75 Facts about the Golden Gate Bridge for its 75th Anniversary

categories: USA Travel

In honor of the 75th Anniversary of the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge I present 75 facts (mostly) about the Golden Gate Bridge:

  1. The iconic Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco was finished 75 years ago on May 27th, 1937.
  2. The opening of San Francisco’s famous bay was called the Golden Gate before the bridge was built. The Golden Gate (Chrysopylae) was probably so named by “The Great Pathfinder” John C. Fremont, Captain, topographical Engineers of the U.S. Army around 1846. Fremont was later the first Republican presidential nominee (1856) and a failed Union Civil War General. Thus the name Golden Gate predates finding gold in California.
  3. The song “California Here I Come” with the famous lines:

    open up that golden gate
    California, Here I Come

    was written by Al Jolson in 1921 and therefore did not refer to the Golden Gate Bridge.

  4. The song “I’m Satisfied” by the Bee Gees with the lines:

    I was born making my love to you
    Open up your golden gate and let me inside

    also probably does not refer to a bridge.

  5. The Golden Gate Bridge took over 4 years to build with construction starting January 5, 1933.
  6. As construction started on the Golden Gate there was no bridge to San Francisco. The nearby Oakland Bay Bridge was started July 9, 1933 and finished November 12, 1936.
  7. Before the Golden Gate and Bay Bridge were completed the Ferry Building on San Francisco’s Embarcadero was the second busiest transit terminal in the world, second only to London’s Charing Cross Station.
  8. The color of the Golden Gate Bridge is International Orange and the color was chosen by Consulting Architect Irving Morrow who thought it would blend well with the surroundings but still be visible to passing ships.
  9. The U.S. Navy was also concerned about the visibility of the Golden Gate Bridge and recommended painting it with black and yellow stripes instead.
  10. Golden Gate Bridge authorities were not convinced that any paint would hold up to the salt water spray.
  11. If you want to paint your local bridge the same color use Pantone 180 (CYMK 19.4%, 77.9%, 79.6% 3.6%).
  12. The original lead paint on the Bridge was removed starting in 1965. It is currently painted with water-borne inorganic zinc primer and an acrylic topcoat.
  13. The bridge is constantly being painted by a crew of 28 painters, 5 painter laborers, and a chief bridge painter. One can assume that these individuals do not have a fear of heights.
  14. Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco, California
    The bridge was built in the path of a military airfield, Chrissy Field, on the north end of San Francisco. The airfield closed in 1937 because of the bridge as well as the very foggy weather in the Golden Gate.
  15. 11 men died building the Golden Gate Bridge. 10 of these died in the same accident when a scaffolding fell. By contrast 27 men died building the Brooklyn Bridge.
  16. During construction another 19 men fell from the bridge but were caught by a safety net below the bridge. The 19 became known as the “Halfway-to-Hell Club.”
  17. Hell is the name of a city in Norway which is more than 5,000 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge.
  18. The monetary cost of construction of the Golden Gate Bridge was over $35 million.
  19. Built in the Great Depression, the original estimate of $25 million was equivalent to the appraised value of two-thirds of all property in San Francisco.
  20. Rebuilding the bridge now would cost more then $1 billion. $1.2 billion in 2003 dollars was a recent estimate.
  21. Speaking of the Brooklyn Bridge, the cables in the Golden Gate were supplied the by the John Roebling and Sons company who built the Brooklyn Bridge.
  22. And in other New York City connections the design of the was heavily influenced by the work of Leon Moisseiff who was the designer of New York’s Manhattan Bridge.
  23. Leon Moisseiff also designed the Tacoma Narrows Bridge which he considered the “most beautiful bridge in the world”. Unfortunately due to a design flaw the Tacoma Narrows Bridge shook itself appart in high winds in 40 mph winds on November 7, 1940.
  24. The Golden Gate Bridge has been closed only three times all due to high winds:  69 mph winds on December 1, 1951 closed the bridge for three hours, 70 mph winds on December 23, 1982,  closed the bridge for almost two hours, 75 mph winds on December 3, 1983 closed the bridge for 3 hours and 27 minutes.  The Bridge suffered no structural damage.
  25. Charles Alton Ellis elaborated on the designs of Leon Moisseiff to design the Golden Gate Bridge. Because of a dispute with Joseph Strauss the Cheif Engineer, his name does not appear on the commemorative plaque nor did he receive credit when the bridge opened.
  26. The steel to construct the bridge was made by Bethlehem Steel in plants in Trenton, New Jersey, in Sparrows Point, Maryland, and in Bethlehem, Pottstown, and Steelton, Pennsylvania. It was transported to San Francisco via the Panama canal.
  27. The bridge is a suspension bridge supported by two main towers which rise 746 ft above the water or 3/4 of the height of the Eiffel Tower. The towers extend 500 ft above the roadway.
  28. The toll for the bridge is $6 for cars but free for pedestrians.
    Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco, California
  29. Pedestrians were not originally free but were charged a fee using turnstiles from May 1937 to December 1970.
