It’s been a Bay Area icon since opening in 1937, and arguably no span in the world has captured global imaginations as powerfully as the Golden Gate Bridge. Towering brightly, perched above the often turbulent San Francisco Bay, the bridge reminded Depression-era America that great achievements were still possible. Despite its familiarity to most Americans and San Franciscans, there’s still a great deal of history lost in popular imagination. These are just a few lesser-known facts about this incredible landmark.
Plans Were in the Works Since 1872
While the bridge is an exemplar of the Art Deco era in which it was built, plans for a connection between the city of San Francisco and Marin County had been in the works for 65 years beforehand. It wasn’t until technology improved that real feasibility testing could occur in 1919, and the 4-year construction process was underway over a dozen years later in 1933.
The Original Color Ideas Were Quite Different
If the U.S. War Department (as it was known at the time) had their way during the planning stages, the bridge would be painted in black and yellow stripes rather than it’s immediately recognizable burnt orange. Concerns about visibility in the foggy San Francisco Bay gave rise to this bee-striped assertion, but the builders’ aesthetic opinions won out and the current color (known officially as “International Orange”) was deemed visible enough to be safe for passing ships.
Fundraising Was a Group Effort
As state and federal money were more difficult to come by in the belt-tightened 30s, residents of the six counties comprising the Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District approved $35 million in bonds with their homes and businesses as collateral to get the bridge built. Because of their foresight and generosity, the bridge stands as a monument to the power of community to achieve and built the extraordinary.
It’s 50th Anniversary Almost Ended in Disaster
To celebrate the bridge’s golden jubilee in 1987, a mass celebration was expected to draw about 50,000 visitors to the closed roadways. Instead, over 300,000 crammed onto the Golden Gate, flattening the curved span to the highest level of strain ever seen. While there was no danger of collapse, overcrowding concerns mean that such a gathering hasn’t been attempted since.