Golden Gate Bridge Construction

The 1.7-mile-long bridge has endured earthquakes, lead paint and record crowds since its historic construction in 1937.

The 1.7-mile-long Golden Gate Bridge, an icon of the San Francisco Bay region, connects the city of San Francisco to Marin County, California. At its completion in 1937, the suspension bridge was considered an engineering marvel—the longest main suspension bridge span in the world. It held that record until New York City’s Verrazano Narrows Bridge opened in 1964 and, as of 2019, the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge in Japan boasts the world’s longest span.

Today, the West Coast landmark draws millions of commuters—and tourists—each year. Here are eight historical and surprising fast facts about the Golden Gate Bridge.

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1. An earthquake struck the bridge before it was even completed.

In June 1935 an earthquake struck the region as men worked atop the bridge’s unfinished south tower. According to PBS’ American Experience, one worker recalled, “the tower swayed 16 feet each way. There were 12 or 13 guys on top with no way to get down… The whole thing would sway toward the ocean, guys would say, ‘here we go!’ Then it would sway back toward the bay.”

2. A safety net below the bridge saved the lives of 19 men during its construction.

During construction, a safety net was suspended under the floor of the bridge, extending 10 feet wider than the bridge’s width and 15 feet longer than its length. The net proved an invaluable precaution as it saved the lives of 19 men. These men became known as members of the “Half-Way-to-Hell Club.” Despite such safety measures, 11 men died during the bridge’s construction.

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3. The bridge’s orange color was originally intended just as a primer.

The U.S. Navy had lobbied that the bridge be painted in blue and yellow stripes to increase its visibility. But when the steel arrived in San Francisco painted in a burnt red hue as primer, the consulting architect decided the color was both highly visible—and more pleasing to the eye. The bridge’s color is officially called international orange. 

4. Many firsts were set on the bridges opening day.

Golden Gate Bridge Opening Day

Some of the thousands of guests who walked across the Golden Gate Bridge once it was opened to pedestrians in 1937. 

San Franciscans celebrated the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge with Pedestrian Day on May 27, 1937. As many as 200,000 people crossed the bridge that day. People competed to be the first to run, push a baby stroller, and even roller skate across the Golden Gate Bridge. 

The San Francisco Chronicle recorded some of the more outlandish firsts, including the first person to cross the Golden Gate Bridge on stilts. The bridge opened to vehicular traffic the following day.

5. It cost $0.50—each way—to cross the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937.

Golden Gate Bridge Opening Day

Press cars crossing the bridge prior to opening day in May 1937. 

The initial toll for the bridge was 50 cents each way—roughly equivalent to an $18.00 roundtrip today—a hefty price to pay in the midst of the Great Depression. Today, Golden Gate Bridge tolls are collected in one direction only, heading southbound into the city of San Francisco.

Source – Lindsey Konkel. The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of Global Diaspora News (www.GlobalDiasporaNews.com).