Everytime I visit San Francisco I walk across the bridge. Ever since I moved away from the Bay Area, my return visits have been marked by this personal tradition. It’s almost a religious experience to stroll on the walkway of the Golden Gate Bridge.
I’m usually in a rental car when I visit. I drive north to Marin County and park in the visitors’ center lot near the footing of the bridge. I check that I have my camera, then climb the stairs to the bridge deck. Pedestrians use the walkway that was constructed on the east side of the deck. This affords views of the Golden Gate Straits below and San Francisco nestled into the east and southeast.
I make sure my hike lasts awhile because I don’t get to do this very often. This is in spite of the fact that I can’t remember how many times I’ve walked the span in my lifetime. Of course I have to cross it again to return to the car. So, I need to double the figure.
Sometimes I wonder who the first person to officially walk across the bridge was. How did he or she feel? I don’t know if that person was a city official or just a regular Joe or Jane who managed to lead the pack.
I know I’m jumping the gun, ahead of the anniversary of the official opening of the Golden Gate Bridge. But so did the first pedestrians. The structure was legally opened to foot and bicycle traffic 75 years ago, today. May 27th, 1937. The very next day, at noon Pacific Time, President Franklin D. Roosevelt tapped his telegraph key, from the White House, to proclaim that the bridge was officially open to traffic.
The bridge was designed by engineer Charles Alton Ellis who collaborated with designer Leon Moisseiff from a basic concept from architect Irving Morrow. Joseph Strauss was the promoter of the idea of building a bridge across the Golden Gate Straits.
The construction efforts took just over four years at a cost of $35,000,000. All said, the Golden Gate Bridge was finished ahead of schedule and well under budget.
The first aspect most visitors notice is the bright International Orange paintjob. The color was originally to be only a protective sealant. There was to be a final coat of silver or grey. The U.S. Navy had insisted that it should be painted in yellow and black stripes in a step towards safety for passing ships. Thank goodness the Navy lost out on that horrible scheme. Orange won the day because many of the local population pursuaded Irving Morrow to retain the orange color idea.
Morrows ideas went into the Art Deco style of the towers, railing, walkway, lighting method and streetlights. Charles Ellis engineered the nuts and bolts of design through Moisseieff’s theories of suspension bridge design. At completion, the main span was the longest in the world at 4,200 feet (1,280.2 metres). Total length of the bridge from abutment to abutment is 8,091 feet (2,373 metres). It’s towers held the record for tallest until 1998 when Denmark and Japan built taller ones.
To this day, architectural critics and esthetics experts rank the project as the most visually pleasing bridge in the world. It is also believed that it is the most photographed bridge on earth. It has been a global symbol of San Francisco and the United States ever since its completion.
The Blue Jay of Happiness notes that the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the “Modern Wonders Of The World” as declared by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
“Almost a religious experience”, I can relate to that very much. The Golden Gate Bridge was once a place where I didn’t jump but climbed up instead and found myself a free man, not compelled to survive but free to live ever since. I too go there sometimes to celebrate.
Klaus, your comment is as mysterious as it is compelling. Thanks for stopping by.