How the Golden Gate Bridge Got Its Name

Wondering why exactly it's called the Golden Gate? Find out how one of America's most notable architectural landmarks got its name.

Published August 16, 2023

The Golden Gate Bridge is easily one of the most famous landmarks in San Francisco — and the U.S. But how exactly did it get its name? If you're not sure, don't worry — neither do many San Franciscans! Time for a little history lesson on this architectural beauty.

The Golden Gate Straight

The easy answer to this question is that the bridge literally goes over the Golden Gate Straight, hence the name. The straight is the channel of water that connects the San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean. But now you're probably wondering how the Golden Gate Straight got its name, so let's dive a little deeper. 

John C. Fremont Names the Golden Gate Straight

Back in 1846, Captain John C. Fremont, a topographical engineer for the U.S. Army, named the straight "Chrysopylae," because it reminded him of a harbor in Istanbul named Chrysoceras, or "Golden Horn." Can you guess what Chrysopylae means? Yep, Golden Gate. 

A Golden Gate to Trade With the Orient

It's also said that when Fremont first viewed the straight, he exclaimed that it was "a golden gate to trade with the Orient." Having also made the connection with the straight in Istanbul, it makes sense that Golden Gate is the name Fremont went with. He published a journal using the name of Chrysopylae and explaining its meaning, and clearly, it stuck.

The Gold Rush Myth

A lot of folks believe that the Golden Gate Straight and Golden Gate Bridge were named after California's famous gold rush. That would certainly be fitting, but it's not the case. Gold was discovered in 1848, two years after Fremont named the Golden Gate Straight. So it's just a happy coincidence!

A Golden Bridge... Kind Of?

Technically, the bridge is painted a color called "orange vermillion," which is also known as "international orange." If it makes you happy, you can think of it as a distant cousin of the color gold.

Architect Irving Morrow wanted a color that would stand out against the beautiful blue backdrop of the sky and water. And it's practical — it makes it easy for passing ships to spot the bridge. Let's face it, a literal golden bridge would be a little on the nose.

Fast Fact

There is no specific time of year that the bridge is painted. It's constantly being repainted, and the paint is a special kind to prevent erosion from the salt water.

Now You Know Why It's Called the Golden Gate

Maybe you'll be visiting the Golden Gate Bridge in the near future or are gazing at it in person right this second. Perhaps you're writing a report or just got a little curious on your lunch break.

You don't need a reason to learn something new, and it's always fun to discover more about the origins of famous landmarks in our world. Now you have some new fun facts to share with your circle!

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How the Golden Gate Bridge Got Its Name