There is no image as synonymous with San Francisco as the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, which just turned 75 years old this past weekend. Not only can locals and tourists ride or walk across the world-renowned bridge, but it’s also possible to own part of it.
Golden Gate Bridge Furniture Company (GGBFC), located in the Clock Tower Building in Pacifica on Old County Road near Rockaway Beach, takes salvaged parts of the bridge and turns it into furniture.
Back in 1994, GGBFC owner, designer and Bay Area native, Richard Bulan, caught a broadcast story on steel salvaged after the removal of the original 1937 pedestrian handrail of the western side of the span, which had been severely weathered by the elements. Thinking he could make a good headboard out of the handrail, Richard tracked down the contractor who removed the handrail, but had still yet to get rid of the material. The contractor provided Richard with a 12 ½ foot long, 1000 pound piece that he later cut, ground, and assembled into a total of four headboards.
Richard sold his surplus headboards to friends, but soon realized that others might be interested. So he bought up the rest of the available material and started his business.
In addition to headboards (available in California King, Queen and Full sizes), Richard has fashioned glass top night tables, coffee tables, lamps and more. The furniture is created in limited edition production runs, so styles change from time to time. For example, for the Golden Gate Bridge anniversary, Richard created a side table with a base that can be flipped to provide an alternate look, an end table made with locally-sourced urban salvaged Claro Walnut, and a task lamp inspired the lighting fixtures that line the span.
But owning a piece of artfully crafted history does not come cheap. Most of the furniture runs in the thousands of dollars, and prices are updated monthly depending on availability of the design.
To create the furniture, the pieces are cut to size. The welding process burns off the original paint, so the pieces are cleaned up after being cut down, and a fresh application of the official Golden Gate Bridge paint color, “International Orange,” is applied. In addition, every piece is unique because it features imperfections caused by the mixture of harsh wind, salt and water that hits the bridge.
There’s only so much salvageable steel from the bridge, so there will come a day when it runs out. Therefore, everyone always asks Richard what will happen once it’s gone. With much pun intended, he always answers, “I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” Perhaps he can start using steel from the eastern span of the Bay Bridge that is being replaced and change the name to the Bay Bridge Furniture Company.
Though it’s hard to imagine a tourist toting home a steel cocktail table as a souvenir, it is a way to refashion a piece of history into something functional, and would be loved especially by Bay Area residents who have a lot of affection for the bridge also known as the Iron Horse.
446 Old County Road
Pacifica, CA 94044
NOTE: Those interested in checking out the showroom should note that it is open by appointment only. Call ahead – 415.661.6263- or email – firstname.lastname@example.org- for an appointment. Though, through the fall of 2012, a sampling of the furniture will be on display at Fort Point in conjunction with the Golden Gate Festival.
Images courtesy of Golden Gate Bridge Furniture Company