Golden Gate Bridge
Author: Ryan Semmelmayer
When I was in high school, we had exchange students from England that stayed with us in the Bay Area. They were here for a total of two weeks. Apparently, there are things you can get here for much cheaper than you can in the UK. Levi jeans are apparently designer over there. American Eagle was a big deal (this was 2007). Abercrombie, Hollister etc. Anyway, the point is, in their two weeks of being here they were so busy shopping that the sightseeing fell by the wayside. On the very last day they were here, we decided to go to see the Golden Gate Bridge. It was one of those days in SF that starts out glorious and sunny and ends gloomy and grey. As we made our way from downtown to the west side of the city it seemed like day turned to night in 30 minutes. I took them down to Fort Point where you can get one of the best views of the bridge. When we got there all we could see was a cloud of billowing fog. Literally no trace of the bridge remained.
I still keep in touch with some of those British folks and they always joke about how “glorious” the GGB was. It’s a funny story, but truly, I feel bad for them. Going to San Francisco and missing the Golden Gate Bridge is like going Rome and missing the Coliseum, or going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. That bridge is more than a piece of infrastructure. It’s something magical.
I’m a bit spoiled because I was raised here, but that Bridge truly deserves all the acclaim it gets. It is the most photographed bridge in the world, and perhaps the most famous.
The Golden Gate Bridge runs almost two miles over the Pacific Ocean connecting the city of San Francisco with Marin County to the North. It was officially opened to the public in 1937 and was the brainchild of a man named Joseph Strauss (no relation to Levi who makes those “designer jeans” I was talking about). Nowadays it’s hard to think of SF being separated to its neighbors in the north and east but for much of the first part of the 20th century that was the case. Neither the Bay Bridge or the GGB existed until the very late 30’s. Dreams of connecting the two had been around since the gold rush but they never came to fruition until much later.
The original concept of the bridge was met with some resistance. First of all people wanted to preserve the natural beauty of the bay and the idea of a bridge brought to mind a dirty industrial beast ruining the landscape. Another reason was residual scare coming off the 1906 earthquake. People at that time just didn’t believe a bridge could withstand that magnitude of shaking. A man named Leon S. Moisseiff proposed an idea for a suspension bridge that could swing more than 2 feet in strong winds and/or something worse. A man named Irving F. Morrow is responsible for the iconic orange and art deco style of the towers.
Construction began in 1933. As you can imagine it was an immensely stressful jobs. In fact the workers on the bridge called themselves “The Halfway to Hell Club” Despite the incredibly perilous conditions the crew was subjected to there was only one casualty in the span of 4 years. They had situated a safety net which actually saved 19 lives… however in February 1937, 2 months before the opening of the bridge, a scaffold fell through the net killing 10.
It was officially opened to the public of April 19, 1937. The next day Franklin Roosevelt declared it open to cars on 4/20 (fitting for SF, FDR knew what’s up).
The GGB is a marvel of engineering and an American icon. It was named one of the Seven Wonders of the Civil Engineering in the world world in 1994. That puts it on par with the Channel Tunnel and the Panama Canal. When you are in San Francisco, you are required to see this bridge. Whether you bike it, walk it, see it on our most popular walking tour, or just from afar, it is an absolute requirement of any trip to the city. It might seem like one of those attractions that you could perhaps do without but please do not pass it up. It’s as majestic in person as it appears in pictures.