The Golden Gate Bridge, a modern feat of engineering during the Great Depression, opened to the public on this historic day, May 27, 1937.
“The greatest task that ever challenged the genius, courage and will of man has been accomplished,” wrote J. Lawrence Toole in the official souvenir program of the bridge opening.
“After nearly a century of dreams, decades of talk and five years of heroic work, the bridge is here, the noblest steel structure on 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, the souvenir program said.
“With eager anticipation, San Franciscans and the citizens of the Redwood Empire looked forward to that day when the mighty Golden Gate Bridge would be opened to the traffic of the world,” said a welcoming message from San Francisco Mayor Angelo Joseph Rossi, printed in the program.
“May the bridge be a bond, uniting us forever in the bonds of brotherhood,” he also said – thanking those who joined the city in “funding this incomparable structure”.
While the bridge would primarily be used 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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About 18,000 people were waiting to cross the bridge before it opened to foot traffic, the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District website notes.
This number did not slow down as the day progressed. About 15,000 people per hour crossed the Golden Gate Bridge on opening day, or about 200,000 in total.
On opening day, each pedestrian had to pay a 25-cent toll to cross the bridge (equivalent to around $5.30 in 2023) — and “dozens of hot dog stands lined the roadway” to feeding hungry pedestrians, the same site said.
In 2023, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge is free.
Even so, cars pay a $9.40 toll to get to San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge website says.
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The Golden Gate Bridge is 1.7 miles from pillar to pillar, this website also notes, with the span between the two towers at 4,200 feet.
At the time of its opening, the Golden Gate Bridge had the longest single span in the world, what Toole called “the final accomplishment of technical achievement without peer or comparison,” in the souvenir program.
“For every stranger who sees him for the first time, the wonder of his size, beauty and grace will be a lasting memory,” Toole wrote.
“They will be told its story and marveled. Generation after generation, the history and enchantment of the Golden Gate Bridge will be passed on to all who fall 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 took place on May 27.
A man named Florentine Calegeri crossed the bridge and came back on stilts.
And two sisters were also the first to roller skate across the Golden Gate Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge website said.
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Additionally, 11-year-old Anna Marie Anderson was the first child to be lost, then found, on the Golden Gate Bridge, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.