  30. The toll is only charged in the Southbound direction, as a car heads into the city.
  31. The Golden Gate Bridge was the first bridge to collect toll only in one direction to improve profitability, starting that practice on October 19, 1968.
  32. During rush hour (weekdays  from 5:00-9:00 a.m. and 4:00-6:00 p.m) cars with 3 or more people can cross the bridge for free.
  33. The ribbon to open the bridge was cut by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
  34. President Franklin D. Roosevelt did not attend the ribbon cutting ceremonies but instead cut the ribbon remotely via telegraph.
  35. Automobiles were not allowed on the bridge the first day but instead 200,000 people walked the bridge or crossed it using stilts, unicycles, and roller skates.
  36. On its second day 32,000 cars crossed the Golden Gate Bridge.
  37. A record number of 162,414 vehicles crossed the Bridge north and southbound on October 27, 1989. The larger number was because its sister bridge the Oakland Bay Bridge was closed when the upper deck collapsed during the 7.1 Loma Prieta Earthquake which hit San Francisco and the bay area on October 17, 1989. The Golden Gate Bridge was undamaged.
  38. The Golden Gate Bridge currently gets 40 million crossings per year. As of April 2011, 1,929,896,448 vehicles had crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. At that pace it should break the 2 billion crossings number in 2013.
  39. The Art Deco design of the Golden Gate Bridge is also credited to Consulting Architect Irving Morrow.
  40. Probably the best known buildings in the United States in the Art Deco Style are the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building which both opened in 1931.
  41. We learn in the movie “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” (1991) that the Star Fleet Academy is located (or rather will be located) at the North end of Golden Gate Bridge at what is now Fort Baker.
  42. Until then Fort Baker is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the home of the beautiful Cavallo Point Lodge which offers great views of the bridge.
  43. On the right as you head north is a vista point where many photographs of the Golden Gate Bridge are taken.
  44. On the left as you head North after you cross the bridge is the Marin Headlands which is also part of the expansive Golden Gate National Recreation Area and also offers great views of the bridge.
  45. Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco, California
    At the base of the bridge on the South side is the Civil War era Fort Point National Historic Site.
  46. In the movie “Bicentennial Man” (1999) the Golden Gate Bridge was seen in the future with a second deck.
  47. Although you might suspect it, the Golden Gate Bridge is not the foggiest place on land in the world but nearby Point Reyes National Seashore does share that honor (with Argentia, Newfoundland) with 200 foggy days a year. The Golden Gate Bridge gets 105 foggy days a year… or any day you visit it.
  48. The bridge is foggier in the mornings and evenings.
  49. The type of fog common to the Golden Gate Bridge is Advection Fog which occurs when moist air passes over a cool surface and moves horizontally. This can often be seen in late afternoon as the bridge is enveloped in a bank of fog rolling in from the ocean. The shape of the bridge actually affects the direction of the fog.
  50. There are 3 fog horns are on the bridge at mid-span which are 24.5 inches long and  11 inches in diameter.
  51. There are 2 fog horns at the South Tower which is 48-inches long and 23.5 inches in diameter.
  52. Nearby (closer to the Oakland Bay Bridge) AT&T Park where the San Francisco Giants play will celebrate each Giants home run with a fog horn.
  53. The cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn was created by Bob McKimson who based the loudmouth’s voice on a hard-of-hearing radio character from the 1930s, known simply as The Sheriff from an early radio variety show, Blue Monday Jamboree… which started in San Francisco.
  54. The Golden Gate Bridge’s daily strip tease from enveloping stoles of mist to full frontal glory is still the most provocative show in town.”~ Mary Moore Mason, editor of British magazine Essentially America.
  55. “What residents know for sure is that the San Francisco Bay Area has three seasons: winter, summer and fog.” — San Francisco Columnist Carl Nolte.
  56. While both US Highway 101 or California State Route 1 would appear to cross the Golden Gate, technically the bridge is not an official part of either route but is part of the National Highway System.
  57. The federal government refused to provide funds to help build the Golden Gate Bridge, so Chief Engineer Joseph Strauss led an effort to raise the needed money locally.
  58. Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco, California
    Each tower of the Golden Gate Bridge has 600,000 rivets.
  59. A crew of a crew of 13 ironworkers and 3 pusher ironworkers replace corroding iron and rivets.
  60. Levi’s jeans, also invented in San Francisco also had a patented use of copper rivets. Rivets on the rear pockets were removed in 1937 because of complaints that they damaged furniture. Heat conducting crotch rivets were removed from the jeansin the 1940’s after Levi CEO Walter Haas suffered and embarrassing campfire burn.
  61. Joseph P. Strauss, Chief Engineer, Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District wrote two poems about the Golden Gate Bridge: “The Mighty Task is Done” and “The Golden Gate Bridge” including the lines:

