It was once known as “the bridge that couldn’t be built” and its proposed construction was met with fierce opposition. Thankfully, the Golden Gate was bridged and the result is a majestic piece of architecture. You can see the iconic red of the bridge from lots of different places in San Francisco, but my favourite was from Baker Beach as the sun set. Today the Golden Gate Bridge is taken for granted, but that wasn’t always the case.
Its many early opponents claimed it would destroy the natural beauty of San Francisco Bay, others believed that it wouldn’t survive an earthquake similar to the one that flattened San Francisco in 1906. The people who worked the ferry that existed before the bridge probably weren’t too pleased either.
Despite this, the momentum to span the Golden Gate and connect the city with its northern peninsula continued to build. In 1919, the tender to design a bridge was won by a Chicago-based engineer, Joseph Strauss. Strauss was a man capable of dreaming big, in fact he’d already made designs for a 55-mile long bridge across the Baring Straight to connect Alaska with Russia.
At a mile wide, the Golden Gate was a less daunting prospect and Strauss promised to build the bridge to a budget of $35 million. For over a decade progress was mired in litigation and opposition, but the drive to build became overwhelming during the Depression of the 1930s.
On January 5th, 1933, construction of the monumental Golden Gate Bridge finally began. The excavation of 3.25 million cubic feet of earth necessary to support the twin towers that stretch 746 feet into the air, employed thousands made redundant in the Depression. The two cables that support the road below are 7,000 feet in length and contain 80,000 miles of wire. 1.2 million steel rivets hold all the pieces of the bridge together.
The designs for the graceful suspension bridge that emerged after four years of construction was the work of many hands, and have stood the test of time. Since then the bridge has won many accolades, none less than the fact that in its first 75-years of operation it only closed three times due to bad weather.
Today it’s considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers, it’s one of the most recognisable buildings on the planet, and is a truly awe inspiring sight viewed from far away or close up. It does hold some less fortunate accolades, including as a popular site for suicides.
As for the iconic red colour … it’s officially an orange vermillion known as International Orange. It’s supposed to aid visibility for shipping in poor weather conditions. A team of 38 painters maintain the bridge’s paintwork.