search   index   by subject   by year   biographies   books  SF Activities  shop museum   contact

Our Unfordable Streets

     On behalf of what might be called with grim our floating population, we desire to ask our City Fathers, for the twentieth time, what say that the streets of San Francisco are the very worst and the most disgraceful on this continent.  Ranking high up among the wealthy cities of the land, and paying an almost unheard-of taxation, our citizens are yet compelled to absolutely wade through mud and muck enough to almost stall an empty wagon.  The pitiful patchwork of wooden boards and such truck is worse than an absurdity, and amounts to a deliberate insult to the property holder and the taxpayer, who pays for such folly.

     We write feelingly and indignantly on this theme at this time, as a volume just laid on our desk, and which is a report of the street improvements recently made in Washington, make still sharper the contrast between our own corporate mud-hole and the decently paved, drained and graded cities of less means, but more civilization.  From this report of the Commissioners of the District of Columbia we find that there has been laid down in the city of Washington alone within the past five years over one hundred and twenty miles of patented pavements of all kinds.  Miles, mark you; not squares.  In other words, every inch of a large and generously proportioned city, containing the widest streets and large avenues, is paved with the same thoroughness and care with which our best houses are covered, and which are, therefore, quite as handsome and healthful in their way as is the latter.  We are also told that while nearly all of the varieties of pavement used and tested in Washington are good of their kind, there are some six or eight that are admirable, and that of these one in particular has been found to be unexceptionable, and to completely answer al the requirements of a perfect roadway.  This pavement is called the "Scharff Asphalt," and is laid by the unique process of an inventor of that name.  It is with this particular pavement, we are informed, that all the old, worn-out or unsatisfactory pavements are being replaced in that happy city, notably in the case of the capital's great thoroughfare, Pennsylvania Avenue, on which it is being used to replace the wood block pavement which has so generally failed in the East.

     We say we speak with extra emphasis about this matter, at this time, because we happen to know that for the past six weeks the owners, or agents, or controllers of this very pavement referred to above have been knocking at the door of the Supervisors' Chamber asking of them the assignment of some comparatively trifling piece of work, at barely cost prices, simply that they may show the people of San Francisco and these torpid powers that be whether they can afford thereafter to be without such a pavement as they will lay down.

     Our people are always willing to give attentive ear to, and to profusely pay for, any clap-trap that will exploit or advertise our city to the outside world.  Could anything be more solidly advantageous, more conducive to our own health and comfort, and better capable of making our metropolis genuinely attractive to the troops of sight-seers and strangers that crowd our now filthy streets, than to stop this interminable pottering and fall in line beside our clean and handsome rivals of the other coast.  Gentlemen of the Board of Supervisors, the public eye is fixed inquiringly upon you!  What do you mean to do about it?

San Francisco News Letter
January 1, 1876