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History of Early
S.F. Street Names


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Miscellaneous Street Names

San Francisco Streets Named for Pioneers

Miscellaneous Street and Place Names

Anna Lane, [now Fifth Street, North]
Daughter of Pioneer

There is a popular, but unverified story, that two brothers named Lane divided a lot by the flip of a coin. The winner was to get the choice of either half, and the loser the balance plus the privilege of naming the street along its western boundary. Thus the name of the loser’s daughter, Miss Anna Lane, was given to the narrow thoroughfare just west of Powell between Ellis and Eddy streets.

Anza’s Soldiers

About thirty soldiers came with Anza when he established San Francisco in 1776. The names of twenty of these soldiers or their descendants have been used for streets. Among these names are Moraga (Captain), Alviso, Peralta, Solá, Sánchez, Castro, Bernal, Pico and Galindo.These soldiers and their descendants had certain rights in acquiring large acreages of land. For this reason much of the land within and tributary to San Francisco was originally owned by the descendants of Anza’s soldiers.

Battery Street
Early City Fortificafion

Under orders from Capt. John B. Montgomery, a party of sailors from the U.S.S. Portsmouth erected a battery of five guns on Clark’s Point in 1846. This was the northern point of Yerba Buena Cove, close to Telegraph Hill about where Battery Street and Broadway intersect. The battery was originally called Fort Montgomery.

Divisadero Street
Presidio and City Boundary

This name comes from the Spanish word “divisadero” meaning a point from which one can look far on the top of a hill. It was applied to Lone Mountain in Mexican times and first used for Divisadero Street on the 1856 map of the Western Addition. In the early 1850’s the Presidio was larger and extended to the present location of Divisadero Street. This line was then also the western boundary of the city.

Early City Officials

The names of most of the city officials elected in August 1849 were given to streets. These were Alcalde Geary, Second Alcalde Turk, Prefect Hawes, Subprefect Guerrero, and eight of the twelve town council members: Green, Harrison, Ellis, Townsend, Davis, Brannan, Steuart and Post.

Feminine Names, Towns, Ships

When O’Farrell first surveyed lots south of Market Street he made each lot 100 varas square, or nearly 300 feet on a side; the resulting blocks were about four times the size of the blocks north of Market Street, and were later divided by many small streets and alleys. For these the first names of women were often used.

There have been several explanations given of these names, but the best one seems to be found in the South of Market Journal of April 1927. The author, Albert P. Wheelan, believed that the pioneers coming west without their wives, mothers, daughters, etc., were homesick for the people left in the East. Hence the selection of first names such as Annie, Alice, Clara, Eliza, Grace, Jessie and Harriet.

The same article by Wheelan also suggests that the birthplaces of the pioneers and the ships on which they came to California were often used for streets and alleys south of Market Street. Among these are Berwick, Decatur, Elkhart, Essex, Juniper, Hawthorne. Lucerne and Norfolk.

Franklin Street
Probably Named for Benjamin Franklin

Probably named for Benjamin, although Selim Franklin, an early realtor, has been suggested. An obituary written for the Society of California Pioneers states that Selim Franklin was an Englishman who was consulted by Queen Victoria about the Oregon boundary dispute. In 1858 he went to British Columbia for the Fraser River gold excitement and became speaker of the Provincial House of Parliament. This would indicate that it was not Selim Franklin for whom the street was named.

Laguna Street
Washerwoman’s Lagoon

Named for a lake or pond which once existed one-half mile southwest of Fort Mason, at about what is now the intersection of Greenwich and Gough streets. It was known as Washerwoman’s Lagoon, and in early times most of the washing for the town was done there. During the early 1870’s the laundry for the Pacific Mail steamships was all done in Washerwoman’s Lagoon.

Large Ranch Owners

There was a group of large ranch owners located within the limits of present day San Francisco, down the peninsula, across the Bay on the Contra Costa shore, or in Marin. These ranchers were especially active during the 1830’s and ’40’s, exchanging hides and tallow for trade goods with the Boston ships. All but about three of these ranch owning families have been remembered by street names. The ranches of Noe, De Haro, Leese, Bernal and Galindo were all or partly within the present city of San Francisco. Down the peninsula were the ranches of Sánchez and Argüello, extending south to Palo Alto. Across the Bay were Peralta and Castro and on the Marin side was Richardson.

Market Street
A Philadelphia Street

It was laid out by O’Farrell in 1846 parallel to the old Mission trail, the first road between Yerba Buena and the Mission Dolores. O’Farrell insisted on the 120-foot width and the parallel location. Market Street was the dividing line between the 50 vara lots on the north and the 100 vara lots to the south. The vara, the standard Mexican land measurement, was about one yard. George Hyde, a Philadelphian, may have suggested it be named after Philadelphia’s Market Street.

Members of Stevenson’s Regiment

This regiment of volunteers was recruited in New York for service in California, with the privilege of being discharged in California when the Mexican War came to an end. The regiment arrived at San Francisco early in 1847. Among the men in this regiment for whom streets were named are Colonel Stevenson, Captain Folsom, Surgeon Perry, Chaplain Leavenworth, Lieutenant Gilbert, Clerk Harrison, and Private Russ.

Mission Street
Trail to Mission Dolores

This street closely followed the original trail between Yerba Buena and the Mission Dolores and was the only route from the city to El Camino Real which went down the peninsula, to San Jose, and on southward. It was first built as a toll road and for about three miles was planked in the places where it ran through swamp land or heavy sand. Later a second toll road was built on Folsom Street.

Portsmouth Square
U.S. Navy Man-of-War Portsmouth

This square was first called the Plaza but was changed in honor of the U.S.S. Portsmouth, which was Captain Montgomery’s ship at the time of the occupation of Yerba Buena in July 1846. In 1911 the old Portsmouth was in Norfolk Harbor and about to be dismantled. At that time Mr. Zoeth Eldredge reports having written “50 letters” in an effort to save the ship and have it brought to San Francisco as an historic monument. The cost would have been only $15,000, but the effort failed.

Sansome Street
A Philadelphia Street

Evidently named for Sansom Street in Philadelphia. Early maps show it spelled without the final “e” as is the Philadelphia street. Alcalde Washington Bartlett first named the street Sloat for Commodore John D. Sloat who took Monterey for the United States, but the name was changed on O’Farrell’s map in 1847. There is reason to suspect that George Hyde, who was the alcalde during and also shortly after Bartlett’s term of otfice, proposed the name Sansom. He grew up in Philadelphia and practiced law there before coming to San Francisco.

Telegraph Hill

From early in 1849 a signal announcing the arrival of ships was located on the top of Telegraph Hill. This consisted of a mast with wooden arms which could be raised at different positions to indicate what kind of ship was arriving. The information was relayed from a similar signal at Point Lobos at the Golden Gate. As Point Lobos was not always visible from Telegraph Hill, there was an intermediate mast and arm about one mile south of Fort Point in the Presidio. This shows on Humphrey’s map of 1853. In September 1853 the first telegraph line in California, six miles in length, was completed connecting Point Lobos and Telegraph Hill.

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