On May 27, 1937, at exactly 6:00 a.m., the blare of foghorns announced the opening of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Boy Scout Walter Kronenberg was first in line to pay the five cents toll to walk onto the ribbon of concrete and steel hanging 220 feet above the water. Before the day was out, nearly 200,000 people—some strolling, others sprinting, roller skating, or dancing—had crossed the 4,200-foot-long central span, at that time the longest suspension bridge span in the world.
The bridge, which crosses the entrance to San Francisco Bay, runs a total of 1.7 miles and connects the peninsula of San Francisco to northern California. It takes its name from the 400-foot deep strait it spans, named Chrysopylae (“Golden Gate”) in 1846 by Captain John C. Fremont because it reminded him of the Golden Horn, the harbor at Istanbul.
Much credit for the bridge’s elegant art deco design belongs to architect Irving Morrow and engineers Alton Ellis and Leon S. Moisseiff. But the driving force behind the project was chief engineer Joseph Strauss, who dreamed of building “the biggest thing of its kind that a man could build.” During sixteen years of planning and construction, Strauss overcame a host of obstacles: lawsuits, environmentalists, the Great Depression, tumultuous ocean currents, howling winds, violent storms, and skeptics who called it “the bridge that couldn’t be built.”
About 83,000 tons of steel and 390,000 cubic yards of concrete make up the Golden Gate Bridge. Its two towers stand 746 feet high, and the two main cables consist of 80,000 miles of wire. The bridge’s distinctive color, known as International Orange, helps make it one of the most famous structures in the world, one that represents the hope and promise of America.