Since it opened to traffic in May of 1937, the world has had a love affair with the Golden Gate Bridge. At a complete span of 4,200 feet, the bridge across San Francisco’s Golden Gate was the largest suspension bridge ever built in its time, and the monument’s awesome size and beauty have fascinated locals and tourists for decades. One Sunday afternoon in 1994, a San Francisco television station ran a news story on the fate of the Golden Gate Bridge steel that was removed during a pedestrian handrail replacement a year earlier. Richard Bulan, who was born in San Francisco and raised in the Bay Area, thought it would be great to have a headboard made from the historical steel.
After a great deal of perseverance, Bulan secured a 12-foot, 1,000-pound section of the famous steel and had it delivered to his home. He then spent more than a month cutting and grinding down the section of handrail, until he had not only crafted one headboard, but also three more just like it. When friends expressed interest in purchasing the headboards, Bulan realized the potential market and the Golden Gate Bridge Furniture Co. was born. Now based in Pacifica, Calif., just south of San Francisco, the company offers limited-edition, one-of-a-kind furniture designs made from the historic handrail. Not one to let an innovative reuse idea go unnoticed, Earth911 just had to get a closer look at his creations.
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Golden Gate Steel: A History Lesson
In its 75-year history, there have only been three instances where a significant amount of steel was removed from the Golden Gate Bridge.
In the most recent project, completed in 1993, a significant portion of the pedestrian handrail, mostly on the western side facing the open ocean, was replaced due to deterioration caused by strong winds and salt air blowing in through the Golden Gate.
Typically, steel removed from bridges is melted down and recycled. But after watching the news segment on Golden Gate steel, Richard Bulan was determined to own a piece of San Francisco history. So, he called the news station, tracked down the contractors and asked about purchasing the legendary steel.
After hiring a truck to deliver the massive piece of handrail to his home, Bulan got to work on building the headboard of his dreams.