golden gate bridge

The History of J. F. Shea, Part 3

by rachelk on August 29, 2012

As the Shea family of companies expanded into California they also gained access to larger, more prominent, jobs. They landed one of their biggest jobs to date, a large dam in Nevada, called the Hoover Dam. This job led to the Six Companies, a partnering of several men who would work together to build the bridge. Charlie Shea acted as the company’s secretary.

While this large and difficult task was underway the J. F. Shea Company landed another important job, helping build the foundation for the Golden Gate Bridge. The company was in charge of building the piers and abutments for the bridge. While both the Hoover Dam and The Golden Gate Bridge were daunting and even dangerous at times, they set the company up for credibility and lasting success.

The J.F. Shea Company’s success did not end in the 1930’s. The Shea’s had a hand in constructing the Parker Dam, the Bonneville Dam, The Gunpower-Montebello Tunnel, a cement contract for the Shasta Dam, and even shipbuilding in WWII. The company was becoming well-rounded and diverse in its abilities and specialties.

In 1958, after spending several years in helping with war efforts, the J. F. Shea Company would become J. F. Shea Co., Inc. Owned and operated by a third generation of Sheas: John Shea, Gil Shea’s son; his two cousins, Edmund and Peter Shea, sons of Ed Shea. John acted as president, while Edmund and Peter acted as Vice Presidents. The new company would posture the company to take on new jobs never before imagined and help catapult Shea into the thriving company it is today.




On May 27th, the Golden Gate celebrated its 75th anniversary. This is an especially poignant celebration for Shea Homes, part of the J.F. Shea Company who was one of the key builders of this American landmark. During the 1930’s, travel in the Bay Area was primarily done by ferry. Seeking to increase transportation opportunities in the area and better connect families and cities, the J.F. Shea Company, was commissioned to construct the bridge’s piers and abutments. The vertical load of each pier weighed in at almost 165 million pounds, with 44 feet above sea level and approximately 100 feet below. Industrialization was just beginning and the Golden Gate Bridge project was one of the most complex ever undertaken at that time. The foundations of the bridge were the deepest that had ever been set. Constructing the piers was extremely challenging given the ferocious tides of up to seven knots as well as constantly shifting winds, blinding fog and frequent violent storms that are characteristic of the San Francisco Bay. In fact, this was considered by many on the crew as the most difficult construction of their careers.

The project was also a significant challenge for the company as it was simultaneously building the Hoover Dam and the Bay Bridge along with the Golden Gate Bridge. The building of the Golden Gate Bridge was also notable for several firsts in heavy construction. For the first time, strict safety standards for dress were enforced. It was the first major job on which hard hats were required. Although commonplace today, the construction of the bridge was also the first to use trucks that mixed as well as carried concrete. This architectural gem held the title of longest suspension bridge in the world for many years and is still hailed as a triumph of modern construction.

Although the official anniversary has passed, the celebrations continue all year long, visit the Bridge’s website for more details. If you’re interested in how this seemingly impossible project came to life, you’ll want to see the documentary about the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge at the Fort Point National Historic Site.

Sunsets with the Golden Gate Bridge looming in the background are always special in San Francisco. To view the bridge at the height of light, there’s a sundial map to help you out.

To see more photos of the construction of the bridge, check out the special exhibit: The Golden Gate Bridge – An Icon that Changed Marin at the Marin History Museum through September 1st.

Help Shea Homes celebrate this marvel of modern architecture all month. You have the chance to win a trip to San Francisco in our Golden Gate Getaway just by visiting one of our Shea Homes Facebook pages. We hope wherever you live, you have the chance to enjoy the Golden Gate Bridge this year.