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Did You Know… The Golden Gate Bridge

December 12th, 2011

The Golden Gate Bridge was built by Joseph B. Strauss, a specialist in steel-bridge design who had built 400 bridges all over the world | Photo credit: SFCVB/Regis Lefebure

Photo credit: San Francisco Travel/Regis Lefebure

The story behind one of the San Francisco, California’s most international recognized symbols – The Golden Gate Bridge – is as complicated as the mechanics involved in its creation.

Joseph Strauss, an “ambitious but dreamy engineer and poet” was chief engineer in charge of overall design and construction of the bridge, however, he did not have enough experience or understanding of cable-suspension designs, and these responsibilities were left to other experts. His initial proposal was deemed unaceptable from a visual standpoint, and the final, graceful design was conceived and championed by Manhattan Bridge designer Leon Moisseiff.

Senior engineer Charles Alton Ellis collaborated remotely with Moisseiff. Ellis provided much of the technical and theoretical work that built the bridge. He was fired by Strauss in 1931 for wasting too much money sending telegrams back and forth to Moiseiff, and replaced with Clifford Paine. Ellis, however, was obsessed with the project and, unable to find other employment, continued to work 70 hours per week on an unpaid basis, turning in ten volumes of hand calculations.

Unfortunately, Strauss was able to downplay his colleagues’ contributions to the project (who, despite receiving little recognition or compensation, were largely responsible for the final incarnation of the bridge) and succeeded in having himself credited as the person most responsible for the design and vision of the bridge. It was not until much later we learned of the contributions of the others, and in May 2007, the Golden Gate Bridge district issued a formal report on 70 years of stewardship of the famous bridge and gave Ellis credit for his part in the project.

Interesting Facts

  • The total length of the Golden Gate Bridges comes in at just under 9 000 feet (8,981 ft to be exact).
  • When construction was completed in 1937, it was considered to have the longest suspension bridge main span in the world, at 4,200 feet. This has been surpassed by either other bridges since 1964, but it still claims the second longest main span in the US, after the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York City.
  • The bridge was declared one of the modern Wonders of the World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
  • The official orange vermilion color of the bridge, called International Orange, was originally used as a sealant. Many locals persuaded Morrow to paint the bridge a vibrant color in favour of the standard silver and grey. The US Navy had wanted it to be painted black with yellow stripes to ensure visibility by passing ships.

Want to find out more about what San Francisco has on offer? Check out our article, San Francisco – A One and Only Experience

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