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The iconic Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco turns 75 . From a normal bridge to 110,000 cars a day.
On May 27, 1937, the public for the first time could drive, walk, or bicycle directly from San Francisco to Marin County in the north. Now, 110,000 cars pass over the bridge a day.
Today, the iconic Golden Gate bridge turns 75 years.
It’s one of the wonders of the world, and one of the most photographed things on the planet. And this Sunday, the Golden Gate Bridge turns 75.
In the late 1800s, the only way to cross the Golden Gate was by ferry, and those who ran the local vessels were among the region’s elite. But starting in the late 1860s, there began to be calls for a bridge. And in 1872, railroad tycoon Charles Crocker told the Marin County Board of Supervisors that plans and cost estimates had been prepared for a suspension bridge that would span the strait and that could carry passengers and rail cars.
The die was cast. In 1916, ten years after the devastating earthquake that leveled San Francisco, San Francisco Call Bulletin editor James Wilkins publicly proposed a design for a bridge crossing the strait. But World War I was on, and the public’s attention was elsewhere, according to a history of the bridge put together by the Golden Gate Bridge Highway & Transportation District.
On May 23, 1923, California’s legislature passed the Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District Act of California. This enabled the creation of new district that would build what eventually came to be known as the Golden Gate Bridge. And on December 9, 1929, less than two months after the start of the Great Depression, twin dedication ceremonies were held, one in San Francisco, and one in Marin, to mark the commencement of borings for the new bridge tower piers. As chief engineer Joseph Strauss put it at the time, “This is a day of big projects, and the building of the Golden Gate Bridge ranks among the biggest.”
The Golden Gate Bridge, as seen from the Airship Eureka.
The pace of building such a project is slow, of course, and it took until 1930 for the U.S. War Department to finally issue a permit for the construction of the bridge. It would have a 4,200-foot main span, and vertical clearances of 220 feet at its midspan and 210 feet at its sidespans, according to the bridge history document.
On January 5, 1933, the first work on the bridge began, and nearly two months later, on February 26, 1933, politicians and workers held the official ground-breaking ceremony.
But work was already nearly done. On November 20, 1936, the two sections of the main span were connected, creating one single roadway. A few months later, on April 27, 1937, the last rivet was driven into the bridge, and on May 27, 1937, it finally opened, connecting San Francisco and Marin for the first time, and beginning what so far has been a 75 year love affair between the world and one of its most famous constructions.
But it can be easy to forget that the bridge is meant for cars. It is visible for miles in many different directions, and stands as one of San Francisco’s calling cards to the world. In daylight, it stands tall and proud, its rust red a world-famous color. At night, it is lit up, a quiet monument on the horizon for those that can see it.
It’s Sunday, and it turns 75. Happy birthday, Golden Gate Bridge.