On this day in history, May 27, 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge, ‘noblest structure of steel,’ opens to public
The Golden Gate Bridge, a modern feat of engineering during the Great Depression, opened to the public on this day in history, May 27, 1937.
“The biggest task that ever challenged the genius, courage and will of man has been accomplished,” wrote J. Lawrence Toole in the official souvenir program for the bridge’s opening.
“After nearly a century of dreaming, decades of talk and five years of heroic labor, the bridge stands here, the noblest structure of steel upon this planet,” he said.
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“The Golden Gate Bridge Fiesta,” a week-long series of events to celebrate the bridge, began at 6 a.m. on May 27, said the souvenir program.
“With eager expectation, San Franciscans and the citizens of the Redwood Empire have looked forward to this day when the mighty Golden Gate Bridge would be opened to the traffic of the world,” said a welcome message from San Francisco Mayor Angelo Joseph Rossi printed in the program.
“May the bridge be a bond, uniting us ever in the bonds of brotherhood,” he also said — thanking those who joined the city in “financing this incomparable structure.”
While the bridge would be used mostly to transport motor vehicles across the Golden Gate from San Francisco to Marin County, the first day of the bridge’s official opening was reserved for pedestrians.
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An estimated 18,000 people were waiting to cross the bridge before it opened to foot traffic, the website for the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District notes.
That number did not slow down as the day continued. An estimated 15,000 people each hour crossed the Golden Gate Bridge on opening day — about 200,000 in all.
On opening day, each pedestrian was charged a toll of 25 cents to cross the bridge (equivalent of about $ 5.30 in 2023) — and “scores of hot dog stands lined the roadway” to feed hungry pedestrians, said the same site.
In 2023, walking across the Golden Gate Bridge is free.
Even so, cars pay a toll of $ 9.40 for traveling into San Francisco, says the Golden Gate Bridge’s website.
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The Golden Gate Bridge is 1.7 miles from abutment to abutment, that website also notes, with the span between the two towers coming in at 4,200 feet.
At the time it opened, the Golden Gate Bridge had the longest single span in the world, something Toole called the “final accomplishment of an engineering achievement without equal or comparison,” in the souvenir program.
“To every stranger who sees it for the first time the wonder of its size, of its beauty and its grace will be an imperishable memory,” wrote Toole.
“They will be told its story and amazed. Generation after generation the story and enchantment of the Golden Gate Bridge will be handed on by all who come under its spell.”
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In addition to the first pedestrians to cross the bridge on foot, several other “firsts” in the bridge’s history occurred on May 27.
A man named Florentine Calegeri walked across the bridge and back on stilts.
And two sisters were the first to rollerskate across the Golden Gate Bridge as well, said the Golden Gate Bridge’s website.
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Also, 11-year-old Anna Marie Anderson was the first child to be lost, and subsequently found, on the Golden Gate Bridge, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.