The Golden Gate Bridge at 75

by Laurie Thompson, April 17, 2012

Anne T. Kent California Room Collection

As we near the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, we invite you to peruse some of our historical photographs documenting the bridge’s construction on our website: Golden Gate Bridge Photo Album.

Looking towards Marin County from Fort Point in San Francisco, as the floor of the Golden Gate Bridge takes shape, October, 1936. Anne T. Kent California Room, Marin County Free Library

We also invite you to join us on May 17 at 12 noon for an illustrated lecture by author and historian John A. Martini on the origin, design and history of the Golden Gate Bridge. Mr. Martini’s talk will be held in Room 330 of the Marin County Civic Center on the 3rd floor of the Administration Building, just below the Library. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Below is a brief history of the Bridge, including details about its impact on Marin County:

The gateway to the San Francisco Bay was baptized Chrysopylae, or “Golden Gate” by explorer John Charles Fremont in 1846 because Fremont felt the wide entrance to the Bay would be advantageous for commerce.

Before the advent of the Golden Gate Bridge, people relied on ferries to travel between San Francisco and Marin. As early as 1847 a ferry was established to bring spring water from Sausalito to San Francisco. By 1868 there was regular ferry service between the two counties as land speculators in Marin realized their property values would increase if transportation were readily available.

Marin County leaders, by and large, were strong and early supporters of the bridge. They knew that the spanning of the Golden Gate would spur development in their communities.

Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

It is said that a 1916 article by San Francisco reporter, James H. Wilkins, published in the Bulletin, was the first to propose a suspension bridge from San Francisco to Marin. Shortly after publication of this article, the Marin County Board of Supervisors went on record advocating looking into the feasibility of such a bridge. It took many years, however, for the dream to become a reality.

In 1919 the visionary engineer, Joseph B. Strauss, came to San Francisco to inspect the bridge site. He was convinced he could build a bridge spanning the Golden Gate. During the 1920s Strauss lobbied Marin and other North Bay County leaders to garner support for his plan. In 1923, under the leadership of Frank Pierce Doyle, the “Bridging the Golden Gate Association” was formed. That same year, the Coombs Bill, authorizing the organization of a special Golden Gate Bridge & Highway District, was signed into law. During the next decade, six counties (including Marin) gained enough support from their constituents to form the Bridge District.

In 1930 Strauss submitted his final design plan to the Golden Gate Bridge directors. One element of the plan which was never implemented was glass elevators intended to carry sight-seers up the bridge’s two towers. In November 1930, a major hurdle was overcome; six Northern California counties, including Marin and San Francisco, voted in favor of a $35 million bond measure to finance the construction of the bridge. To celebrate this important victory, every store in Marin County closed at 3 p.m. on November 12, so that the entire community could attend a football game in San Rafael and watch an air circus. The evening culminated with a parade, illuminated floats and fireworks.

Construction of the floor system of the Golden Gate Bridge, looking north towards Marin County, October, 1936. Anne T. Kent California Room Collection.

Golden Gate Bridge construction commenced on January 5, 1933 and lasted four and a half years. The resulting structure, renowned for the simplicity and elegance of its design, has become emblematic of the San Francisco Bay Area and has achieved fame worldwide.

Originally published at



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Anne T. Kent California Room

Anne T. Kent California Room

The official Medium account of the archive of Marin County history & culture at the Marin County Free Library