Then and Now
Golden Gate

Contrary to what many people think, there was a Golden Gate long before there was a Golden Gate Bridge. The name was applied originally to the entrance of the bay. Another misconception is that the name is somehow connected with the Gold Rush that attracted many thousands of immigrants to sail into San Francisco Bay. Again, there was a Golden Gate before there was a Gold Rush.

When explorer John C. Frémont saw the entrance to the bay in 1846 he was reminded of the Golden Horn, the harbor entrance of Byzantium (now Istanbul). He envisioned the same great commercial possibilities here that had inspired the builders of that ancient city to name their harbor entrance Chryoceras (Greek for Golden Horn). And so Frémont called this harbor entrance Chrysopylć, or, Golden Gate.

Above, the entrance to San Francisco Bay in the early 1800s. The Spanish called this hundred-foot-high cliff Punta del Cantil Blanco (White Cliff Point) and on the top they built, in 1794, an adobe fort.

Below, the same location today. After the American occupation of California the cliff was demolished to make way for a fort at sea level. This fort was declared obsolete in 1906. Early plans for the Golden Gate Bridge required the fort to be demolished, but Chief Engineer Joseph Strauss adjusted the plans and designed a steel arch in the anchorage to allow the fort to remain. Fort Point is now a popular tourist attraction, nestling snugly beneath one of the world’s greatest bridges.

For a first-person account see Before the Golden Gate Bridge was Built.

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