Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, USA

The Golden Gate Bridge is the landmark of the city of San Francisco and was the longest suspension bridge in the world until 1964. The bridge was opened in 1937 and has been profitable for decades due to the toll.

The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge on the Golden Gate, the entrance to San Francisco Bay, California. With a length of over 2,700 metres (including access ramps), it connects the San Francisco peninsula with Marin County to the north. As a landmark of the city of San Francisco, it is also one of our top 10 sights in the USA.


Until 1964, the Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world, then it was replaced by the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York. Today it is still one of the top ten and for many the most beautiful bridge in the world.

PICTURES: Golden Gate Bridge

Photo gallery: Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge: A controversial project

The Golden Gate Bridge owes its worldwide fame to the fact that the possibility of building such a long suspension bridge was very controversial at the time. The first ideas for building a bridge already existed at the end of the 19th century. It was not until 1920, when the end of ferry capacity was foreseeable, that the topic became explosive again. But due to the shipping traffic in the bay, a supporting pillar in the middle was unthinkable and thus a main span of 1,280m was necessary.

Construction challenges

The Golden Gate Bridge is the landmark of the city of San Francisco and is considered by many to be the most beautiful bridge in the world, USA - © kropic1 / Shutterstock
© kropic1 / Shutterstock

Complicating factors were the great sea depth of almost 100m, the strong tidal currents of the Pacific and the constant wind in the bay. The construction challenges were compounded by political ones. The ferry companies, which were responsible for transporting passengers between San Francisco and Marin County, went on the barricades and even filed a lawsuit, but were relatively quickly silenced by the population through boycotts.

Thedesigner Joseph B. Strauss was not deterred by the prevailing difficulties. After the completion of the George Washington Bridge in New York in 1931, first experiences with a similarly dimensioned bridge were available. Construction began in January 1933.

The current in the bay was so strong that it was only possible to work on the foundations of the Golden Gate Bridge for one hour four times a day. When the piers were in place, the bridge continued to be built on both sides at the same time for balance reasons.

The characteristic orange-red paint

View of a pier of the Golden Gate Bridge reaching about 100 metres below the sea surface, San Francisco, USA - © Tyler Olson / Shutterstock
© Tyler Olson / Shutterstock

There are several conjectures for the origin of the bridge's characteristic orange-red paint. Originally, this was simply the rust-proofing paint and the bridge should have been painted grey, according to Joseph B. Strauss.


Some say the surrounding residents liked the colour so much. Others say the decision was made against grey because the red stands out best against the dense fog that so often plagues the bay. Whatever the reason, the appearance of the Golden Gate Bridge blends in perfectly with the surrounding landscape and indeed would not be so unique in grey.

The Half-Way to Hell Club

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, USA, was the longest suspension bridge in the world until 1964, with a length of over 2,700m - © Radoslaw Lecyk / Shutterstock
© Radoslaw Lecyk / Shutterstock

To protect the workers, a safety net had been stretched underneath the bridge during construction, saving the lives of 19 people who fell. These survivors were called the "Half-Way-to-Hell Club". By the beginning of 1937, only one worker had died.

Then, on 10 February, the accident happened. A piece of scaffolding with 12 people "on board" fell into the net, which could no longer withstand the enormous load and cost the lives of 10 workers. Still little, considering that the loss of 35 people was expected (one per million dollars of construction costs).

After four years of construction, it was opened first to pedestrians in May 1937 and then to traffic the next day. The bridge is toll for cars and trucks in north-south direction and has been profitable for decades.

Suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge before sunrise, California, USA - © sfmthd / Fotolia
© sfmthd / Fotolia

As beautiful as the bridge is, it also has its dark sides. The Golden Gate Bridge is a popular jumping-off point for suicides. Officially, 1,100 suicidal people have already jumped into the depths, only a handful of them survived. The number of unreported cases probably exceeds 2,000 victims.

The construction of a barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge is offset by the enormous cost of 50 million US dollars and the change in the appearance of the bridge, as well as the increased surface area for winds to attack.

As a half-hearted solution, a telephone was installed through which people at risk of suicide can contact professional help. Whether this is used and whether such a promising conversation can be conducted helpfully in traffic noise and wind noise remains to be seen.

Related links:


Official website of the Golden Gate Bridge
Photos and detailed report of the construction