The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California is one of the most beautiful, and most photographed, bridges in the world.
Fort Point is an historic Civil War era masonry building partially under the south end of the massive bridge.
The Golden Gate Bridge
Linking San Francisco with Marin County the Golden Gate Bridge is a 1.7 mile-long suspension bridge that can be crossed by car, on bicycles or on foot
There are parking and viewing areas at either end of the bridge.
The Marin Headlands side of San Francisco's GGB is a great place to take picturessuch as this July 4th fireworks photo or the panorama just below itand watch freighters and sailboats cruise under the bridge.
If you visit San Francisco there are many double-decker bus or city tours available that will take you across the bridge or to one of the viewing areas and most wine tours from San Francisco cross the bridge.
Nearly every San Francisco Bay cruise passes under the Golden Gate Bridge for a view you can't get any other way. The photo to the right of the north tower was shot on one of those cruises.
A yearlong celebration marked the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge in 2012. Numerous improvements to enhance visitors experience included renovation of the Round House and conversion to a staging center, construction of a new welcome and interpretive center to be known as the Golden Gate Bridge Pavilion, improvements to surrounding parks and more.
Golden Gate Bridge History
The Golden Gate Bridge, completed after more than four years of construction at a cost of $35 million, opened to vehicular traffic on May 28, 1937 at twelve o'clock noon when President Franklin D. Roosevelt pressed a telegraph key in the White House announcing the event. The GGB opening was ahead of schedule and under budget.
Joseph Baerman Strauss (top section is about the Bay Bridge, scroll down for GGB information) had a dream of building a bridge across the Golden Gate. Cincinnati born and trained with Chicago engineering experience, Strauss constructed some 400 drawbridges across the U.S. and built his reputation for bridge building in San Francisco with his Bascule Bridge Co. which was responsible for two historic SF drawbridges still in operation near the AT&T ballpark: the Fourth Street bridge and the “Lefty” O'Doul bridge on Third Street.
It is possible that the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge — in Strauss’ home town of Cincinnati and which served as a prototype for the Brooklyn Bridge —may have been an early inspiration for Strauss’ future bridge building.
The Brooklyn Bridge in New York, completed 54 years earlier in 1883 and designed by wire rope patent holder John A. Roebling, was the first famous suspension bridge in the U.S. The Brooklyn Bridge helped to define and add fame to New York City in much the same way that the Golden Gate Bridge has for San Francisco.
The cable contractor for the Golden Gate Bridge was John A. Roebling's Sons Co. Trenton & Robeling, New Jersey.
Though Strauss only lived a year beyond completion of construction of the GGB he disproved the conventional wisdom of the time;
“No one can bridge the Golden Gate because of insurmountable difficulties which are apparent to all who give thought to the idea.”
Swift currents, deep water and strong winds were the most obvious of the ‘insurmountable difficulties’ Strauss had to deal with.
Golden Gate Bridge Design
The Golden Gate Bridge design echoes an Art Deco Theme. Wide, vertical ribbing on the horizontal tower bracing accents the sun's light on the bridge.
The towers that support the Golden Gate Bridge's suspension cables are smaller at the top than at the base, emphasizing the tower height of 500 feet above the roadway. Irving Morrow—an architect hired by Strauss to design an architectural treatment for the bridge—chose the ‘international orange’ paint color to blend with the setting while still being very visible to ships.
Coit Tower is another San Francisco landmark with an Art Deco design. Timothy Pflueger was probably the most prolific and renowned Art Deco Architect in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Golden Gate Bridge Facts
Golden Gate refers to Golden Gate Strait—a name that originated around 1846.
The Golden Gate Bridge's 4,200 foot long main suspension span was a world record that stood for 27 years. It is still the second longest in the United States after the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge which links Staten Island to Brooklyn in New York.
The bridge's two towers rise 746 feet making them 191 feet taller than the Washington Monument.
The five lane bridge crosses Golden Gate Strait which is about 400 feet, or 130 meters, deep. Simple yellow markers are used to switch the center lane so that there are three lanes into San Francisco for the morning commute and three leaving The City in the afternoon and evening.
Golden Gate Bridge Tolls are only collected on the way in (going south). The toll on the Golden Gate Bridge increased to $5.00/4.00 FasTrak on September 1, 2002, later raised to $6.00/$5.00.
On March 28, 2013 the GGB switched to all-electronic tolls, no longer employing human toll-takers as had been the case since the bridge opened in 1937. Higher speed limits and a $3 carpool lane were added.
You can learn more facts at the Golden Gate Bridge official site.
In 1902 the Thomas Edison company shot a movie (No.37) from a passenger train going from the Cliff House and Sutro Baths along the cliff at Lands End to the Golden Gate. Of course, this was before the Golden Gate Bridge was built so you won't see it in the movie.
Fort Pointat the south end of the Golden Gate bridge was designated a National Historic Monument October 16, 1970. The historic structure was built out of brick in 18531861 at the beginning of the Civil War to protect San Francisco from attack by sea.
Spain had built an adobe structure on top of a white cliff at Fort Point's current location in 1793–94. Castillo de San Joaquin had been long abandoned by the time a group calling themselves the Bear Flag Revolt captured it and spiked its cannons in 1846.
Several of those cannons were successfully re-vented by Captain John B. Montgomery of the USS Portsmouth later that same year (see Portsmouth Square in Chinatown). Several of these 300-year-old smooth-bore cannons are now on display in San Francisco's Presidio.
The first order of business when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction of Fort Point in 1853 was to blast the white cliff down to near sea level so that cannon balls fired from the fort could skip along the water to strike enemy ships at the water line.
Fort Point was manned throughout the Civil War though never attacked. Advances in rifled artillery made masonry forts obsolete so Fort Point was never again continuously occupied by the military.
A number of other locations on both sides of the golden gate were developed as gun batteries for later conflicts such as WWII. Battery Yates just inside the Golden Gate—where the panorama to the right was shot—was one location. There is a good view of the north anchorage of the Golden Gate Bridge, but fog swirling around the south anchorage obscures Fort Point in this picture.
Fort Point was used as a base of operations for building the Golden Gate Bridge as seen in this historical photograph.
The Fort Point Lighthouseat left and visible in my panorama below shot from the roof of Fort Point—was just the second lighthouse built in California. The locations of the first and third California lighthouses are also visible from here. The first was on Alcatraz Island and the third was built at Point Bonita. A short jaunt up the coast you can visit the Point Reyes Lighthouse.
Learn more about the Fort Point National Historic Site on the National Park Service web site.
Slideshow—all photos on this page
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Website and all photos copyright © 2001–2014 Lee W. Nelson