In 2016, Bob and Mary Zimmerman joined Strands of History, LLC with long-time friend and business partner, Tom Piatkowski. Tom, Bob’s good friend of 40+ years, casually mentioned he had a second business selling mementos made from the original Golden Gate Bridge suspension cables or, suspender ropes. (He had acquired all the remaining 11-foot pieces of the original Golden Gate Bridge suspender ropes in 2006.) After hearing the intriguing story, they all discussed the many cool things that could be made from these artifacts, which quickly led to a partnership. Unfortunately, about eight months later Tom unexpectedly passed. Naturally, Bob and Mary continued the business to build on the shared vision. First order of business was hammering out fabrication equipment, machinery and what practical art they would craft from historical suspender ropes saved from one of the most famous bridges in the world.
As the Zimmerman’s ended long careers in biopharmaceutical drug development; they took welding classes, learned about bridge building, engineering, steel fabrication, and metallurgy. They even found joy in learning how to remove old paint from galvanized steel, how to apply new paint, how to grind, polish, and how to wax metal. They navigated the world of packaging and shipping and designed a new logo, based on the lay of the wire bundles in each rope. The days were long but exciting. Drawing from past entrepreneurial start-up company experiences, they checked off their exhaustive daily lists of things to purchase or knowledge to be gained.
As they forged forward the catalyst the kept them moving was connection to the bridge. Whenever they sought help or advice they would hear another personal example of what the Golden Gate Bridge meant in the life of the storyteller.
Each piece created at Strands of History is individually handcrafted. This isn’t an automated factory; human hands guide the fabrication of the 11-foot sections into the various lengths found in SOH products. Each fabricated piece of the Golden Gate Bridge original suspender rope takes roughly 2.5 – 3 hours to make. While this may seem like a small amount, at a pound per inch that is a lot of steel to transform into art. As the business developed they partnered with other local metal artisans to create larger scale art and furniture.
In the beginning, as each piece was handled, Bob and Mary thoughtfully remembered the people in New Jersey who crafted the steel wires and made them into the suspender ropes for the longest suspension bridge ever built at that time. They thought about the men who installed them over the great main cable and attached them to the roadway, the people who have maintained the bridge since it was opened, the men and women who passed under it as they left for war, and for whom it was the first symbol of America they saw when they returned. They have kept and instilled this thoughtful connection to history in their artisan partnerships and keep it as a foundational principal of the company. Having a reverence for the majesty and creation of the Golden Gate Bridge, coupled with a respect for the history and peoples who created it, melded into art pieces that you cannot appreciate fully until you see them for yourself. The pieces are beautiful works of art but you can “feel” the history when hold a memento or touch a piece of furniture.
Strands of History is grateful that we can make these historic, inspirational Golden Gate Bridge original suspender ropes available to everyone, because they mean so much more than their scrap value. They are symbolic of strength in numbers, art and engineering, purpose and beauty, and the achievement of something that many thought was impossible. Thank you for your interest in our story.