    At last the mighty task is done;
    Resplendent in the western sun
    The Bridge looms mountain high;
    Its titan piers grip ocean floor,
    Its great steel arms link shore with shore,
    Its towers pierce the sky.
    High overhead its lights shall gleam,
    Far, far below life’s restless stream,
    Unceasingly shall flow;
    For this was spun its lithe fine form,
    To fear not war, nor time, nor storm,
    For fate had meant it so.

  62. In the movie Superman (1978), the title character saves a bus load of school children from falling from the bridge roadway.
  63. The bridge roadway is as high as 270.9 feet above the water.
  64. At 4,200 feet in length, the suspension span of the  Golden Gate Bridge was the longest in the world until the opening of New York City’s Verrazano Narrows Bridge on November 21, 1964.
  65. The Golden Gate Bridge is still the 9th longest suspension span in the world with the longest in Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge, Japan which is 6,529 feet long and opened in 1998.
  66. In the TV show “Sliders” one way that the main characters (who slide from one reality to another) knew they were not home was when they saw a blue Golden Gate Bridge.
  67. The Sierra Club (including Ansel Adams) opposed the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge fearing that it would cause environmental damage.
  68. One opponent of the original design called it an “upside-down rat trap” that would “desecrate the natural beauty of the San Francisco Bay”.
  69. In In 1998, the bridge was honored with a 32-cent commemorative postage stamp.
  70. The Navy and Army Corps of Engineers were concerned that the bridge could impede shipping, and could block the entire bay if it were destroyed in wartime.
  71. 2300 lawsuits were filed to stop the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge.
  72. Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco, California
    The Golden Gate Bridge is the #1 suicide site in the world. Since its opening, more than 1,500 people have jumped from the bridge to their deaths. The second, Mount Fuji in Japan, gets 78 suicides a year.
  73. The first suicide occurred three months after the bridge opened in August 1937. Harold Wobber, a 47 year old bargeman and World War I veteran who had been receiving treatment at a local VA hospital (having been declared non compos mentis), slipped from the grasp of a visting college professor he met on the way to the bridge and jumped.
  74. 26 people have jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge and lived.
  75. In April, Jack Balestreri died. He was the last surviving person of those that worked on the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge. He worked on the concrete pilings at the age of 17.

If you go:

  • Walking the bridge is free. There is parking on both ends of the bridge, although the number of spaces is limited and it does fill up. On the south side of the bridge the parking lot on the east side is quite small and business, but there is additional parking to the west of the highway that most people don’t find.
  • You can also rent a bike and bike the bridge or take one of many San Fransisco tours that include the Golden Gate bridge.
  • There aren’t really hotels near the bridge, it is better to find a hotel near Fisherman’s wharf with a view of the bridge.
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by Chris Christensen

I am the host of the Amateur Traveler. The Amateur Traveler is an online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations and what are the best places to travel to. It includes both a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog.

6 Responses to “75 Facts about the Golden Gate Bridge for its 75th Anniversary”

Jeremy Branham

Says:

These were awesome! I read every one of these and just marvel at the efforts to build this bridge and the beauty of it. Living in Sacramento, I’ve seen the bridge and crossed it many times. However, I have a greater appreciation for it now.

Generally, I don’t like the color orange. But the Navy thought black and yellow stripes were a good idea?! How well would that work out in the dark and fog!?

chris2x

Says:

Maybe the Navy was thinking stripes would be sliming 🙂

Annette | Bucket List Journey

Says:

Wow! I live just 45 from the GG Bridge and didn’t know 90% of these facts. Shame on me!

chris2x

Says:

I probably only knew half before doing some research.

Josie

Says:

Hey Chris, Thanks for this thorough look at the icon of San Francisco. I especially like the photo looking down the length of the bridge at twilight with the blurry truck in motion. Good Job.
Josie

chris2x

Says:

Glad you like it. I like that photo also. It is from a dusk walk on the bridge.

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