On May 27, 2012, the Golden Gate Bridge will turn 75, and there will be all kinds of events surrounding the bridge’s diamond jubilee (which might not technically apply to a bridge’s anniversary, but I’m going to roll with it). Details aren’t plentiful at this point, but we do know that the fun is starting this year with festivities at the Marin County Fair where the Golden Gate Bridge Pavilion will house an exhibit devoted to the construction, history and management of the iconic bridge.
As I was do some research for this post, I learned a few tidbits of history about the bridge that were quite entertaining.
Two of my favorites: at the 50th anniversary of the bridge, in 1987, it was closed to vehicular traffic and opened to pedestrians, 300,000 of whom crowded onto the bridge at once, leading it to lose its convex shape and flatten out. Luckily for those 300,000 people, this stress test didn’t actually overstress the bridge, and it returned to its original shape after the pedestrians wandered off.
Needless to say, the bridge will not close to vehicles and open to pedestrians for the 75th anniversary. I wish it could, though.
Another entertaining story also happened during the 50th anniversary celebration. Then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein was slated to toss a wreath into the Bay in honor of the bridge workers who lost their lives during the construction. With 300,000 people in attendance, though, plans went awry and the wreath wasn’t nearby at the alloted time. So, she grabbed Willie Brown’s $800 hat and flung it into the sea.
And one more bit of bridge trivia: Joseph Strauss, the chief engineer who figured out how to build a bridge that broke all sorts of records at the time, was also a poet. At the conclusion of construction, he wrote “The Mighty Task is Done,” which starts like this:
At last the mighty task is done;
Resplendent in the western sun
The Bridge looms mountain high;
Its titan piers grip ocean floor,
Its great steel arms link shore with shore,
Its towers pierce the sky.
So put May 26 & 27, 2012, on your calendar, and plan to raise a glass to the gorgeous Golden Gate Bridge.