Marin County had watched as San Francisco grew into a world-class city just across the narrow Golden Gate Strait. While the residents of Marin were never interested in the kind of growth that had shaped San Francisco, many were eager for the economic development better transportation between the county and the big city would bring. While regular ferry service between San Francisco and Sausalito would begin in 1868, the dream of a bridge wouldn’t be realized until 1937.
The Impossible Bridge
While many officials in Marin County and San Francisco desperately wanted a bridge across the bay, for several years the conventional wisdom was that the span would be impossible to build. But, in 1919 after visiting the future site of the bridge, Joseph B. Strauss was convinced he could design a bridge that could be built to link the two ends of the bay.
It took over ten years of lobbying and politicking, but in 1930 six counties, including Marin, agreed to form a bridge district and passed a bond to pay for the $37 million construction costs.
The decision to build the bridge was such a big deal in Marin County that all stores closed at 3pm on November 12th and everyone was invited to a football game in San Rafael and watches an air circus.
The Bridge and the Depression
Like most of the country, Marin was still suffering form high unemployment and a host of other economic problems as a result of the Great Depression. Building the bridge was dangerous work, but men were lined up and ready to work, even though working meant being as high as 700 feet above the water.
One early worker remembered the pressure to always keep moving because a supervisor was ready to fire you on the spot and replace you with one those eagerly waiting to work on the bridge.
Despite the danger and the tough economic conditions, the Golden Gate Bridge was opened to traffic in 1937. The once impossible bridge had been completed and its unique design would make it arguable the most famous bridge in the world. The day the bridge opened to pedestrians some 200,000 people went across the bridge.
The bridge did prove to be an economic boon to those counties north of San Francisco. Property values rose as workers moved across the bay to save money and escape the city.
It is now impossible to imagine Marin County without the bridge. The Golden Gate still brings people to Marin looking to escape the city and property values are still rising.