Golden Gate Bridge 50th Anniversary

Need an idea for an event? Pangea Silkscreen can help.
These are shirts we produced for the Golden Gate Bridge 50th Anniversary! #tbt

Read a little history of the event, after the jump. 300,000 people were there. Were you one of them? Let us know!


The dream of spanning the Golden Gate Strait had been around for well over a century before the Golden Gate Bridge opened to traffic on May 28, 1937. On Sunday, May 24, 1987, this “dream come true” was celebrated as the Bridge turned fifty. With great fanfare, people from all over the world came to pay homage to the Bridge, become part of a historical celebration and create lifelong memories.

The day began as “Bridgewalk ‘87” reenacted “Pedestrian Day ‘37” and an estimated 300,000 people surged onto the roadway. The Bridge roadway was closed to traffic at 5 am and from 6 am to 10 am pedestrians were allowed onto the roadway.

While up to 200,000 people participated in the 12-hour Pedestrian Day ‘37, fewer people were expected to participate in the Bridgewalk ‘87 as it was held over a four-hour period. However, it is estimated that 300,000 people surged onto the span that morning, with another 400,000 to 500,000 gathered anywhere they could on all areas surrounding the span. Among the pedestrians making it onto the roadway were bicyclists, roller skaters, and even a small group in a centipede costume.

With the very large crowd gathered on the roadway that morning, the Bridge’s profile shifted and its normal convex shape was flattened. Confirming calculations were subsequently performed by now retired District Engineer Daniel E. Mohn that reaffirmed the Bridge was not overstressed as a result of Bridgewalk ‘87.

At 8:00 am, a celebration that included San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein and other noted public officials took place at mid-span on a large flatbed trailer. The celebration included the sawing of a Redwood log in two, signifying the bond between the Bridge and the REA. A wreath was to be cast onto the water to memorialize the 11 men who lost their lives during Bridge construction. But because of the crush of the crowd, the wreath was not at hand when Mayor Feinstein was ready to cast it into the sea. She quickly looked for a substitute and grabbed Speaker of the California State Assembly Willie Brown’s $800 Fedora and tossed it out to sea like a Frisbee.

By 10:00 am, the roadway was cleared for a commemorative vintage car parade and subsequently reopened to traffic. As a token of appreciation to the thousands of motorists using the Bridge each day, the Board suspended toll collection for the day.

Afternoon and evening festivities continued on San Francisco’s Marina Green and Crissy Field, scene of a star-studded evening concert. The celebration ended with a stunning fireworks display featuring a brilliant “waterfall” that showered from the Bridge to the Bay below—a fitting and spectacular finale to an unforgettable day.

Leading up to the events on May 24, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) sponsored Bridge Builders Day on May 20 to honor the engineers and workers who built the Bridge and on May 21, they sponsored “A Salute to Bridge Engineering” which was a symposium featuring prominent bridge engineers from around the world.

To enhance the visitor experience on the southeast side of the Bridge near the Roundhouse, two new gardens were developed as part of the 50th Anniversary—The Bank of Canton Commemorative Garden that included a granite wall (4,325 square feet), and the Friendship Garden (8,750 square feet). Also, a walkway comprised of personalized bricks was constructed at the southeast side of the Bridge in the visitor area. By March 1988, 7,416 bricks were installed and remain in place today.


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