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A worker atop the Golden Gate Bridge span applies a fresh coat of paint in 1956. The bridge is named for the Golden Gate Strait, the entrance to the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean. (Photograph by David Boyer)

The Icon: Golden Gate Bridge

Engineering wonder or colossal work of art? For many who drive or bike across, or simply admire it from afar, the Golden Gate Bridge is both.

Vaulting across the milewide strait for which it’s named, joining San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean, the span opened May 28, 1937, after more than four years of construction.

Though the bridge links San Francisco‘s urban skyline with the hills of Marin County to the north, it’s far more than just functional. Mysterious when shrouded in fog, viviid when bathed in the supple light of the bay, it remains a timeless symbol of a city.

Here are some fast facts about this art deco icon:

Length: 1.7 miles, including approaches. The main suspension span (0.8 miles) is currently the world’s ninth longest.

Height: 746 feet, about 100 feet shorter than San Francisco’s Transamerica Pyramid.

Average daily use: 110,113 vehicles, 10,000 pedestrians, and 6,000 bicycles per day.

Best spot for a photo: The Marin Headlands above the northern end, where the view includes San Francisco’s skyline.

Cool hue: International orange, selected to complement the natural setting. The U.S. Navy had wanted black with yellow stripes.

Closures: Eight total—three times for high winds, once to accommodate construction, twice for anniversary walks (in 1987 and 2012), and one each during visits of Franklin Roosevelt and Charles de Gaulle.

Most pedestrians at one time: 300,000 during the 1987 50th anniversary walk, which flattened the roadway’s normal arc from the weight.

Construction fatalities: Eleven. In addition, 19 workers became members of the “Halfway-to-Hell Club” when a net stopped their falls.

Biggest myth: That it’s regularly repainted end-to-end. In fact, continuous touch-ups maintain the 83,000 tons of structural steel.

Lucky rider: On February 22, 1985, the one billionth driver crossed the bridge. Arthur Molinari, a dentist, received a bridge-construction hard hat and a case of champagne.

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