Golden Gate Bridge Pedestrian Day (1937.05.27)

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On May 27, 1937, San Francisco‘s Golden Gate Bridge was made available to the community for the first time for “Pedestrian Day.”  It was the beginning of the week-long “Golden Gate Bridge Fiesta” to celebrate its accomplishment. In excess of 200,000 people forked over twenty-five cents per person to walk across the bridge. The next day at noon President Franklin Roosevelt, from his office at the White House, activated a telegraph key and the Golden Gate Bridge was officially opened for vehicular use.

The Golden Gate opening celebration started at 6 am with Pedestrian Day – the entire roadway was opened exclusively to pedestrians from dawn to dusk. By 6 am, it is estimated that 18,000 people were waiting to cross! An estimated 15,000 an hour passed the turnstiles in a steady stream each paying 25 cents to cross. Scores of hot dog stands lined the roadway with estimates of up to 50,000 sold.

The notion of bridging the mile-wide Golden Gate channel was proposed as early as the 1870.  It  was not until the San Francisco Call and Post began an editorial campaign in 1916 that the idea got popular backing. Rocky coastline and stormy weather conditions made the task seem impossible. After construction studies, however, in 1923 the California legislature passed the Golden Gate Bridge and Highway District Act.  The Bridge District itself was formed six years later. Voters approved a $35 million construction bond in November 1930 notwithstanding the stock market crash of 1929.

The idea to span the Golden Gate, the mile-wide strait connecting the San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean, may have seemed crazy to many people.  In fact, the idea of such a bridge was originally proposed by a madman. Joshua Norton – a San Francisco merchant who went bankrupt and developed a severe mental disability, declared himself Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico  and decreed the building of the bridge in 1869.

A proposed design for a bridge published in 1916 by the San Francisco Call caught the eye of the city’s chief engineer, Michael O’Shaughnessy.  It was then that serious plans began to be developed. The original cost estimate came in at an astounding $100 million (nearly $2 billion in today’s money). This cost estimate might have ended the discussion again if not for the appearance of Joseph B. Strauss.  He was a structural engineer who had 400 bridges to his credit.  He could complete the project for around $30 million.  The Strauss design was less than beautiful and met with some resistance.  Opponents said that the Strauss bridge design would take away from the natural grandeur of the bay.

By late 1929, the Golden Gate Bridge District was formed, and Strauss’ original prosaic cantilever-suspension hybrid design had been exchanged by an all-suspension bridge. Irving Morrow, a local architect, is the man responsible for the Golden Gate Bridge’s elegant art deco design, as well as choosing its distinguishing color: international orange (which contrasts with the surrounding sea, sky and land irrespective of weather or season). The structural calculations provided by consulting engineers Charles Ellis and Leon Moisseiff persuaded Strauss to abandon his own design in favor of Morrow’s.  We can all be glad that the Morrow, not the Strauss, design was adopted.

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GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE ON KRNN, 5/27 at 8am:  Connecting the City of San Francisco to the Marin Headlands, the Golden Gate Bridge opened to the public on this date in 1937.  A playlist of SFO bands will accompany us as we commemorate this landmark on Crosscurrents, 5/27 at 8 am.

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How many do you remember from the SFO music scene of the 1960’s????

               Our playlist to include the bands: The Charlatans;The Warlocks; Sons Of Champlain; Steve Mlller Band; The Frontline; Flamin’ Groovies; Grateful Dead; New Riders; Hot Tuna; Boz Scaggs; The Chocolat Watchband; Sopwith Camel; The Youngbloods; Sly Stone; Count Five; Jefferson Airplane; Mother Earth; We Five; Country Joe; Moby Grape; Janis Joplin; Quicksilver Messenger; and….Jesse Fuller.

 

5 thoughts on “Golden Gate Bridge Pedestrian Day (1937.05.27)

  1. I never knew about this history of the Golden Gate. There is a bridge in Vancouver BC. called the Lions Gate bridge. North of the bridge there is a mountain shaped like lions and hence the name . It was built by the Guinness family to bring people over the narrows water to the land that they were developing . That is all I know about that bridge but it looks very similar in style to the Golden Gate.

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