January 5, 1933 – Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge begins

Having been declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most recognizable landmarks in San Francisco, California, and throughout the United States. Construction on the now iconic bridge began on this day in 1933, but by then, it was a much needed addition to the growing city. 

Golden Gate with Fort Point in foreground, c. 1891

Starting in the 1820s, San Francisco was connected to what is now Marin County by a ferry boat that crossed San Francisco Bay. As SF grew into the 20th century it became apparent that a bridge across the Golden Gate, the narrow strait where San Francisco Bay opened into the Pacific Ocean, would be necessary to more efficiently connect the city to surrounding communities. It was a feat that many thought impractical, if not impossible, due to the difficult terrain and length that the bridge would need to span, resulting in a bridge that could cost upwards of $100 million ($2 billion in today’s dollars), according to engineers in the 1910s.

Engineer Joseph Strauss was up for the challenge. In response to a 1916 article in the San Francisco Bulletin that asked if the bridge could be built for less, Strauss, who had built some 400 drawbridges at the time and designed a 55 mile bridge across the Bering Strait for his thesis project, said it could. He provided initial drawings for the bridge, saying it could be done for just $17 million. Local authorities were shocked, if not amused with the response, but allowed him to pursue the feat. Strauss eventually raised the budget to just more than $38 million, which still pleased the folks at City Hall. They greenlit construction. 

San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge

At a length of 1.7 miles, the Golden Gate Bridge was completed ahead of schedule and under budget. It opened on May 27, 1937, and more than 200,000 people walked or skated across the bridge in celebration. Today the bridge carries approximately 112,000 vehicles across the Golden Gate Strait on U.S. Route 101/California State Route 1 every day.

Cover: Golden Gate Bridge construction as seen from Baker Beach, via TIME.

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