Kansas Man Builds Golden Gate Bridge Replica in His Backyard

Larry Richardson, from Mulvane, Kansas, spent 11 years building a 150-foot replica of the Golden Gate Bridge, out of 90 tons of concrete and lots of salvaged materials.

War veteran Larry Richardson has had only two great loves in his life, his wife Barbara and the Golden Gate Bridge, which he has dreamed of visiting since he was a senior at Derby High School, in 1967. “I proposed to Barbara over the phone after we’d had one date,” Larry told the Derby Informer. “I was a senior in high school and she was a sophomore. I don’t think she believed I was serious.” But he also told her to wait until he got a chance to see the Golden Gate Bridge he was so  fascinated by. It didn’t take very long, as he drove over the great American landmark in February of 1968, on his way to Vietnam, for a tour duty. It was dark outside, and although he had fulfilled his dream of seeing it in person, he remembers wishing he got a chance to walk on it for a bit and admiring all the details.

Photo: Davi Stuhlsatz/Derby Informer

A year later, he got back from the war and married his Barbara in the same month she graduated from high school. But the Golden Gate Bridge was still on his mind, so in 1994, he decided to build it across a small creek separating the largest part of his Kansas farm from a small piece of land covered with poison ivy and full of mosquitoes. Larry and his father only had a postcard of the landmark as reference. “We called it comparison engineering,” he remembers. “We said, ‘Let’s see, it is supposed to look like this.'” It took them 11 years to finish the backyard project, but the 62-year-old says it was a great experience that allowed him to spend a lot of time with his dad, who passed away last November.

Photo: Steve Hebert / Steve Hebert Photography

Apart from the 90 tons of concrete, the Golden Gate Bridge of Mulvane is built primarily out of recycled materials. The Richardsons used part of an old wooden bridge for the towers, cables from an old oil rig, and suspender cables salvaged from an old Boeing aircraft. “It was all handmade, hand dug,” Larry says. “We backpacked supplies across, and built a crane to stand the towers up. It all went pretty smoothly, although a few times we went, ‘Uh-oh!’” The retired postman estimates he only spent around $5,000 building his backyard replica, while the original construction cost $35 million.

Photo: Steve Hebert / Steve Hebert Photography

The backyard model has become one of Kansas’ most popular roadside attractions, and Larry and Barbara Richardson are happy whenever they get visitors. “That’s the best thing about it,” they say. “We’ve met more nice people. If they come out, it seems like it’s because life interests them, and they’re interesting people.” One couple even used the small bridge as the location for a marriage proposal, and turning the twinkling lights Larry installed, at dusk just made it more romantic.

Two weeks ago, a San Francisco Chronicle columnist told the story of Larry Richardson and his fascination for the Golden Gate Bridge. The reaction to the article was overwhelming, with many readers demanding the Vietnam veteran be flown in to see the real thing up close. Some  even made donations, and so, on Monday, Larry and Barbara arrived in the Bay Area. On Tuesday, they took a boat ride on the San Francisco Bay and headed towards the famous bridge. As the towers came into view, Larry leaned in, looked into Barbara’s eyes and said “I told you I’d give you a kiss.” And he did…

Watch the video of the Richardson’s at the real Golden Gate Bridge here.

via SF Gate