The Bay Bridge Troll is a crafted piece of steel sculpture installed secretly underneath the deck on the northern side of the eastern span of the old San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in Northern California.
The Troll, visible only by boat, was attached to the Bay Bridge by iron worlers after the Oct. 17, 1989 Loma Prieta 6.9 earthquake. The quake caused a 50-foot section of the bridge to collapse.
For the next 24 years, the 18-inch-high snarling iron sculpture kept the bridge safe during the time it has taken to build the 2.2-mile suspension span — stretching from Oakland to Yerba Buena Island.
The troll first came to the public’s attention on January 15, 1990 when the San Francisco Chronicle ran a story about the small elusive figure.
When the new, $6.4 billion Bay Bridge eastern span was finished, concerned citizens wanted to make sure the troll would find a new home when the older portions of the bridge were demolished.
The Troll, with a barrel chest, spindly arms and legs, and long tongue was created by artist/blacksmith Bill Roan who welded it in place during the post-1989 earthquake retrofit of the damaged Bay Bridge as a good luck charm for the workers on the project.
Leaning forward and clutching a spud wrench, the troll was an amalgamation of a dragon’s head, the horns of a goat (a nod to the Three Billy Goats Gruff, who cross a cranky troll’s bridge) and webbed appendages, in case it “needed to swim around the piers to do work,” Roan recalled. He created the statue to honor the workers who repaired the old bridge, and to protect it from future damage.
Joseph De Mario and Megan McHugh, who are working on a film called “Demolition Troll,” said Roan would like the Troll to stay in place – at least for the time being – to protect the workers who will be taking the old bridge apart.
With the opening of the new section and impending destruction of the old, the community is speaking out for the saving of the famous and endearing sculpture.
“I want to come before you to speak on behalf of the troll sculpture that is on the old bay bridge. In 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake collapsed a section of the eastern span of the Bay Bridge. As the repair of the damaged bridge neared completion, a 14-inch iron troll was attached to the bridge to protect it from harm. In the fourteen years since the bridge has stood, it has been without incident. The troll has done its job. He has protected us. With the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge nearing completion, the old bridge will be demolished. When this happens, the troll will lose its home. Now the troll knows that the new bridge has been completed, what will happen hereafter? Will his home be lost forever? Could it be that the problems with the new bridge are due to the troll’s impending evicton from it? What will happen to our benignant, bridge creature, a sign of strength and instrumental in our lasting building whose kept us from harms way in the last 24 years? Please heed warning and do not be so quick to forget him. He has been steadfast and true to the people of this community. Perhaps promise of a new home for him on the eastern span of the new bridge will eradicte the problems encountered during the erection of the new bridge all together. Let’s save the troll. Thank you.” — Elyse Remenowsky speech in support of the Bay Bridge Troll.
The fate of the troll was chronicled in 25-page 2013 report issued by the bridge’s management team – The Toll Bridge Program Oversight Committee — made up of Caltrans, the California Transportation Commission and the Bay Area Toll Authority.
Titled “For Whom the Troll Dwells: A Legendary Case for Supplemental Safety Measures on the New San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge East Span,” the report called for the Troll to be preserved and eventually relocated to a safe place near the bridge.
The committee further recommended that another troll statue be created and installed on or near the new East Span to “provide a possible extra measure of safety” for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians crossing the new bridge.
Officials planned to move the troll to a historical building at the toll plaza “where he’ll be in a quiet, dark place, but for public viewing and where everyone can see him.” The original troll was removed from its perch on Labor Day, 2013.
After the old span was demolished and the troll was safely removed for posterity, a new bearded troll was installed on the new expansion bridge. The 2’4”, 75 pound statue , larger and heavier that its predesscer looks more human, with a bushy beard, smaller horns and goat-like ears. He carries an ironworker’s mallet and welder’s torch instead of a wrench and was ready to protect the bridge and serve as a good-luck token for all who cross.
The old Bay Bridge troll went on display at the Oakland Museum of California from November, 2012 through February, 2014. It will likely find a permanent home in a future Bay Area transportation museum or a park or gathering place near the eastern landing of the Bay Bridge.
The new troll was manufactured by the Michael Bondi Metal Design in Richmond, California and created through the collaborative efforts of Michael Bondi, Humberto Somayoa, Freddy Rodreiez, Alfonso Vasquez, Felipe Vasquez and Socrates Vasquez. The Metal Shop was the same wrought iron workshop where Bill Roan crafted the original Bay City troll in the late 1980s.
Like the old troll, the new troll was placed out-of-sight below the roadway at the foot of one of the bridge supports (Pier E2) that can’t be viewed by the motorists on the bridge. Persons on boats have the pleasure of seeing the troll if they really try hard. It can also be seen partially from a pedestrian path.
Metropolitan Transportation Commission
c/o Bay Area Toll Authority
101 Eighth Street