San Francisco has had a Golden Gate for a lot longer than it has had a Golden Gate Bridge. It started during the last Ice Age, when the sea level was several hundred feet lower, and the waters of the glacier-fed Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers carved a deep channel through the bedrock on their way to the ocean.
It was many years later, of course, when John C. Fremont coined the name Golden Gate in 1846, inspired by Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait, the strait that links Europe to Asia: “To this Gate I gave the name of Chrysopylae, or Golden Gate; for the same reasons that the harbor of Byzantium was called Chrysoceras, or Golden Horn.”
On January 5, 1933, construction commenced on the majestic bridge that would finally span the Golden Gate. It opened to vehicular traffic more than four years later, on May 28, 1937. Eleven men lost their lives during construction.
The suspension portion of the Golden Gate Bridge is 4,200 feet long (677 feet longer than the suspension portion of the first Bosphorus Bridge, built in 1973). Neither golden nor gated, the Golden Gate Bridge is painted “international orange.” Over 1.9 billion vehicles have crossed its dramatic span. This year, in 2012, the bridge will celebrate its 75th Anniversary as one of the world’s great landmarks.
Although it may be one of the most photographed sights in the world, images of the Golden Gate before it had a bridge, and of the bridge during construction, are every bit as dramatic as those of the completed span. They speak to the origins of the area now known as San Francisco.