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Frisco looks back at the Golden era as its bridge turns 75


Still golden, after all these years, San Francisco's most celebrated landmark turned 75 at the weekend with a display of pomp, pageantry, and fireworks so extravagant that they could be seen from space.

Hundreds of thousands of revellers crammed the city's waterfront on Sunday night to pay homage to the Golden Gate Bridge, which opened to the public on 27 May, 1937, and remains one of the best-known man-made structures in the world.

Built as America was emerging from the Great Depression, it was the largest suspension bridge ever completed, spanning 1.7 miles across the strait that connects San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean, and costing more than a billion dollars in today's money.

Its famous paint, a shade called International Orange, was originally chosen by architect Irving Morrow, who had conceived the project with engineer Joseph Strauss, so the bridge would remain visible to ships. It also protects the steel from erosion by the bay's salty mist.

Construction took four years, cost the lives of 11 workers, and forced many local ferry operators out of business. In recent years, the bridge has also acquired a grim reputation as a suicide spot. About 1,600 people have leapt to their death, including 37 in the last 12 months.

Yet it has never lost its grandeur, and stands unrivalled as a monument to 20th century American endeavour: the subject of billions of postcards, millions of tourist visits each year, and the setting for countless famous films and TV shows.