The Sydney Harbour Bridge is a feat of modern engineering and was at one point the largest steel-arch bridge in the world. Known affectionately to locals as ‘The Coathanger’, it has become one of the symbols of the city.
Before the arrival of Europeans, both sides of the Sydney Harbour Bridge belonged to the Eora people. The notion of a bridge across the harbour was first suggested in 1815. From this point until 1890, the idea had progressed to a cast iron bridge, floating bridge or even a tunnel. The government had even accepted plans for a bridge but never implemented them. In 1890, there was a Royal Commission to examine eight different schemes. By 1912, Dr. JJC Bradfield was made Chief Engineer of Sydney Harbour Bridge.
Building began in July 1923 and it was eventually completed in 1932. 14,000 workers in total contributed to the building of the Bridge and unfortunately, sixteen men lost their lives in the process. Around 79% of the steel used was imported from Britain. The Bridge was also referred to as the ‘Iron Lung’ as it kept so many people employed for so long and its workers were among the best-paid in the country.
New South Wales Premier Jack Lang opened the bridge in 1932. Since its opening, it has become a focal point for Sydney. Some have likened it to the sight of The Statue of Liberty when you enter New York. For immigrants, it was the sight that let them know they had made it. Not only was the Opera House built nearby and completed in 1973, but the bridge is used for city-wide celebrations. There was a public holiday when the bridge was opened and on its 50th birthday it was closed to traffic and opened exclusively to pedestrians for the second time ever. The arches are used for Christmas, New Years’ and Chinese New Year celebrations. It also featured heavily in the Olympic Games that Sydney hosted in 2000. The Sydney Harbour Bridge has become emblematic of the city and country. It is one of the most recognisable bridges in the world and remains one of the world’s largest steel arch bridges.