1932: The World’s Tallest Steel Arch Bridge Opens

March 19, 1932

Australia’s Sydney Harbour Bridge, which carries traffic between that New South Wales (NSW) city’s central business district and North Shore area, was officially opened in ceremonies attended by hundreds of thousands of people. The lavish festivities on that Saturday for the steel through-type arch bridge included decorated floats in a nearby parade in the city streets, airplanes in the skies above, and a procession of passenger ships in the harbor.

NSW Premier J.T. “Jack” Lang was ready to cut the ribbon at the south end of the bridge when he was preempted by someone who came forward on a horse. This person was a native Irishman named Francis Edward de Groot, who slashed the ribbon with a ceremonial sword and proclaimed, “I declare the bridge open in the name of the people of New South Wales!” He was promptly dragged off his horse and ended up that day at a local place called the Lunatic Reception House. The ribbon was reattached and Lang had his chance to cut it as well. De Groot, by the way, was ultimately declared sane by a medical board.

The ribbon cutting

Without delays or disruptions of any kind, Mayor Hubert Leslie Primrose of North Sydney subsequently cut a ribbon on the north side of the bridge. He performed this task with a pair of golden ceremonial scissors that had been recently used for formally opening the Bayonne Bridge between New Jersey and New York.

With its close proximity to the equally iconic Sydney Opera House, the bridge has become one of Australia’s most popular landmarks. Measuring 440 feet (134 meters) from its top to water level, it is the world’s tallest steel arch bridge. With a width of 160 feet (48.8 meters), this structure was the widest long-span bridge until the completion of the current Port Mann Bridge in Vancouver, Canada, in 2012. The Sydney Harbour Bridge was added to the New South Wales State Heritage Register in 1999 and the Australian National Heritage List in 2007.

For more information on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, please check out https://structurae.net/en/structures/sydney-harbour-bridge

Aerial views of the bridge’s opening in 1932 are available at https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-141856731

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