More chances to seen new footage of Narrows Bridge collapse from Gig Harbor side

Photos taken from film shot on the deck of Galloping Gertie show her rocking back and forth.
Photos taken from film shot on the deck of Galloping Gertie show her rocking back and forth. University of Washington Libraries

After clear public interest, Harbor History Museum is offering two more showings of “The Lost Footage” which filmed the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapse in 1940 from Gig Harbor’s point of view.

The debut was on Feb. 26, and two presentations were added for March 6 and 19. All three showings were sold out within the first four hours of them being available.

Harbor History Museum is now offering two additional viewing on March 26 at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

“It was so popular and community had so much interest, we decided to add additional presentations of the lost footage,” said Zachary Sokolik, marketing and development director for Harbor History Museum.

On Nov. 7, 1940, the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed to a wind storm.

This twin suspension bridge connecting Tacoma and Gig Harbor was built four months prior to its collapse. The bridge collapsed because of aeroelastic flutter, with the main cables being thrown around by the wind, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation website.

The lost footage was shot by a toll booth worker at the time from the Gig Harbor side of the Narrows, a rarity as all previous footage obtained was shot from the Tacoma side. The 7-1/2 minute footage shows the bridge collapse, along with the photographer, Arthur T. Leach, walking up to examine the collapsed bridge.

The museum’s executive director, Stephanie Lile, said the reception from the audience has been very positive.

People have been interested in both the footage itself as well as the discussions of the bridge and different theories of the engineering faults at the time, Lile said.

She said many people have come up to her after the presentation to share their personal stories of when the bridge collapsed.

“A woman came forward and brought us some film footage her father had shot,” Lile said. “It was a great story. She was 9 years old and was in school. Her father went to get his movie camera and then picked her up from school, so they could both go down to the bridge and see it shimmy and shake in the wind. She saw it fall firsthand. She remembers it clearly the day she was there.”

Lile said in 1940 the toll booth was on Tacoma’s side of the bridge. Although it is not clear why Leach was on Gig Harbor’s side, Lile said does have a theory.

“Because there were not toll booths on the Gig Harbor side, they had to send someone over to stop the traffic,” Lile said. “They had closed the bridge a couple hours before it fell, so the theory is they sent him there to stop the traffic, and he happened to have a movie camera that he was able to shoot the footage with. I don’t know if that is true, but it would make some logical sense.”

The money raised from the viewings goes into museum programming. Tickets cost $5 for non-members and are free for members.

“It’s a great way to promote membership but also support our members with really engaging programming,” Lile said.

The museum plans to put a portion of the footage in their Narrows Bridge permanent exhibit after the showings.

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