People talked about creating a bridge to link San Francisco to the North Bay for decades before the plan was actually realized. The wait was worth it, though, because what emerged in 1937 was The Golden Gate Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the world at the time that it was built and an iconic symbol that represents the city of San Francisco to this day. 2012 marks the 75th anniversary of the bridge and the city is flooded with related celebrations. The bridge is also undergoing some improvements to celebrate the special anniversary.
Short History of the Golden Gate Bridge
Early in the twentieth century people had to take the ferry if they wanted to get from San Francisco to the North Bay because there was no other way to get there. Although the ferry is a fun way to enjoy the trek today, it’s not the most practical route, so many people clamored for a bridge to be built. Designs were drawn up but they were all too expensive. In 1916 the city asked bridge engineers to try to come up with a more practical, more affordable design. A young engineer named Joseph Strauss responded with a far-fetched plan.
The plan went through many steps for approval and many design changes before construction actually began in 1933. Strauss remained the head of the project although there were many designers and construction workers who made the project become a reality. In fact, eleven men gave their lives in accidents during the construction of the bridge. The bridge was finally completed in April 1937 at a cost of around $35 million.
Do you know how the Golden Gate Bridge compares to the Bay Bridge? Check out this infographic to find out!
Milestone Bridge Celebrations
The bridge was actually finished in April but wasn’t opened until May 27th so that’s the day that the city celebrates the anniversary of the bridge. The celebration for the opening of the bridge was a huge one. It was opened first to pedestrian traffic only and 200,000 people crossed over on foot. Vehicle traffic was allowed to cross at noon the next day but the celebration continued for a week. It included a small riot because everyone was so excited that things got a bit out of hand. Celebratory city and cultural events went on for about a month surrounding the opening day of the bridge.
May 1987 marked the important 50 year anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. To celebrate, the city decided to allow people to re-live that first opening day by closing the bridge to traffic and allowing pedestrians to take over the bridge. Over three quarters of a million people came out for the event and about 300,000 of them walked across the bridge. This was actually too many for the bridge and it strained the weight that’s safe for the suspension cables. Nothing bad happened but because of this there are unlikely to be any big pedestrian-traffic events like that allowed in the future!
75th Anniversary Bridge Celebration Highlights
The Golden Gate Bridge celebrates its 75th anniversary on May 27, 2012. There is a huge festival on that day that includes activities at the bridge as well as at a number of surrounding locations including Fort Point, Crissy Field, Marina Green, Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39.
Some of the key events of the 2012 bridge celebration on May 27th include:
- Future Fair. This event at Crissy Field is designed to celebrate the spirit of innovation that allowed the bridge to be designed in the first place. It takes place on the East Beach at Crissy Field from 11-7.
- Music and Performances. A stage will be set up at West Marina Green from 11 am – 10 pm with live music and other types of performances. A second stage will also be set up at Crissy Field from 11 am – 11 pm.
- Road Trip Through History. Celebrate the spirit of automobile traffic by checking out the vintage cars and motorcycles at East Crissy Field from 11 – 5.
- Fireworks Show. The night ends with a huge fireworks show that starts at 9:30. You can see them along the north bay waterfront from places like Crissy Field and Marina Green.
Golden Gate Bridge Improvements
Although the festival is a really fun way to celebrate the anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, what may be more important is that they are making some long-lasting improvements to the bridge for tourists to enjoy. Some of those improvements include:
The Bridge Round House has a new purpose. This space has always been a great place to escape the chill of the wind and still get a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge from up close. But what used to be a small gift shop is now the home of a photo center and the base for tours of the bridge. You can purchase photos where you and your family pose in front of a green screen and then get an image of yourselves perched precariously atop the Golden Gate Bridge. As for tours, there are now scheduled guided tours enhanced by audio equipment that you can take to learn all about the 75 year history of the bridge. There are multiple tours daily as well as one night tour on weekend nights. Tours run from March – October.
There is a new Bridge Pavilion. A gift shop has to go somewhere, of course, so there is now a new place for it called The Bridge Pavilion. This huge space (3500 square feet) offers much more than a traditional gift shop, though. It will be the home for a variety of exhibits and displays related to the history, art and culture of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The Bridge Cafe is healthier. The old cafe used to be little more than a hot dog stand. The newly-opened cafe features healthy, upscale snack foods including lots of choices to dine on sustainable and locally grown food items. This is definitely more in line with the essence of food culture in the Bay Area. It should be noted, however, that the food doesn’t come cheap. A soda, a tiny package of almonds and a chocolate bar cost about $15. That’s without even getting into the sandwiches and couscous and other true food options.
Improving the Bridge Plaza. The plaza is the area before you get onto the bridge where you can take photos of the bridge, sit and enjoy your snacks from The Bridge Cafe and relax if it happens to be a sunny day. This area is being redeveloped to offer more space, a better layout and clearer signage so that it’s easy to get some space for yourself even amongst the hoards of tourists that trek to this attraction each day. There will also be additional installations that share the history of the bridge.
More celebration of nature and views. In addition to the changes to the manmade aspects of the bridge there will be some changes to the ability to enjoy nature in the area as well by enhancing the quality of the trails in the area. There will also be better views thanks to two new scenic overlooks that are being constructed. One of those overlooks will actually be on the West side of the bridge, affording a perspective of the bridge that visitors don’t usually get a chance to see.
Note: As of the writing of this article, some of the changes have been implemented and others are still in the works. During the renovation you should be aware that there may be construction-related delays in the parking areas. If it is at all possible, you should consider biking, hiking or taking the bus to and from the bridge to avoid those delays. Although they are working hard to keep the bridge open during construction, there may also be delays that affect car, bike and pedestrian traffic on the bridge during some parts of the construction.