bridge would cost up to $100 million, but he began asking bridge engineers whether they could do it for less. Joseph Strauss, a Cincinnati-born Chicagoan, knew he could.

In the wake of The Depression, the bridge district had few ways to fund the span and convinced voters to authorize bond financing. But the district found that it could not sell the bonds in Depression-era markets. Strauss approached San Francisco's A. P. Giannini, founder of the Bank of America, for help. Convinced that the Bay Area needed the bridge, Giannini told Strauss, "We will take the bonds."

Upon its completion, Poet Henry May called the span, "a curve of soaring steel, graceful and confident over infinity." MTC and Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District are transportation partners.

Submit your comment

In order to receive a reply to your comment, please provide an email address.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.