Little Bits of History

It Can’t Be Done

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 28, 2010

Golden Gate Bridge under construction

May 28, 1937: President Franklin D. Roosevelt pushes a button in Washington, DC signaling traffic in San Francisco, California, officially opening the Golden Gate Bridge to vehicles. The bridge opened to 200,000 celebrating pedestrians the day before. The bridge is part of US Route 101 and California State Route 1.

The bridge connects northern San Francisco with southern Marin County, a feat that was accomplished by ferry prior to the bridge’s construction. Joseph Strauss began drawing conceptualizations for a bridge spanning the Golden Gate Straight in 1921. Construction on the suspension bridge began January 5, 1933. The total length of the bridge is 1.7 miles with the longest span measuring 4,200 feet. At the time of construction, Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world. There are six lanes of traffic; moveable cones allow for four lanes in one direction and two in the other, with changes for rush hour traffic patterns. It is also open to pedestrians and bicycles with special lanes built for the slower traffic.

The toll for the bridge is $5 when entering San Francisco. All pedestrian traffic is free. The bridge is notorious as a suicide venue. More than 1,200 people have jumped to their deaths. It is impossible to get an accurate count as many suicides are not witnessed. Some who survive the initial jump drown or die of hypothermia since the waters get as cold as 47° F. Twenty-six jumpers have survived the 220 foot drop.

The bridge was originally billed as “the bridge that can’t be built” but through hard work and determination the builders managed to combat the tides, the winds, the fogs, costs, and danger. Only eleven men perished during construction – ten of them at one time when the safety net malfunctioned. The bridge is built to withstand 100 mph winds and has a 27 foot sway allowance. The bridge is painted international orange. Due to salt issues, in 1965 a program to remove all the original paint and apply a special paint to slow erosion was undertaken. It took 30 years to complete the task and now paint is maintained with touch-ups in an ongoing, as-needed basis.

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” – Henry Ford

“The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers.  But above all, the world needs dreamers who do.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach

“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.” – Newt Gingrich

“Work isn’t to make money; you work to justify life.” – Marc Chagall

Also on this day:
In 1999, the restoration of Leonardo da Vinci’s
Last Supper was revealed.
In 1892,
John Muir organized the Sierra Club.

The Great Quake

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 18, 2010

Toppled houses

April 18, 1906: At 5:12 AM an estimated 8.25 Richter scale earthquake hits San Francisco and lasts between 45 and 60 seconds. The quake ruptured the northernmost 296 miles of the San Andreas fault line causing 75% of the city to be destroyed either by the initial quake or the resulting fires.

It took three days for the fires to completely burn out. By that time 490 city blocks with 25,000 buildings were destroyed. About 250,000 people were left homeless. Without water to fight the blazes due to the damaged infrastructure, Army General Frederick Funston and civil authorities made one last ditch and disastrous effort. They elected to use dynamite to create firebreaks. However, when the request for explosives was received, gunpowder was sent instead of the dynamite. Rather than create firebreaks, the untrained but well-meaning firefighters spread the fire with the explosions.

View of the fires during the aftermath

Those able to escape the disaster, took what they could and fled the city. After days of chaos, the mayor, afraid of looters and the added destruction they were causing, ordered no arrests. Instead, he ordered that looters and others committing crimes were to be shot. The word went out and people believed that martial law was being called for. Some order returned. By April 21, the last of the fires was under control.

Then the assessment of the damage and the rebuilding started. Four days after the quake struck, 300 plumbers were at work fixing pipes and sewers. Within weeks, streetcars were running. Within six weeks, banks were open again. The cleanup was staggering; it was said that 6 ½ billion bricks had fallen into the streets. A new San Francisco arose from the ashes. Damage estimates were greater than $350 million or ≈ $9.4 billion in 2009 USD.

“The earthquake cleared out one San Francisco — which was the dominant place in California — and replaced it with another. It accelerated the modernization of California.” – Kevin Starr

“There were really two stages to the disaster. The earthquake was in itself enormous and San Francisco was badly damaged, but the greatest horror and chaos would soon follow in the form of the worst urban fire in American history.” – James Dalessandro

“Those who survived the San Francisco earthquake said, ‘Thank God, I’m still alive.’ But, of course, those who died, their lives will never be the same again.” – Barbara Boxer

“I was married once — in San Francisco. I haven’t seen her for many years. The great earthquake and fire in 1906 destroyed the marriage certificate. There’s no legal proof. Which proves that earthquakes aren’t all bad.” – W. C. Fields

Also on this day, in 1923 Yankee Stadium opened.