Convicted criminal and architect Francis Green way proposed a bridge in 1815. A number of proposals were put forward but it was not until 1900 that the idea of the bridge became a reality. A worldwide competition was launched to find the ideal design but nothing was suitable and the competition was launched once more. A local engineer, Norman Self won the competition outright with his steel cantilever design. The design was inspired by Hell Gate Bridge in New York City pictured below.
The quoted cost for the arch alone was AU£4,217,721 11s 10d.
Construction started in 1924 and employed 1,400 workers but it proved to be a very controversial project as around 800 or so families were forcibly evicted and their homes quickly demolished to make way for the construction. No compensation or help was given to those who were evicted.
The construction took 8 years to complete opening on 19th March 1932 at a total cost of AU$6 million. The opening event was itself a controversial affair as Francis de Groot on horseback raced forward and slashed the ribbon before the official opening. Later the same year 96 steam engines were put onto the bridge at different points to prove its strength.
The bridge was a toll crossing and a horse and rider were charged three pence and a motor car six pence and daily traffic was estimated at around 11,000 per day. Today the toll is still in place for motor cars depending on the registration plate! No horses are allowed and pedestrians and cyclists go free.
During the Second World War a number flights flew under the bridge including and Australian Avro Lancaster bomber! The Australian military used the pylons as anti-aircraft gun positions.
In August 1922 the Sydney Harbour Tunnel was opened to traffic to take the ever increasing pressure off of the bridge at a cost of AU$554 million! The tunnel is 2.7 km (1.7 miles) and is tolled. The tunnel is designed to withstand an earthquake as well as having the massive weight of a sunken ship. Both the bridge and tunnel are used by 43 million vehicles per year.
Painting is one of the biggest maintenance tasks of the bridge. The total area to be painted is 485,000m2 (1,292ft2). Each coat requires 30,000 litres of paint. The paint is very quick drying so any drips or splashes dry before they reach the traffic below. Did you know that the actor Paul Hogan who played Crocodile Dundee was employed as a painter?
The Sydney Harbour Bridge has become a global icon as well as a major tourist attraction and the south-east pylon has been fitted out to accommodate the rise in tourism. The top of the pylon is accessed by a 200 step climb and at the top there is a cafe, museum, viewing platform and telescopes. In 1948 the pylon held the "All Australian Exhibition" which included a post office, shop, cattery, as well as many historical displays. In 1971 the lease expired and the pylon closed. In 1982 the pylon re-opened with a new exhibition celebrating the bridge's 50th Anniversary. 1987 a "Bicentennial Exhibition" was held to commemorate the 200th anniversary of European settlement in Australia.
The bridge really comes alive at night, a spectacle to behold.
Once a year every year Sydney Harbour Bridge is viewed by tens of millions as the New Year is seen in. Australia is the second major nation to see the New Year in after New Zealand and Sydney Harbour Bridge fails to impress with the stunning display.
The 2016/17 celebration paid tribute to David Bowie and Prince and there was even a 'Willy Wonka' moment in tribute of the late Gene Wilder.