Golden Gate Bridge: Things You Didn't Know About San Francisco's Most Famous Landmark

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San Francisco’s most prominent landmark is a true engineering marvel.

The instantly recognizable silhouette of San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge makes it one of the most iconic landmarks in the country. The construction of this engineering marvel that spans 1.7 miles and connects the city with Marin County to the north lasted four years, from 1933 to 1937. The bridge’s famed architecture was conceived by the Chicago-based engineer Joseph Strauss and his team who initially submitted a plan for a symmetrical cantilever-suspension hybrid span later modified to the bridge’s current design. Today, the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most famous and photographed structures in the world, and its striking red art deco façade attracts millions of visitors each year. Read on to find out eight lesser-known facts about one of America’s grandest engineering marvels.

Local residents opposed the construction.

It’s hard to imagine that one of the country’s most visited landmarks would be opposed by residents, but three years before the bridge’s construction began, there were 2,300 lawsuits against it. Some people worried that it would damage the environment on both ends, while others thought it would increase property taxes. And some simply feared the bridge would be so ugly that it would be an eyesore.

It has its own signature color.

Golden Gate Bridge would not be so striking was it not for its bold hue, called International Orange. Initially, the U.S. Navy had asked for the bridge to be painted black with yellow stripes, but when the vermillion-hued steel arrived in San Francisco, the bridge’s lead engineer Joseph Strauss decided not to paint over it and leave it as it is. The shade was called International Orange. To maintain the brightness of the color and protect the bridge from the salty air, its façade is now repainted on an as-needed basis.

If you’d like to paint something at home the same shade, go to the nearest paint store and give them the following details: C= Cyan: 0%, M =Magenta: 69%, Y =Yellow: 100%, K = Black: 6%.

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Opening day was a complete success.

A week-long schedule of events marked the bridge’s opening that took place on May 27, 1937. By 6 AM that day, thousands of pedestrians had already lined up waiting to cross, and it is estimated that about 200,000 people did so on opening day. Each paid .50 cents. To mark the occasion, Strauss wrote two poems, “The Mighty Task is Done” and “The Golden Gate Bridge,” that he shared with everyone that day.

View of Golden Gate bridge.
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It is a record-breaker.

When Golden Gate Bridge was completed, it became the longest suspension bridge in the world—a title it kept until 1964 when New York’s Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge opened.

Currently, the bridge ranks 17 among the longest suspension bridges, with Japan’s Akashi Kaikyō Bridge taking the first spot.

Over one billion people have crossed it.

In 1985, Dr. Arthur Molinari became the one billionth driver to cross the bridge. To celebrate the occasion, he was gifted a hardhat and a case of champagne. In 2019 alone, the Golden Gate Bridge was crossed by a little over 20 million vehicles.

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Looking at the bridge by the numbers is fascinating.

Golden Gate Bridge weighed a whopping  804,672 tonnes when it was completed in 1937. It is 90 feet wide and features six driving lanes and two sidewalks. Its towers rise 746 feet above the water, while the bridge itself averages 220 feet in height above the water.

There’s a Brooklyn Bridge connection.

New Jersey-based company Roebling’s Sons Co. supplied the cables needed to support the bridge. The same company created the cables for New York’s Brooklyn Bridge 52 years earlier. Each of the two main cables contains more than 27,000 parallel wires, which is enough to circle the planet three times.

Actor James Stewart as Scottie Ferguson rescues Kim Novak as Madeleine Elster from drowning under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, in a scene from the film 'Vertigo', directed by Alfred Hitchcock, 1958.
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Hollywood loves the Bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge is a true Hollywood A-lister judging by the number of movies it has appeared in. Some of the most popular ones include Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Pacific Rim, X-Men: The Last Stand, Star Trek, and Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 thriller Vertigo.