January 5, 1933: Construction Begins on the Golden Gate Bridge

Artist Ray Strong piece captures the early days of the bridge's construction

smithsonian.com
Golden Gate Bridge, 1934 by Ray Strong, Photograph courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum




Today marks the 77th anniversary of the momentous occasion when construction began on San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. All summer long, artist Ray Strong's depiction of the early days of the bridge's construction hung in the Smithsonian American Art Museum (sadly, the exhibition closed this past Sunday), but in honor of the day, we retrieved the image for our lucky readers.



According to the museum, the panoramic view is an homage to the "ambitious feat of engineering required to span the mouth of San Francisco Bay."  The view is from the city side looking into the hills of Marin County and in the distance the first of its two bright orange towers rises from the chill waters. The Golden Gate was the largest suspension bridge in the United States, stretching 1.7 miles, until it was surpassed in 1964 with the construction of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge over New York Bay between Brooklyn and Staten Island.



In Strong's painting, the figures of two workers are dwarfed by massive concrete anchorages in the foreground. These would eventually support the cables for the deck of the bridge. The bridge with its 746-foot tall towers cleared the water by 220 feet allowing the busy shipping lanes to remain open and unobstructed, while motorists—today, some 40 million annually—blythly commute overhead.



Strong's intense colors and active brushwork, according to the museum, convey "an infectious optimism," despite the pains and strains of the Depression era. In fact, for a time, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, selected Strong's painting to hang in the White House.
Tags
About Beth Py-Lieberman
Beth Py-Lieberman

Beth Py-Lieberman is the museums editor, covering exhibitions, events and happenings at the Smithsonian Institution. She has been a member of the Smithsonian team for more than two decades.

Read more from this author |

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus