Here are 15 colossal facts about the Golden Gate Bridge to get started, with 15 more in part two of this blog to get you all the way to the other side!
1. The Golden Gate Bridge is 8,981 feet (1.7 miles) long and 90 feet wide.
2. It weighs 887,000 tons and contains about 88,000 tons of steel, alone.
3. It contains six driving lanes and two sidewalks, and street level is 220 feet above the water below.
4. Two towers connect the two massive steel cables that anchor the Golden Gate Bridge. The cables each contain about 80,000 miles of wire inside.
5. The towers stand 4,200 apart from each other, 726 feet above the water and 500 feet above street level. Each tower contains about 600,000 rivets, which are now replaced with galvanized high-strength bolts when they corrode.
6. Where did the name for the bridge come from? The ocean strait that was the entrance to San Francisco Bay was first named Chrysopylae by U.S. Army Captain John Fremont in 1846, which is Greek for “golden gate.”
7. Even the signature burnt orange color of the Golden Gate Bridge is famous. Called "GGB International Orange," the custom paint is made with the formula: is Cyan: 0 percent, Magenta: 69 percent, Yellow: 100 percent, Black: 6 percent and currently supplied by Sherwin Williams.
8. But making it that color wasn’t ever the plan. In fact, the steel that first arrived to build the bridge happened to be coated in a burnt red and orange primer. When the bridge was near completion and they had to decide what color to paint it, architect Irving Morrow favored the orange primer better than the other paint choices such as carbon black and steel gray. They also found that the orange hue was visible in the fog, so they decided to paint it the same color.
Those won’t the only color options as the U.S. Navy – which, as we’ll find out, was a huge proponent of the bridge’s construction, wanted the Golden Gate to be painted in black and yellow stripes so it would be always visible to passing ships. The Army Corps took the bad design one step further, rallying for loud red and white stripes (like a candy cane!) so it would be visible from the air to passing planes.
9. The idea for the bridge first was proposed in 1872, when railroad executive Charles Crocker introduced a plan to the Marin County Board of Supervisors for a bridge that would cross the Golden Gate Strait.
10. The plan was deemed impossibly far-fetched at the time, since the strait was more than a mile wide at its narrowest point, and the frigid water had rough currents of 4.5 to 7.5 knots.
11. The project was shelved until nearly 50 years later in 1919, when a San Francisco city engineer named Michael O’Shaughnessy conducted a study to determine the realistic potential and cost of the bridge. O’Shaughnessy reported that it could be done, but it would probably cost around $100 million. To put that unheard of sum of $100 million in perspective, that’s worth about ten times as much in today’s dollars.
12. Construction commenced on January 5, 1933 with plenty of pomp and circumstance in front of 100,000 spectators, including a 21 gun salute, a parade at nearby Crissy Field where a message sent by President Herbert Hoover was read, and engineering students revealed their 80-foot long model of the proposed bridge, complete with carrier pigeons who took off to spread the message of the bridge’s commencement all over California. To conclude the ceremony, San Francisco Mayor Angelo Rossi and bridge Board President William P. Filmer broke ground using a golden spade.
13. The Golden Gate Bridge took a little over four years to complete (much more on that massive undertaking later) at a much lower cost than projected of only $35 million.
14. The official opening for the Golden Gate Bridge was on May 27, 1937, kicking off a week of celebrations until June 2. The opening day was called “Pedestrian Day” when people could walk the bridge only, and 15,000 people every hour cross the turnstiles, each paying 25 cents for the privilege to be on the historic bridge. Always creative, the residents of San Francisco and well-wishers crossed the bridge on foot but also on roller skates, stilts, and even unicycles! Vendors sold an estimated 50,000 hot dogs that day.
15. The next day at noon, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sent a telegraph from the White House announcing the Golden Gate’s opening to the world. At 3 p.m. that day, a Navy fleet of 42 ships sailed under the bridge, and at 10 p.m. that night the day’s festivities concluded with a grand fireworks display shot off the new bridge.
Look for part two of this blog, when we cover 15 more facts about the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, including earthquakes, the identity of the billionth driver to cross, and it’s haunting record of suicides.