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Ask Uncle John Anything: A Bridge Too Far

April 22, 2016

Uncle John knows pretty much everything—and if he doesn’t, he heads his massive research library, or puts one of his many associates on the case. Here is the answer to a recent question we received.
Why is the Golden Gate Bridge red?

Why is the Golden Gate Bridge red? Shouldn’t it be gold? Or have a different name?

First of all, the official name of the color used on San Francisco’s most famous landmark isn’t red—it’s “International Orange.” (Still, it looks pretty red to us.) But the reason that the bridge is named the Golden Gate Bridge is because it’s named after something else that was also named after gold.
The bridge spans the Golden Gate Strait, a narrow waterway that connects the San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean. It was so named by Army major-general and California explorer John C. Frémont, who came across the strait on an expedition in 1846. The classically-educated Frémont technically named it Chrysopolae (Latin for “Golden Gate”) because it reminded him of the harbors of Byzantium, or Chrysoceras (Latin for “Golden Horn”) Oddly enough, his name has nothing to do with the California Gold Rush—because that began two years after Frémont’s visit.
And if you’ve ever heard that the bridge over troubled water is so wind-and-water-battered that it has to be repainted end-to-end every year…that’s a myth. Touch-ups are regularly done, but it hasn’t been fully repainted since the ‘80s, when maintenance workers applied a saltwater-resistant topcoat.

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