Each rope that suspended San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge from 1935 to the 1970s was made of 229 individual strands arranged in a unique “lay” created at John A. Roeblin’s Sons Company in Trenton, New Jersey.
Though these suspender ropes were retired about fifty years ago, the history and strength imbued in them lives on. Strands of History, a Tahoe City, California-based company founded in 2016, focuses on building functional items using the bridge’s original ropes, including a spectacular wood and steel coffee table.
Mary Zimmerman of the Strands of History team explains to Colossal that the company was able to verify the rope’s authenticity by reviewing the original schematics from the Roebling’s company. Every suspension bridge has ropes with a unique lay, which create a sort of finger print for the bridge’s materials.
Once a sufficient supply was in the hands of Strands of History, the company got to work determining a way to showcase the strength, beauty, and history of their chosen material. The incredibly strong rope weighs one pound per inch, and is so dense that only five cuts can be made before a fresh 14-inch abrasive blade is required. Strands of History brought in experts from Bushey Ironworks and Roundwood Furniture to help design the coffee table and wrangle the finicky raw materials. Bushey weighed in with forge welding techniques to stabilize the ropes, and Roundwood suggested a deeply striated Claro walnut wood that is about 80 years old.
In creating something new out of such storied materials, Zimmerman explains, “All of us that work on these projects are committed to the preservation of this historic steel. This required exploring various techniques to maintain [the rope’s] structural integrity, as well as to preserve the unique lay of the wire and its inherent beauty and attraction.”