Orange you glad it’s not gray

During the design stages of the Golden Gate Bridge, chief engineer Joseph Strauss and his colleagues tested several different kinds of paint that would withstand the Gate’s harsh weather and corrosive salt air.

The last round of contenders came in shades of carbon black, steel gray, and the now beloved International Orange.

More than 75 years later, the California Historical Society has jumped on board by painting their headquarters at 678 Mission San Francisco’s most famous shade of “gold” — that very same International Orange.

The new paint job comes just in time for (baseball season and) the grand opening of the society’s new exhibition on February 26th, celebrating the landmark bridge’s 75th birthday.

The exhibition, A Wild Flight of the Imagination: the Story of the Golden Gate Bridge!, will feature rarely seen works of art, personal letters, photographs, and artifacts that promise to bring the history of the Golden Gate, and the vision of its developers, to life.

The Frisky Frolics will be there, playing Tin Pan Alley-era classics like “Cake Eatin’ Man” and “My Canary Has Circles Under His Eyes.” And a foxy fleet of Deco Bells from the Art Deco Society of California will also be on site to pose for photographs with classic cars, and of course the lucky revelers in attendance.

While the historical society might be on to something special, they’re not the first to paint a building to match the Golden Gate Bridge.

Bernalwood’s Todd Lappin posted yesterday that he had his home on Precita Avenue near Shotwell painted International Orange first.

Photo by Telstar Logistics

Lappin wrote that the paint used on the bridge is a custom commercial mix sold only to high-volume clients. For civilian homeowners, he says, Sherwin-Williams makes a consumer color called “Fireweed” (code SW6328), which is an exact equivalent to the paint used on the bridge.

According to the UC Berkeley library, citizens and planners alike took to the warm hue of International Orange right away in the 1930s. Architect Irving Morrow preferred the color for both aesthetic and practical reasons. He felt that the darker shades would detract from the natural beauty of the area and overall architecture of the bridge, and that orange could be better seen in dense fog than any of the alternatives.

He was right.