In order to celebrate the Golden Gate Bridge’s birthday, Musement shares 6 things that you didn’t know about the Golden Gate Bridge.
May 27th marks the day that the Golden Gate Bridge first opened to the public. Connecting the beautiful city of San Francisco to Marin Country since 1937, the bridge has been a fan favorite ever since. It’s easy to see why the iconic landmark is crossed by over 10 million pedestrians each year, as one has breathtaking views of the city as they pass over the bridge.
This engineering marvel was the longest suspension bridge at the time of its construction, spanning a total distance of 1.7 miles. Easily recognizable from afar, it is also one of the most Instagrammed and photographed landmarks in San Francisco, finding its way onto many social media.
Without further ado, here are 6 things that you probably didn’t know about the Golden Gate Bridge.
1. There’s a first for everything
Nearly 200,000 people came to inaugurate the bridge on May 27, 1937. To celebrate the right way, the bridge was closed to any automobile traffic and only pedestrians were allowed to cross, known as “Pedestrian Day”. Opening day played host to a “first” for many different types of activities: first to run across the bridge, roller skate, play a musical instrument, and even walk on stilts across the bridge! The fee to access the bridge was 50 cents, equivalent to nearly $10 today, quite the pretty penny during the Great Depression.
2. The bridge’s color scheme that never was
Prior to its construction, it was up for debate on what color the bridge should be painted. Two options that were considered were black and gray or black with yellow stripes, the latter a suggestion from the US Navy. The US Navy wanted the bridge to look like a caution sign in order to warn passing ships that they were approaching a bridge.
However, once the steel arrived in San Francisco, the bridge’s architect, Irving Morrow, decided that the burnt orange and red primer hue was in fact a better color scheme than the other options. What was only supposed to be used as a primer to prevent erosion while being transported, the “International Orange” was chosen as the bridge’s color. Complementary to the surrounding area and due to its highly visible color, the beautiful bridge’s color became permanent.
3. Safety comes first
Construction safety was of high importance to chief engineer Joseph Strauss. He made it mandatory for workers to wear a hardhat while on the job, the first construction site to do so in America. A rule of thumb back in the ‘30s for civil engineering projects was to expect one worker death for every $1 million spent. The Golden Gate Bridge cost $35 million to build, with only 11 fatalities, thanks in part to the $130,000 safety net that Strauss had installed under the floor of the bridge. This safety net wound up saving the lives of 19 construction workers who had fallen while working but were saved by the net. These men dubbed themselves as the “Halfway to Hell Club”.
4. A temporarily flattened bridge
In May of 1987, the Golden Gate Bridge was temporarily shut down to automobiles in order to celebrate its 50th birthday. Around 80,000 people were expected to show up, but these expectations were greatly outdone. Roughly one million people showed up to the event with intentions to partake in the walk across the bridge. Due to poor crowd control, approximately 300,000 people made it onto the bridge at once, causing the bridge to sway back and forth. This caused the bridge’s arch to flatten out and it even made the bridge sag seven feet in the middle because of the weight overload.
Officials quickly closed the bridge, preventing the other participants to cross the bridge and put an abrupt end to the celebrations. According to the bridge’s engineer, the bridge was never actually in danger of collapsing.
5. Thirty years of paint removal
As we said before, the “International Orange” steel that arrived in San Francisco was coated with a primer to prevent corrosion. This would serve as protection to help the bridge resist any sort of natural wear and tear. What wasn’t known at the time was the dangers to the environment and society of using lead-based paint. In order to protect the people of the city, a massive paint removal was ordered, which began in 1965 and finished in 1995. Nowadays, zinc-based paint is used to paint the bridge, usually, a new coat applied as it’s needed. The zinc is said to help protect the steel from rusting.
6. First suicide happened three months after completion
Harold Wobber, a World War I Veteran, was the first person to take his life by jumping from the bridge 3 months after the bridge’s completion. While walking with a stranger he just met on the bus, he turned to her and said, “this is where I get off” and then jumped to his death. Since then, over 1,600 people have decided to take their lives at the Golden Gate Bridge, making it the second highest location for this act. A safety net is being installed on the outskirts of the bridge to help prevent further suicides and should be finished in the near future.
Bonus: That’s a lot of wire
The two main suspension cables that make up the Golden Gate Bridge consists of 80,000 miles of wire combined. If you were to put them in a single strand, you would have enough wire to wrap around the Earth’s equator, three times!