Building the iconic Golden Gate Bridge in rare photographs, 1930s

The Golden Gate Bridge is unquestionably an American symbol, whose symbolism rivals that of the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, a distinctively American feature through its representation of optimism.

Its visual relationship of form and nature, purpose and design, does not mark a boundary, but a symbol of Western opportunities and Pacific possibilities. Here the American values ​​of hope, possibility and success blend with the future, represented by the sea stretching beyond the bridge.

The Pacific Ocean brings severe storms, rough waters and strong winds to the Golden Gate. Additionally, the area is an earthquake zone. By the early 1900s, scientists had determined that rigid bridges could break and collapse under such conditions.

Josef Strauss and two of his engineering consultants, Charles Ellis and Léon Moisif, determined that a suspension bridge would be best suited for the Golden Gate.

In the 1930s, when work began on the Golden Gate Bridge, suspension bridges were becoming more common. In earlier bridge designs, the main supports were usually under the road, holding it in place.

In a suspension bridge the road is suspended or hung from strong wire cables. The cables are flexible, allowing the bridge to expand and contract in hot and cold weather and swing in strong winds without breaking.

In January 1933 the project got underway as workers dug rocks and pits to anchor the bridge. Anchors made of thick cement hold the ends of the giant cables on opposite sides, "anchoring" the bridge to the ground. Finished a month later, the first task was much simpler than the monumental steps that were put forward.

The Golden Gate Bridge broke new ground in the history of bridge design. Never before had a bridge over the sea entrance been attempted, and the construction project was dangerous, expensive and time-consuming. By June 1933 workers easily built the concrete northern pier, the cement pillar on which the north tower rests.

However, the South Ghat was to be built 100 feet (30.5 m) below the surface waters of the rough Pacific Ocean. This required diving work and the construction of a large protective concrete barrier, called a fender, around the pier. It took about a year and a half to complete the Dakshin Ghat.

Meanwhile, the two towers of the bridge supported by piers were constructed from pieces of prefabricated steel. For two years, workers strung together pieces of steel from top to bottom, until the structures reached the sky. The workers and their foremen took more precautions as they went up.

Hard hats were required for all the work, and a huge safety net was installed under the bridge. In bridge construction at the time, typically one life was lost for every $1 million spent. While 10 workers died after the Golden Gate Bridge fell from wet, slippery steel, the net saved 19 others.

Since its opening, the bridge has been thoroughly used and admired. Eighteen hundred cars and 2,100 pedestrians passed in its first hour of operation, and by midnight on the opening day, an estimated 25,000 cars and 19,350 pedestrians had paid their toll (fifty cents per car, five cents per pedestrian). had paid. By the end of its first financial year, it had crossed 3,326,521 vehicles. By the end of 1970, the annual number was 33 million.

With such numbers, it should come as no surprise that by July 1971 the bridge had been paid for (the cost was $35 million). And it's no surprise that in 1994, the American Society of Civil Engineers named the bridge as one of the Seven Wonders. Of the United States, it was built in Pennsylvania, for a bridge designed in Chicago, and shipped via the Panama Canal.

The popularity and structure of the bridge is balanced by its continuous maintenance. Because it stands just 12 miles east of the San Andreas Fault and severe weather is a constant threat, the need to upgrade and retrofit the bridge is acute.

Remarkably, the bridge has already withstood high winds, storms and earthquakes, such as the devastating 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

The bridge deck's ability to move 7 feet in either direction vertically or 12 feet horizontally is a mystery. The second is that the bridge is made up of six elements (Approach, Piers, Towers, Roadway, Center Span and Cable), not just one so that each leads individually. But uniting all these factors is the bridge's artistic merger with nature, maintaining its integrity without sacrificing beauty.

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