Historical Society showcases origins of Golden Gate Bridge 

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With a recent makeover and a timely exhibition in place, the California Historical Society is joining the celebration of the Golden Gate Bridge’s 75th anniversary.

“A Wild Flight of the Imagination: The Story of the Golden Gate Bridge” is on view through October in the organization’s Mission Street gallery. It’s also available in a nifty free electronic book sponsored by UnitedHealthcare.

The ex­hib­ition — named after a quote from a 1921 prospectus for the bridge — includes photographs, drawings, plans, paintings, newspaper clippings, letters, pamphlets, public documents and more about the iconic landmark and its construction, which was completed in 1937 under the direction of Chief Engineer Joseph Strauss and San Francisco City Engineer M.M. O’Shaughnessy.

Among other items on view is a hard hat from the period, notable in that the major construction project was among the first of its type that required workers to wear hard hats at all times.

Divers were also crucial; a pair of boots and a helmet similar to those worn by divers on the project are on display as well as a piece of suspension cable, a rivet, pneumatic gun, spud wrench and original iron belt.

Fun details about the bridge’s unique color, which came to be known as “International Orange,” are uncovered in correspondence between Irving Morrow, the bridge designer and lead architect on the project tasked with selecting the hue, and artists and academics.

Photographs by Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange — as well as paintings of the bridge by Maynard Dixon, Ray Strong and Chesley Bonestell — round out the show.

“A Wild Flight of the Imagination” opened in February with panache and a gala event, after an interior and exterior renovation completed two months early and headed up by Executive Director Anthea Hartig in one of her first duties on the job.

During this weekend’s bridge celebrations, the gallery’s extended hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Monday. In addition, a discussion, “Golden Gate Bridge: Icon, Metaphor, Inspiration,” by architecture critic John King is at 6 p.m. Friday.



A Wild Flight of the Imagination

Where: California Historical Museum, 678 Mission St., S.F.
When: Noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays, closes Oct. 14
Admission: $5 suggested donation
Contact: (415) 357-1848, www.californiahistoricalsociety.org
Note: Visit the website for the free app, which is also available from iTunes as a free download under the name “GG Bridge.”

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Joanna Bellamy

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