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DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION

Political and legal delays resulted in nearly a decade between Joseph Strauss' first design proposal for the Golden Gate Bridge -- an unsightly railroad trestle that would have blocked views and sunsets -- and his appointment to serve as chief engineer. His associates on the project included resident engineer Russell Cone, consultants O.H. Ammann and Leon Moisseiff, University of California, Berkeley professor of engineering Charles Derleth, Jr., and retired UC geology professor Andrew C. Lawson.

But it was chief assistant engineer Clifford Paine and architect Irving Morrow who actually deserve credit for the design and construction of the bridge that stands today. Morrow designed the towers with a subtlety of ornamentation and an understanding of height and perspective. He is also responsible for the offset bays and large curving walkways around the towers encouraging Bridge pedestrians to pause and enjoy the view.

Construction of the bridge began on January 5, 1933. Foundations were dug out of the hillsides to hold the deep-set anchorages that would support the concrete pylons. Strong tides and heavy swells hampered construction of the south pier, the keystone of the entire structure, which required excavating in hard rock 65 feet below the surface of the water.

The steel sections of the Bridge's towers were fabricated in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and sent by rail to East Coast seaports where they shipped via the Panama Canal to the McClintic-Marshall Corporation's storage yards in Alameda. From Alameda the steel was taken by barge across the Bay to the Golden Gate construction site. The girders were hoisted by giant cranes and erected by gangs of men working in teams to bond the sections together with rivets and hot steel. 

Strauss chose John A. Roebling and Sons of New Jersey, builders of the Brooklyn Bridge, to spin the cables. Because no derrick could lift cables as heavy as these would be, the Roebling Company spun the cables on site, from anchorages in San Francisco and Marin. Steel saddles provided a seat for the cables (and workers) as they passed over the tower tops. The crews spinning the cables used catwalks to travel from one side of the channel to the other. These catwalks of wire rope and redwood planking were the first structures to span the Golden Gate. Six months later, when the cabling was completed, the roadway was built. The roadway is comprised of poured concrete with copper expansion joints every fifty feet.

 
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Copyright © 1999 UC Berkeley Library
Data owner: R. Brandt
Updated 12/21/99