In part oneof this blog we documented 15 facts about The Golden Gate Bridge. Here are 15 more colossal facts about the San Francisco and national landmark in advance of the big, orange, foggy bridge’s 80th birthday next year:
1. Conceiving a bridge that spanned across the San Francisco Bay proved to be much easier than actually building it. Starting way back in In 1920, three accomplished engineers, Joseph B. Strauss, Francis C. McMath, and Gustav Lindenthal, received letters inviting them to submit designs and bids for the new bridge project. Strauss thought he could build the symmetrical cantilever-suspension hybrid bridge for a price tag of between $17 and $27 million.
2. A commission set up to coordinate the build kept the design hidden from the public for a year. But when Strauss’s plan did come to light, the sentiment was not favorable, as the local press called it ugly, with one writer describing it as “a ponderous, blunt bridge that combined a heavy tinker toy frame at each end with a short suspension span. It seemed to strain its way across the Golden Gate.”
3. Strauss eventually altered his design plans (though, tragically, he never received money nor credit for designing the bridge), but funding the project was another challenge, as very little state or federal money was available. Most of the cost of the bridge was raised through $35 million in bonds sold by the Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District. Local San Francisco residents even put their homes, farms, and businesses up as collateral.
4. Even approving the plan to build the Golden Gate Bridge was a colossal undertaking that took years of favorable court rulings, two Federal hearings, an act of State legislature, mass boycotts and a guarantee that local workers would be used.
5. There was huge opposition to the bridge’s construction, with 2,300 lawsuits filed against the bridge and its subsidiaries in 1930 alone. The Southern Pacific Railroad was a huge opponent because they had a majority stake in the ferry that took commuters across the bay.
6. Even the U.S. War Department was dubious about the project, since they thought Navy ships would be trapped inside San Francisco Bay if the bridge was ever bombed or collapsed. In fact, the War Department owned the land on both sides of where the bridge touched land, so it took six years for them to approve construction and issue the permit.
7. In the midst of construction, an earthquake struck the area, causing the half-completed bridge to sway more than 15 feet side to side. A dozen workers were stuck high up on the South Tower during the quake, stranded because the elevator wouldn’t run, all of them hanging on for dear life and throwing up repeatedly from the vertigo.
8. Construction of The Golden Gate Bridge marked a new era in construction safety. Before the bridge’s build, a rule of thumb for building bridges was to expect a worker fatality for every $1 million it costs. But instead of 35 worker fatalities ($35 million), only 11 worker fatalities took place. Requiring workers to wear hard hats (the first such practice in America) and safety nets suspended below the bridge deck helped save the lives of 19 workers, who called themselves the “Halfway to Hell Club.”
9. The Golden Gate Bridge has only been closed a few times during its history, including for anniversaries, construction work, and in honor of visiting dignitaries.
But the longest unplanned closure was on December 3, 1983, when 75 mph winds shut down the bridge for three hours and 27 minutes until it was safe to cross it again.
10. Until 1960, The Golden Gate was the longest suspension bridge in the word. That year, Japan's Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge gained that honor with a span of 6,500 feet. But the Golden Gate still wins the award for the most photographed bridge in the world.
11. On February 22, 1985 the one-billionth driver crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. The lucky motorist, a dentist named Dr. Arthur Molinari, was greeted by fanfare, media, given a special hard hat and a case of champagne.
12. However, another seminal event – the bridge’s 50th anniversary on May 24, 1987 – was a complete disaster. A crowd of 50,000 people was expected to show up for the ceremony, but more than 800,000 well wishers and spectators attended! With all of that weight, the bridge started to sag in the middle and a 17 mph wind started swaying it side to side, creating mass panic in the crowd, many of whom became nauseas or claustrophobic in the thick crowd. Soon, the entire bridge flattened and the arch disappeared under the greatest load it carried in its 50 years of existence. But according to engineers, there was no reason for concern since the bridge was designed to move up to 15 feet vertically and 27 feed side to side, and even a maximum weight load would only put 40% stress on the suspension cables.
13. The Golden Gate Bridge has appeared in more than two-dozen movies, including The Maltese Falcon (1941), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Interview with the Vampire (1994), The Rock (1998), and San Andreas (2015). Unfortunately, the bridge is often the target of destruction by aliens, attacking foreign armies, or cataclysmic natural disasters.
14. The bridge holds the dubious distinctions as the top destination for suicides in the world. That macabre track record started only three months after it opened in 1937, when a man named H.B. Wobber took a bus to the bridge, casually told the other passengers that this was where he got off, climbed the rail and jumped.
Since then, there have been more than 1,500 suicides from the Golden Gate, an average of one suicide every three weeks. Even though they hit the freezing cold water at 75 mph, more than 30 jumpers have actually survived the fall, and there are now 11 crisis counseling phones along the span.
15. The Golden Gate is such an imposing structure that it actually impacts the weather patterns in the bay and city, particularly the famous San Francisco fog. In fact, the bridge redirects the fog stream up and over or down under the bridge, effectively separating high pressure from low as fog crosses its path.