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San Franciscans celebrate anniversary of Golden Gate Bridge

Published May 28, 2012 05:31am

Fireworks explode over the Golden Gate Bridge on May 27, 2012 in San Francisco, California. The Golden Gate Bridge celebrates its 75th anniversary today. The 1.7 mile steel suspension bridge, one of the modern Wonders of the World, opened to traffic on May 27, 1937. — AFP Photo

SAN FRANCISCO: Tens of thousand of people came to San Francisco's waterfront Sunday to mark the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, the distinctive orange vermilion structure that attracts some 10 million visitors each year.

The city hosted a massive celebration complete with music, dance vintage cars and motorcycles, as well as a fireworks display showcasing the iconic bridge at the entrance to the San Francisco Bay.

The celebrations took place 75 years to the day after the bridge was opened to the public: to pedestrians on May 27, 1937, and to traffic the next day. At the time, the Golden Gate was the world's longest suspension bridge.

Dreamt up by engineer Joseph Strauss, the bridge distinguishes itself by its unique color, chosen by architect Irving Morrow and dubbed International Orange.

The paint originally ensured visibility for passing ships and served as a sealant to protect the bridge from the salty mist from the Golden Gate Strait after which it was named, the entrance to the bay from the Pacific Ocean.

Construction of the bridge took four years. Some 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers) long, it is 90 feet (27 meters) wide and its two towers reach 746 feet above sea level. Traffic is suspended 220 feet above the water.

Pedestrians and cyclists can access the bridge along with motorists. But the span also has a grim history as a popular place to commit suicide.

An estimated 1,600 people have died there in instances where the body was recovered, with many more unconfirmed, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Last year alone, 37 people died after jumping off the bridge - the fourth highest number since it opened, the newspaper said, citing data from bridge authorities.

Events marking the bridge's anniversary are also taking place all year long, and a new visitor center was opened in early May at the southern entrance.