Saturday, July 17, 2010
The Golden Gate Bridge and Hoover Dam are more than just icons of American engineering. They are Depression-era monuments that transformed not only California's physical landscape, but its social one as well. The bridge linked San Francisco to rural Marin County, hastening the consolidation of the Bay Area into a huge metropolis. The dam brought reliable irrigation to Imperial Valley farms, as well as drinking water and hydroelectric power to Los Angeles and other Southwestern cities, fostering their explosive growth.
Both structures smashed precedents: Rising 726 feet above the Colorado River bed, Hoover was more than twice as high as the tallest previous dam on its opening day in 1935; the Golden Gate, with its 4,200-foot-long main span, was the longest suspension bridge in the world when the first pedestrian crossed its span on May 27, 1937. With their soaring ambitions clad in sleek Art Deco designs, bridge and dam seem the epitome of New Deal optimism. Yet neither was a New Deal project.