By Phin Upham
Prior to the Golden Gate Bridge, getting into Marin County was not very practical. One had to take a ferry across that section of the water. Even though service was scheduled regularly since 1820, it wasn’t an easy commute to say the least. Some might argue that today’s Golden Gate isn’t much easier with all the traffic, but it’s certainly a lot more practical.
For years, various proposals vied unsuccessfully for the chance to build across that expanse. Until 1916, these ideas mostly didn’t take hold. Then, an engineering student named James Wilkins wrote an article describing his design. The city estimated those costs to be too high, but they decided to turn it into a challenge to find architects to see if anyone could build it for less.
Joseph Strauss answered the call. He’d previously built a railroad bridge across the Bering Strait, and had compelted drawings for some 400 bridges since creating that one. Strauss got the contract, on condition that local authorities would have full review over it.
The construction was highly politicized, with Unions fighting hard for Union Worker involvement in the project. The Southern Pacific Railroad, which was one of the most powerful business groups at the time, also heavily opposed the deal. The bridge stood in direct competition of their rail lines, and they would not give up that passageway without a fight.
The turning point came when the Secretary of War and members from the newly founded auto industry began to speak up on behalf of creating the bridge. Construction began in January of 1933 and ended April of 1937.