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Spanning History - Golden Gate Bridge

Before 1937, travel to the north of San Francisco Bay was done by boat. The Sausalito Land and Ferry Company, and later the Golden Gate Ferry Company, brought people and eventually automobiles across the bay, an increasingly daunting task as the region grew. While the idea of spanning the “Golden Gate Strait” had long been contemplated, it was considered too technically difficult and costly.

In 1916, James H. Wilkins, a structural engineer and newspaper editor for the San Francisco Call-Bulletin, made a proposal for a bridge, prompting San Francisco City Engineer Michael M. O’Shaughnessy to consult with engineers around the nation to test the idea. Chicago bridge engineer Joseph Strauss came forward with a vision that he claimed was technically and financially possible, but authorities required him to consult with other engineers and designers to finalize a plan. Strauss and engineer Charles A. Ellis are credited with the bridge’s design. Consulting architect Irving F. Morrow added the Art Deco "look."
The bridge idea overcame obstacles from the military, unions, and the powerful Southern Pacific Railroad on its way to construction. San Francisco and five counties to the north partnered on paying for the structure, a task made all the more difficult with the Great Depression which began with the 1929 stock market crash. After initial opposition, the Department of War granted right-of-way permits through the Presidio, with the stipulation that the approach to the bridge not compromise Army operations. Thus, a roadway with a “high viaduct” was constructed through the Presidio that allowed bridge traffic to cross over Lincoln Boulevard and Crissy Field Avenue without interfering with traffic on those roads. This western approach to the Golden Gate Bridge was named Doyle Drive in honor of Frank Pierce Doyle, a Santa Rosa businessman and civic leader who lead the effort to pass a $35 million bond measure that financed the bridge. The bridge was funded when the then locally-owned Bank of America bought the bonds despite the economic hard times. Today, aging Doyle Drive is being rebuilt as the Presidio Parkway.
Construction began in 1933 and the Golden Gate Bridge opened on May 27, 1937, with a week’s worth of festivities. A celebration marking the 75th anniversary of the span is planned for May 2012.
A complete history of Golden Gate Bridge construction is available on the Golden Gate Bridge District website.
Construction of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge spanning to the east was completed at nearly the same time.
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