Golden Gate Bridge

Gate To Greatness

The story of how the Golden Gate Bridge came to be 

By: Matt Levy

Gate to Greatness
Copyright © 2015 Matthew Levy. All rights reserved.
First paperback edition printed 2014 in the United States
A catalogue record for this book is available from the U.S.
ISBN 274-0-097641-95-3
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I dedicate this book to all the daily commuters, tourists and bridge lovers who walk across the Golden Gate Bridge

The story of how the Golden Gate Bridge came to be

Gate to greatness

By: Matt Levy

Joseph Strauss

Structual Engineer


       For years the only means of travel across the foggy and windy San Francisco Bay were by ferry.  This caused a huge problem for the growing city of San Francisco.  Something had to be done.

In 1917 a man by the name of Joseph P. Strauss was hired to tackle this terrifying task.  Strauss was born on January 9, 1870 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  He had many other experiences with bridges having built over four hundred others.  With the combination of fog, earthquakes and up to sixty mile per hour winds this would be the hardest bridge for him to build.  Joseph’s first design an estimated seventeen  million dollar construction was a hybrid cantilever-suspension design or a type of suspension bridge.  He proposed the original on June 18, 1921.  The final design would be a Suspension/Truss Arch.  

There were then many revisions and corrections to this original design.  A one man team was not enough to solve this so he had to hire three other men to help him out.  Joseph Strauss hired Charles Ellis in 1921,  Irving Morrow 1930 and later Leon Moisseiff.  It took two years of financing and and building decisions before they could finally start.  In what felt like decades of waiting they started construction in 1933.  

Strauss designed a brilliant idea to save the lives of construction workers on the bridge.  He would attach a net so that if they fell, the would not drown.  There was an estimated one death per one million dollars.  Because this was a thirty-five million dollar bridge there were a projected thirty five fatalities.  Even though the net cost one-hundred thirty thousand dollars they saved nineteen lives.  Eleven men did die building this icon landmark.  The Golden Gate Bridge was finished on May 27, 1937.  At the opening ceremony Strauss read one of his own poems called The Mighty Task is Done.  Strauss had a significant effect on the Golden Gate Bridge project.


John C. Fremont



It was a warm day in 1846 at Sutter’s fort when Captain John C. Frémont declared California’s independence from Mexico.  His army had beads of sweat running down their foreheads,  when they rebelled against Mexico.  Fremont was born on January 21, 1813.  He grew up in Savanna, Georgia.

While exploring California, he said at the mouth of the bay "Chrysopylae or Golden Gate”.  Later in his 1886 memoirs he said it english "I named it GOLDEN GATE."  Believe it or not the name does not refer to the gold rush.  Fremont named it after Istanbul’s Golden Horn, two years before gold was discovered in California.  Frémont was an American military officer, explorer and a politician.

When Frémont entered California in 1849, he was informed by Mexicans that gold had been discovered.  Thomas Larkin had purchased Frémont seventy square miles of land to live on once he got there.


The Golden Gate bridge during construction

Michael M. O'shaughnessy


June 1928

O’Shaughnessy was born  May 28, 1864,in the  Republic of Ireland.  He attended three different colleges including the University College in Cork, the Galway University College and graduated from the Royal University of Ireland in 1884 in Engineering.  Michael M. O’Shaughnessy was the first to propose the idea of the bridge in 1917.  Then he hired Joseph Strauss as the Chief engineer.  

O’Shaughnessy released this fantastic design to the public in December 1922.  The public would have to pay for this out of taxes and bonds, so O’Shaughnessy proposed a bond measure for the November 1922 election. The last bond was retired in 1926 which was for thirty-five million dollars.  


Irving Morrow



Irving Morrow was born in 1884.  Morrow graduated from the University of California, Berkeley architecture program in 1906.  Strauss needed the extra help so he hired Morrow in 1930.  

He is most famous for choosing the International Orange color.  The Army wanted it to be painted yellow and black stripes so that it would be easy for ships to see.  Of course many people were against this because it would take away from the natural beauty of the Bay area.  The International Orange paint was supposed to be a temporary coat.  When they painted it onto the bridge it perfectly contrasted with the blue of the sky and bay, but also with Marin country and the city colors.


Jose Francisco Ortega born in 1734, Celaya, Mexico would eventually be an explorer.  He was a spanish soldier.  

In 1769 Ortega was the chief scout for the Portola expedition. it was an expedition that would land and explore California.  He would be one of the first ones, for Captain Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo (1542) and Sir Francis Drake (1579) had just missed the bay due to fog.  The first recorded observation of the strait occurred almost two hundred years later than the earliest European attempts, in 1769 when Sgt. José Francisco Ortega, the leader of an exploration sent north along the peninsula of what is now San Francisco, reported that he could proceed no further because of the strait.  


Joshua Norton



My birth name is Joshua A. Norton.   I was raised jewish.  I was born in Scotland on February 4, 1819. Most people know very little about my upbringing becaus ei rarly speak of it.  I finally arrived in the bay of San Francisco in December, 1849.

