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Sydney Harbor Bridge: The Giant Coat Hanger

Jeffrey Syken

The period between the First and Second World War/s realized some of the greatest bridges ever conceived by humankind. So great was this achievement that the period between 1920 and 1940 came to be known as “The Golden Age of Bridge Building.”

In New York City, Othmar Ammann's George Washington Bridge (1931) proved long-span suspension bridges were feasible. On the other side of the continent, two great bridges spanned the San Francisco Bay: Golden Gate (1937) and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (1936), ending forever San Francisco’s isolation from the counties north and east of the peninsula San Francisco is situated on. But of all the bridges built in this period, perhaps none is as recognizable and so firmly enshrined in national identity as the Sydney Harbor Bridge (in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia) which Sydneysiders affectionately refer to as “The Giant Coat Hanger.”

It was a dream that began in the early 19th century and took another century to achieve. The “Father of the Bridge” – Dr. John Jacob Crew (JJC) Bradfield, devoted his career to seeing the bridge built and in so doing transformed his native Sydney into a world-class city. Without the Sydney Harbor Bridge’s rail, tram, footpath and roadway that would forever connect the distant north and south shores of one of the world’s finest harbors, Sydney would not be the city we know today. Perhaps too it was fitting that a grand arch design was chosen for the site. Dating back to the world’s first great bridge-builders – the Romans, the arch reminds us all of the nobility of connecting people with great bridges.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of course materials.

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