This year marks the 87th anniversary of the completion of the Golden Gate Bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge located in the San Francisco Bay. Some quick facts according to CNN.com: it is 1.7 miles long and weighs 887,000 tons and was initially conceived in 1916 by James H. Wilkins, though construction didn’t start until 1933. The bridge was also opened to pedestrians and vehicles in May of 1937.
There are many other interesting facts surrounding the construction and operation of the bridge. Here are six that you may not know.
- The bridge was not supposed to be orange
In fact, the History Channel reports that the U.S. Navy recommended the bridge be painted with bold yellow and blue stripes to make it more visible to ships. However, when the steel arrived in San Francisco, it was covered in a primer of burnt red. Irving Morrow, the consulting architect, preferred that color scheme to yellow and blue. Today, the bridge is painted in a color known as international orange.
- The construction of the bridge faced opposition
Mental Floss reports that in 1930, three years before construction began, the bridge had 2,300 lawsuits pending against it. One of the chief litigants was the Southern Pacific Railroad, which owned 51 percent of the ferry company that provided transportation between San Francisco and Marin County. Another litigant was the Sierra Club, which felt the bridge would prove an eyesore.
- The bridge experienced its first earthquake in 1935 while it was still under construction
Amazingly, no one was killed, but a dozen workers were stranded at the top of the bridge when a construction elevator broke. The tower of the bridge swayed 16 feet in both directions during the quake.
- More than 1,500 people have died by suicide after jumping from the bridge
A San Francisco Chronicle article reports an average of 30 suicide deaths per year. The first victim was a World War I veteran by the name of Harold Wobber. In 2018, construction began on a suicide deterrent net, but this safety device is still a few years away from completion.
- Safety was a top priority during the construction of the bridge
In an age where people cynically believed that one worker would die for every million dollars worth of value of the property, the team behind the construction of the bridge took safety seriously. Mental Floss reports that workers were required to follow stringent safety guidelines, such as wearing specially designed hard hats and glare resistant goggles. Those who did not comply with wearing protective equipment quickly found themselves unemployed. The construction workers also had a safety net to protect them from falls. In the end, the safety net saved at least 19 lives.
However, in the end, 11 workers did die during the construction of the bridge. Without the safety measures taken ahead of time, this number would have likely been higher.
- The engineer behind the bridge was Joseph Strauss
Hired in 1928, Strauss received a million dollars in compensation for his work. He built 400 drawbridges around the United States, but the Golden Gate Bridge is his best known accomplishment. According to PBS, there is speculation that the job ruined his health. He disappeared for six months during construction amid rumors of a mental breakdown. Strauss eventually moved to Arizona once the bridge was completed.
This year, as you celebrate the 87th anniversary of the completion of the Golden Gate Bridge, enjoy reading up on the history of the bridge. It is truly a feat of American engineering.