A famous Bay Area native has taken up temporary residence at the Oakland Museum of California—the elusive Bay Bridge Troll, known now as Troll Senior. Since the opening of the new east span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, the whereabouts and fate of the Bay Bridge Troll have been closely guarded. Now, this storied protector of the Bay Bridge is on view to the public for a limited time in the Museum’s Gallery of California History.
Designed by Bay Area blacksmith Bill Roan, the troll stands 18 inches tall, has large horns, carries a spud wrench, and is made of steel. The Bay Bridge Troll was affixed to the Bay Bridge’s east span at the place where the bridge collapsed in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Ironworkers repairing damage caused by the earthquake welded the troll to the place of collapse for symbolic protection from future disasters. The Troll arrived in secret on the bridge, without authorization from Caltrans officials, and remained relatively low-key until the San Francisco Chronicle brought him to public attention in 1990.
In Nordic mythology, trolls are master builders, metal workers, and protectors of treasure who live under bridges. Other famous trolls include the famous Fremont Troll under Seattle’s George Washington Memorial Bridge (also known as the Aurora Bridge) and the fabled troll of The Trollstiegen road in Norway which boasts an official “Troll Crossing” sign.
The Bay Bridge Troll will be on view coinciding with the run of the major exhibition Above and Below: Stories From Our Changing Bay, as well as three additional special exhibitions that celebrate the Year of the Bay—Peter Stackpole: Bridging the Bay, Bay Motion: Capturing San Francisco Bay on Film, and A Cinematic Study of Fog in San Francisco.