The Icon: Golden Gate Bridge

Engineering wonder or colossal work of art? For many who drive or bike across, or simply admire it from afar, the Golden Gate Bridge is both.

Vaulting across the milewide strait for which it’s named, joining San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean, the span opened May 28, 1937, after more than four years of construction.

Though the bridge links San Francisco‘s urban skyline with the hills of Marin County to the north, it’s far more than just functional. Mysterious when shrouded in fog, viviid when bathed in the supple light of the bay, it remains a timeless symbol of a city.

Here are some fast facts about this art deco icon:

Length: 1.7 miles, including approaches. The main suspension span (0.8 miles) is currently the world’s ninth longest.

Height: 746 feet, about 100 feet shorter than San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid.

Average daily use: 110,113 vehicles, 10,000 pedestrians, and 6,000 bicycles per day.

Best spot for a photo: The Marin Headlands above the northern end, where the view includes San Francisco’s skyline.

Cool hue: International orange, selected to complement the natural setting. The U.S. Navy had wanted black with yellow stripes.

Closures: Eight total—three times for high winds, once to accommodate construction, twice for anniversary walks (in 1987 and 2012), and one each during visits of Franklin Roosevelt and Charles de Gaulle.

Most pedestrians at one time: 300,000 during the 1987 50th anniversary walk, which flattened the roadway’s normal arc from the weight.

Construction fatalities: Eleven. In addition, 19 workers became members of the “Halfway-to-Hell Club” when a net stopped their falls.

Biggest myth: That it’s regularly repainted end-to-end. In fact, continuous touch-ups maintain the 83,000 tons of structural steel.

Lucky rider: On February 22, 1985, the one billionth driver crossed the bridge. Arthur Molinari, a dentist, received a bridge-construction hard hat and a case of champagne.

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  1. @Arch_Tina
    December 2, 2014, 1:44 pm

    There’s no place like home… like being at the Golden Gate Bridge..

  2. Elizabeth
    November 10, 2014, 2:35 pm

    I recently went to San Francisco, and a great place to see the Golden Gate Bridge and get some history behind it is Fort Point National Historic Site, right under the bridge itself! Most locals we ran into hadn’t even heard of the spot before. But it’s free and when we went there in September, it was almost deserted! Plus, they regularly show a documentary about the construction of the bridge. Very interesting all around.