75 years ago this weekend, the “Bridge that Couldn’t be Built” opened to the public for the very first time.
Crossing the 6,700 ft (2042 m) straight at the mouth of the San Francisco bay from Fort Point to present day Marin County, the project had to overcome engineering obstacles such as blinding fog, gale winds, and strong unpredictable currents in frigid 372 ft deep water. Many experts of the day simply derided it as simply “not possible”.
Luckily for us, the dreamers refused to listen.
Spearheaded by Joseph Strauss, his original design was a FAR less flattering cantilevered structure reflecting his prior experience in drawbridges. Somehow I doubt that version would have resulted in quite as many busloads of international tourists flashing peace signs for their photo albums…
The final graceful lines of the suspension bridge we all know and love were designed by Leon Moisseiff of New York’s Manhattan Bridge fame. Leon also designed the similar and ill fated original Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which was famously caught on film collapsing due to unexpected aeroleastic flutter in a strong windstorm. Oops.
Made for some great commercials though.
It took 4 years to build, cost more than $35 million, used 1,200,000 rivets and 80,000 miles of wire strand but finally on 27 May 1937, the 8,981 ft long bridge (1.7 mile, 2.7km) opened to traffic for the very first time.
At the time of completion it had the world’s longest suspension main span, a record it held until 1964 when it was bested by the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York City. It also had the world’s tallest suspension towers until finally surpassed in 1998 by the Akashi-Kaikyō Bridge in Kobe Japan. She remains the world’s 8th tallest in the world to this day.
Featuring numerous Irving Morrow penned art-deco elements in its towers, lighting and railing, the GG is one of the most photographed and arguably most beautiful bridges in the world. Much of its appeal comes from not just the achingly beautiful lines but also the famous orange color which was originally just intended to be a sealant. Luckily, locals convinced Morrow to keep the vibrant hue instead of the standard dull greys of the time.
This weekend on it’s 75th birthday there will be numerous road closuresand celebrations in the area, but uncontrolled pedestrian access is not being considered again, lest the old gal be subjected to a repeat of its 50th anniversary back in 1987. On that wild day nearly 1 million people turned out for the party, and some 300,000 people congested the bridge – causing the center span to flatten out under all the excess weight. YEOW!
(Don’t worry, it never got past 40% of the rated weight, allegedly)
Still, if you are in the area expect things to be more orderly and controlled, if not subdued. This is still San Francisco after all, second only to Bezerkly for crazy-population density per-capita.
Super spouse and I will be making the trek (yet again) on Saturday the day before, to see the USS Iowa pass underneath… this time for sure!
Find more information at http://goldengatebridge75.org/
(sources and images courtesy Wikipedia and the mighty talented Tuckertown)