Exhibit Area 1
(Plaza area)
Welcome Sign [main directory]
How the Bridge Spans the Golden Gate
Bridge Aesthetics - Art Deco on a Grand Scale
Tall and Strong - The Bridge Towers
Steel, Fog, Salt, Rust, and Paint

Exhibit Area 2
(near flagpole)
How the Bridge Vibrates

Exhibit Area 3
(West side of Bridge near underpass)
Historic Preservation: Lattice Strut Retrofit
Historic Preservation: Isolator Seismic Retrofit

Exhibit Area 4
(inside Battery area)
History: Design and Construction of the Bridge
Suspension Cable Tension vs. Tower Height
Battery Lancaster - Defending the Golden Gate

Exhibit Area 5
(along bike path to lower parking lot)
Bridge Deck Aerodynamics
Bridge Deck Torsional Resistance Retrofit
Wind Speed and Wind Pressure

Exhibit Area 6
(near Pavillion)
LIFETILES: animated construction of the Bridge
Braille / Tactile Model of the Bridge

Project Partners

Golden Gate Bridge,
Highway and Transporation District


Consortium of Universities for Research
in Earthquake Engineering

Main Menu : Exhibit Area 4

History of the Design and Construction of the Bridge


Bridge construction began in 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression. The unemployment rate was 25 percent, and jobs were much sought after. With the exception of highly specialized jobs, the Bridge was built by local labor. Besides the pay, the men working on the Bridge had a special incentive. They knew they were building more than just another bridge: this was going to be one of the greatest works of modern engineering.

The weather was often cold, windy, and foggy. Work had to go on inside cramped spaces. Climbing up and walking high atop the Bridge was as dangerous as it was scary.

Safety was a priority. Workers wore helmets, special wind goggles, and headlamps for the dark, enclosed areas - a first in bridge construction. The undercoat of paint, the primer, contained lead to prevent the steel from rusting. Workers wore respirators to protect them from lead fumes released during the installation of red-hot rivets.  Today, the paints used on the Bridge contain no lead.

Another first in bridge building was the installation of a safety net during construction.  The 19 men who fell and were saved by the net called themselves the Halfway to Hell Club. The Bridge had only one fatality until February 1937. Then a heavy scaffold fell through the net, causing 10 men to fall through to their deaths. Although tragic, the number of lives lost was very low compared to the size of the project and the dangers involved.


Riveter exiting tower door.

Helmet, goggles, and respirator – all firsts in bridge construction.

Members of the Halfway to Hell Club look through the Bridge deck to the safety net below that saved their lives.

A Golden Gate Bridge innovation, a safety net, was rigged to catch workers if they fell during deck construction.

All images courtesy of the San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library (unless otherwise indicated).

For more information -

"Cheating Death": Worker Safety During Construction

Safety First

Image of plaque to Halfway to Hell Club

Worker Safety During Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge

Building the Bridge: Tales from Original Golden Gate Bridge Workers

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Last updated: 11.16.12