The observance of the 25th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge began with a civic luncheon at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco on May 25, 1962, sponsored in part by the Redwood Empire Association (REA) with more than 400 people attending, including present and past Board members, and many public officials of the counties of the District. Mr. Jack Craemer, President of the REA, opened the luncheon and Bridge District Director Dan E. London served as master of ceremonies. Dr. Robert Gordon Sproul, President Emeritus of the University of California, delivered the keynote speech. Also, on May 27, there was an antique car parade across the Bridge.
The District’s Fiscal Year 1961/1962 annual report noted, “The first quarter of a century of bridge operation was brought to a close with a highly successful conclusion, laying the groundwork for beginning the next step toward the Golden Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, by which time the financial obligation of the District will have been fully discharged and the traffic saturation will have long since been reached.”
According to the minutes of the Board of Directors, on May 26, 1972, the Board celebrated by cutting a birthday cake and posing for photos.
KGO TV paid for the first 810 (this number happens to be the station locator for KGO radio – 810 AM) autos that crossed the Bridge on May 27, 1997. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat published an editorial titled, “Titan Span Once a Vision.”
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.
Read a November 1988 Research Paper by Spiro N. Pollalis and Caroline Otto: THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE: 50th Anniversary Celebration
May 27, 1997, marked the 60th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge. The occasion was celebrated with a month long on-line celebration sponsored by Panasonic Interactive Media. The world was able to virtually explore the famed landmark via an interactive web site. The San Francisco Giants declared May 24, 1997, “Golden Gate Bridge Day” at Candlestick Park, making it a special day for fans of two San Francisco traditions: the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Giants. The 60th Anniversary was also heralded on the Discovery Channel with the premiere of a new documentary, The Golden Gate Bridge. To mark the occasion in print, a new book The Bridge: A Celebration was released by James W. Schock.
In honor of the 70th Anniversary, for The Golden Gate Bridge, Report of The Chief Engineer, Volume II, May 2007, was released. The book, by Retired Chief Engineer from Ammann & Whitney Frank L. Stahl, Retired Bridge District Engineer Daniel E. Mohn, P.E., and District Public Affairs Director Mary C. Currie, debuted as a limited edition, numbered collectible hardback for both Bridge lovers and collectors. The 312-page book is the narrative of the many technical, political and financial challenges faced from the late 1940s through the turn of the 21st century. It chronicles the most crucial engineering and design challenges met since the Bridge opened. It is an accounting of the growth of District from its singular responsibility of operating the Bridge for more than three decades to its added responsibility providing regional bus and ferry transit services in the U.S. Highway 101/Golden Gate Corridor starting in the early 1970s. A second edition was later released.
In addition, a 70th Anniversary civic luncheon was held to honor three original Golden Gate Bridge workers: Charles Heinbockel, Rolf Johannes Jensen, and Edward Ashoff. Two of these heroic original workers passed away following the 70th Anniversary celebration: Charles Heinbockel died on November 13, 2007, at the age of 96 and Rolf Johannes Jensen passed away on January 12, 2009, at the age of 98.
The Bridge’s 75th Anniversary was Sunday, May 27, 2012. Visit www.goldengatebridge75.org to read all about the spectacular waterfront festival!