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Flashback: Building the Auckland Harbour Bridge

Published: 9 June 2017

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See images of the Auckland Harbour Bridge being built

Before the Auckland Harbour Bridge was built, the North Shore was a mostly rural area of about 50,000 people, with few jobs and a growth rate half that of Auckland south of the Waitematā Harbour.

Opening up the area via a new road would prove crucial for allowing for further expansion of Auckland.

One side of the bridge under construction, a very old black and white image that appears to have been damaged in some way.
The Northcote end of the bridge under construction – that's the Northcote wharf in the foreground. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1370-208-1.

The large steel girder sections were partially pre-assembled, then floated into place on construction barges.

A black and white image of a tugboat and several larger boats as a piece of the bridge is floated to the location.
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1370-205-26.

The bridge took four years to build. Hundreds of labourers were involved, including 180 men sent out from the United Kingdom.

It wasn't all smooth sailing, with workers' strikes affecting the build in 1956 and 1957. But finally, in early 1959, the last pieces of the grand structure were being put in place.

One of the final girders is being craned into position - a large metal beam will bridge the gap. Black and white close-up of the action.
One of the final girders is craned into position. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1370-208-3.
The bridge is largely complete now, with just a little gap showing in the middle. This image looks to have been taken from a vessel on the harbour.
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1370-209-4.

The bridge opened opened on 30 May 1959 with an open day, during which more than 100,000 people crossed the bridge on foot. 

Thousands of people stream off the bridge on the open day. It's a scan of a rather damaged photo, so it's a bit hard to make out details.
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1370-210-6.

The Auckland Harbour Bridge was initially a toll road, costing two shillings and six pence to cross.

Believe it or not, this below photo was taken just two weeks after it opened – safe to say it was an immediate hit.

Harbour Bridge 4
May 1959. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 7-A3703

Interested in Auckland's heritage? Auckland Libraries has a wide range of digital resources, including photos, family history and more. 

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