San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most famous, photographed, and beloved landmarks in the world. Yet as popular as it is, there are several things that most people don’t know about the graceful span and all the ways to experience it.
- A bridge across the Golden Gate Strait was first proposed in 1872 and championed by railroad mogul Charles Crocker but the idea didn’t catch on. Strauss Plaza was opened in 2013 and was named for him.
- Chief engineer Joseph Strauss’ first design, in 1921, was rejected as too ugly.
- The cables on the bridge were manufactured by the same company who built the Brooklyn Bridge.
- The great California nature photographer Ansel Adams worried that building a bridge across the Golden Gate would ruin the beauty of the place. When Adams saw the finished Golden Gate Bridge, he changed his mind.
- Eleven men died in accidents during construction, 10 of them on the same day. Another 19 workers caught by a safety net below the bridge were dubbed members of the “Halfway to Hell Club.”
- The Navy suggested that the bridge should be painted in black and yellow stripes. The Army Air Corps wanted candy cane red and white stripes. The signature International Orange hue was actually the color of the primer. Consulting architect Irving Morrow successfully lobbied for the bridge to be permanently painted International Orange.
- According to urban legend, the Golden Gate Bridge is painted continuously, end-to-end. Not so. The bridge is painted and touched up according to need.
- Fifty thousand people walked across the new bridge on May 26, 1937. It was opened to motor vehicles the next day. On May 24, 1987, some 300,000 people squeezed onto the bridge for a 50th birthday party called Bridgewalk 87. The weight of bridge walkers that day caused the roadway to sag in the middle by 7 feet, but bridge engineers said the structure always remained safe.
- The six-lane bridge is 1.7 miles long, linking San Francisco on the south with Marin County on the north.
- The total cost of bridge construction was $35 million.
- The bridge weighs 887,700 tons, after shedding 12,300 tons when the roadway was replaced in the 1980s.
- The two main suspension cables use a combined 80,000 miles of wire. Looped around the Earth’s equator in a single strand, it would circle the planet three times.
- The Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world until 1964. It is now the ninth-longest.
- By 2015, more than 2 billion motor vehicles had passed over the Golden Gate Bridge.
- The Bridge Pavillion, a glassy modern building in signature International Orange that serves as the visitor’s center, highlights orientation and interpretative information about the bridge and its construction. It also has terrific views of the bridge and the Pacific Ocean.
- On the Marin side, aptly named Vista Point overlooks the bay, the bridge and the city skyline from just off the bridge’s east sidewalk.
- Stretching a mile below the rugged cliffs on the Presidio’s western shoreline, Baker Beach’s spectacular outside-the-Gate views of the Bridge and the Marin Headlands are unsurpassed. It is roughly a half mile long, beginning just south of Golden Gate Point (where the Golden Gate Bridge connects with the peninsula), extending southward toward the Seacliff peninsula.
- The famed toll-bridge gets 10 million visitors a year. Most drive across on U.S. Highway 101. A toll is paid electronically at the San Francisco end.
- Walkers and bicyclists share the east sidewalk overlooking San Francisco Bay and bicyclists also use the west sidewalk on the ocean side. Walking and cycling give easy access to nearby scenic attractions like the California Coastal Trail in San Francisco and the Marin Headlands and Fort Baker in Marin County.
- Going under the bridge allows visitors to appreciate its immensity and brilliant architecture. Walkers can pause under the span at Fort Point, and there are numerous boat options to sail beneath the bridge.
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Anthony has found travel provides a healthy balance to his day job as a criminal defense attorney. Living on the periphery of blogging for years, he’s now decided to flex his creative muscles with a little writing and photography of his own. Anthony’s favorite travel destinations are the Caribbean, Italy, and Ireland.