San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge
Welcome to the Golden Gate Bridge!
Once called “the bridge that couldn’t be built,” today it is one of the seven wonders of the modern world. This magnificent span, perhaps San Francisco’s most famous landmark, opened in 1937 after a four-year struggle against relentless winds, fog, rock and treacherous tides. More than 10 years in planning due to formidable opposition, but only four years in actual construction, the Golden Gate Bridge brought the communities of San Francisco and Marin counties closer together.
The Golden Gate Bridgeis the most iconic landmark in San Francisco. It is featured in numerous photos, posters and postcards of the city. Walking or biking across the bridge is part of the San Francisco experience. And even if you don’t get the chance to cross the bridge, you’ll certainly see it during your other activities in the city. The Golden Gate Bridge crosses the Golden Gate, a narrow waterway that connects the Pacific Ocean to the San Francisco Bay. From the day it first opened until today, the Golden Gate is a toll bridge.
Why is it called the Golden Gate Bridge? There are many stories as to how the bridge got its name, but at the very core of California history is that fact that it was named after the Golden Gate Straight. The Straight is a channel of water that connects the San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean. Since the bridge straddles the Golden Gate Straight, it makes sense that it would be called the Golden Gate Bridge! Those wondering “Why is it called the Golden Gate Bridge?” have probably noticed that the bridge is actually gold. Well, technically the bridge is painted a color called “orange vermillion,” which is also known as “international orange”. Its bright color was selected because of its name and location – making it truly “the Golden Gate Bridge!”
Here comes the History of the Golden Gate Bridge. On January 5, 1933, construction begins on the Golden Gate Bridge, as workers began excavating 3.25 million cubic feet of dirt for the structure’s huge anchorages. Following the Gold Rush boom that began in 1849, speculators realized the land north of San Francisco Bay would increase in value in direct proportion to its accessibility to the city. Soon, a plan was hatched to build a bridge that would span the Golden Gate, a narrow, 400-foot deep strait that serves as the mouth of the San Francisco Bay, connecting the San Francisco Peninsula with the southern end of Marin County.
Although the idea went back as far as 1869, the proposal took root in 1916. A former engineering student, James Wilkins, working as a journalist with the San Francisco Bulletin, called for a suspension bridge with a center span of 3,000 feet, nearly twice the length of any in existence. Wilkins’ idea was estimated to cost an astounding $100 million. So, San Francisco’s city engineer, Michael M. O’Shaughnessy (he’s also credited with coming up with the name Golden Gate Bridge), began asking bridge engineers whether they could do it for less. Engineer and poet Joseph Strauss, a 5-foot tall Cincinnati-born Chicagoan, said he could.
Eventually, O’Shaughnessy and Strauss concluded they could build a pure suspension bridge within a practical range of $25-30 million with a main span at least 4,000 feet. The construction plan still faced opposition, including litigation, from many sources. By the time most of the obstacles were cleared, the Great Depression of 1929 had begun, limiting financing options, so officials convinced voters to support $35 million in bonded indebtedness, citing the jobs that would be created for the project. However, the bonds couldn’t be sold until 1932, when San-Francisco based Bank of America agreed to buy the entire project in order to help the local economy.
The construction of what was to become the world’s largest suspension bridge was a colossal task. At the time many people did not believe it was technically possible to span the Golden Gate. But despite the disbelief, opposition and the Great Depression, Joseph Strauss was able to find sufficient support and financial backing to go ahead with the project. It would take thousands of workers, four years and 35 million dollars to complete the structure.
On May 27, 1937 the Golden Gate Bridge was inaugurated by 18,000 people who walked across the bridge. The next day the bridge was officially opened to motorized traffic. Today, more than 120,000 cars cross the bridge each day. When the bridge was completed, it was the world’s longest and tallest suspension bridge. But above all this masterly example of engineering is a magnificent monument set against a beautiful backdrop. With its tall towers and famous red paint job, the bridge quickly became a famous American landmark, and a symbol of San Francisco.
During the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, very few workmen’s lives were lost. This is due to the fact that a huge safety net was installed under the bridge to catch workers who fell while on the job. This was a completely new endeavor, having in place such a large safety mechanism. In all, this net saved the lives of 19 men, who were thereafter called members of the “Half Way to Hell Club.”
The dimensions of the bridge defied all imagination. The total length of the bridge is 8,981ft. The main span between the two enormous towers is 4,200 ft long, making the Golden Gate Bridge the world’s largest suspension bridge, a record that would stand until 1964 when the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York was completed. The two beautiful Art Deco towers are almost 820ft tall, of which more than 20 meters is below the sea level. The road and the lanes are supported by enormous cables, anchored in hundreds of bars locked into concrete blocks with a pulling power of 25 million kg. The two cables have a total length of 2,332 meters and a diameter of 90 centimeters. They are woven from 27,572 threads of steel with a total length that equals three times the earth’s circumference.
Soon after its completion the Golden Gate Bridge already enjoyed worldwide fame, not only because the bridge was breaking records, but also thanks to the elegant Art Deco design of the two huge towers and the magnificent surroundings near the Pacific Ocean. The eye catching orange-red color of the bridge also helped its popularity. The color was suggested by engineer Irving Morrow, who thought the traditional gray color was too boring.
Even though there is a sidewalk on the Golden Gate Bridge, it’s quite a challenge to cross the bridge. Not only is it almost 3km long, but it is a breathtaking 67 meters above sea level. In extreme circumstances the bridge can sway almost 28ft. This makes the bridge less sensible to external forces such as strong winds and earthquakes, but it can make the crossing rather unpleasant. The views however are amazing.
The Golden Gate is at its most enchanting in the morning when the bridge is often shrouded in mist. But the bridge is also alluring at night when the lighting makes it seem as if the spires of the towers dissolve into the darkness. The Golden Gate Bridge continues to require labor and money for maintenance and renovations. In 1994, the bridge was named one of the “Seven Wonders of the Modern World” by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The Golden Gate is awarded the second place spot, behind England’s Chunnel Tunnel, on the list of the Top 10 Construction Achievements of the 20th Century. The Golden Gate Bridge is the most photographed bridge in the entire world. The Golden Gate Bridge has been featured in dozens of films, books, and television shows. Among the most popular are the films: Dirty Harry, the Love Bug movies, Superman, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Vertigoand the TV shows: Nash Bridges, Full House, Knight Rider, and Monk.
The Golden Gate Bridge is a technical masterpiece that can only be described in superlative terms. The Golden Gate Bridge has now long lost its record of the longest bridge, but it is still one of the world’s most famous structures.