The present year is 1869 and it’s been 16 years since I had an upwards of two-hundred fifty thousand dollars.  At first I was a wealthy real estates-men.  I attempted to secure the rice market.  I went flat broke when the price of the rice I secured fell much below what I purchased it for.  The word on the street is that I don’t have my wits about me.   

In 1859 I proclaimed  myself to be Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. I recently declared that there should be a bridge connecting San Francisco and Marin country.  I am the first to do so and the people of my time don’t believe me. “Now, therefore we, Norton I, Dei Gracia, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, do order and direct . . . that a suspension bridge be constructed from the improvements lately ordered by our royal decree at Oakland Point…”.

This is an old map of San Francisco 

This was a discriptive poem writtin by Evelyn Simms about the Golden Gate Bridge


"They have builded magnificent bridges where the nation's highways go;

O'er perilous mountain ridges and where great rivers flow.

Wherever a link was needed between the new and the known

They have left their marks of Progress, in iron and steel and stone.

There was never a land too distant nor ever a way too wide,

But some man's mind, insistent, reached out to the other side.

They cleared the way, these heroes, for the march of future years.

The march of Civilization-and they were its Pioneers."


The Mighty Task is Done

This is a poem written and recited by Joseph Strauss in May 1937

"At last the mighty task is done;

Resplendent in the western sun

The Bridge looms mountain high;

Its titan piers grip ocean floor,

Its great steel arms link shore with shore,

Its towers pierce the sky.

On its broad decks in rightful pride,

The world in swift parade shall ride,

Throughout all time to be;

Beneath, fleet ships from every port,

Vast landlocked bay, historic fort,

And dwarfing all--the sea.

To north, the Redwood Empire's gates;

'To south, a happy playground waits,

in Rapturous appeal;

Here nature, free since time began,

Yields to the restless moods of man,

Accepts his bonds of steel.

Launched midst a thousand hopes and fears,

Damned by a thousand hostile sneers,

Yet ne'er its course was stayed,

But ask of those who met the foe

Who stood alone when faith was low,

Ask them the price they paid.

Ask of the steel, each strut and wire,

Ask of the searching, purging fire,

That marked their natal hour;

Ask of the mind, the hand, the heart,

Ask of each single, stalwart part,

What gave it force and power.

An Honored cause and nobly fought

And that which they so bravely wrought,

Now glorifies their deed,

No selfish urge shall stain its life,

Nor envy, greed, intrigue, nor strife,

Nor false, ignoble creed.

High overhead its lights shall gleam,

Far, far below life's restless stream,

Unceasingly shall flow;

For this was spun its lithe fine form,

To fear not war, nor time, nor storm,

For Fate had meant it so"




Total length of Bridge is 1.7 miles (8,981 ft)


Width of Bridge is 90 ft 


Width of roadway between curbs is 62 ft



Width of sidewalk is 10 ft


Clearance water is 220 ft



distance between towers 4,200 ft


Height of tower above water 746 ft


ƒ Height of tower above roadway 500 ft


Weight of both main towers 44,000 tons


It requires 10,000 gallons of paint a year to keep it orange


If you would like to learn more about the Golden Gate Bridge visit these websites.

More Information

For good views of the bridge go to...


  • Hyde Street Pier is a great spot for seeing the Golden Gate Bridge from within the city. This pieris located close to Ghirardelli Square. Look west from the end of this pier to see the bridge.


  • Marin Headlands. For a really unique view of the Golden Gate Bridge, drive across the bridge and turn left into the Marin . This is a very popular hiking area. From the parking lot, you can walk to a lookout where you can get a really terrific close-up view of the bridge itself. You can also see the city skyline behind the bridge.






These were the first people to cross the brand new Golden Gate Bridge

My name is Matt levy.  I am a sixth grader in a small suburban town.  I enjoy playing lots of sports like baseball, football, swimming and running.  I chose this topic because ever since my family went to San Franciso I had been fasinated by the bridge.  I thought that it would have an interesting story about how it was built and who built it.  

About the Author

"This bridge needs neither praise, eulogy nor encomium. It speaks for itself. We who have labored long are grateful. What Nature rent asunder long ago, man has joined today." - J. Strauss on Opening Day, 1937

"To this Gate I give the name of 'Chrysopylae,' or Golden Gate, for the same reason that the harbor of Byzantium was called 'Chrysoceras,' or Golden Horn." - Capt. John C. Fremont, 1846

"The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the greatest monuments of all time. ... What has been thus played up in form should not be let down in color." - Irving Morrow, consulting architect

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the world's most recignized landmarks.  It's color, shape and size has bewildered and amazed many.  If the bridge can fasinate all, imagine how interesting the story of how it was buit is.  This is the story of how many people came together to build one of the greatest bridges in the world.

The story of how the Golden Gate Bridge came to be 

Gate To Greatness

By: Matt Levy