San Francisco History

The Beginnings of San Francisco

The Streets of San Francisco

In the Vioget survey of 1839 the streets were, as has been stated, very narrow. Vioget ran no east line for Montgomery street and consequently that street, being completed later, was the widest in the village and was made sixty-two and a half feet wide. Kearny street was made forty-five feet, five inches wide, and Dupont street, forty-four feet, this irregularity being probably due to want of knowledge in regard to the lines and when buildings were erected the street lines were made, in a degree, to conform. Kearny street was afterwards widened to seventy-five feet between Market street and Broadway, and Dupont to seventy-four feet from Market street to Bush. Vioget laid out five streets running east and west, viz: Pacific, Jackson, Washington, Clay, and Sacramento. These streets were forty-nine feet, one and a half inches wide. The Vioget survey was extended some time before the American occupation to include Stockton and Powell streets on the west, Broadway and Vallejo on the north, and California, Pine, and Bush on the south. Stockton and Powell were made sixty-six feet nine inches wide, Broadway, eighty-two and a half feet, California, eighty-five feet, and the others sixty-eight feet, nine inches, which became the regulation width for the main streets of the Fifty vara and the Western addition surveys; the exceptions being, in addition to California street and Broadway, Van Ness avenue one hundred and twenty-five feet, and Divisadero street, eighty-two and a half feet wide. The five westerly streets of the Vioget survey extend with their narrow width to Larkin street, the limit of the Fifty vara survey, and from Larkin street they were widened to sixty-eight feet, nine inches, by taking from the lots on either side. Market street is one hundred and twenty feet wide, and the main streets of the Hundred vara survey are eighty-two and a half feet wide. In the Mission the main streets are eighty-two and a half feet, except Dolores, which is one hundred and twenty; Tenth, Eleventh, Twelfth, Thirteenth, and Sixteenth streets, which are eighty feet wide and the streets from Fourteenth to Twenty-sixth inclusive (excepting Sixteenth street) which are sixty-four feet wide.

I cannot undertake to give the origin of all of the street names in San Francisco, but can give an account of most of the better known ones. Many of the names of course, require no explanation, as for instance, the trees, Cherry, Chestnut, Pine, etc.; natural objects, as Bay, North Point, and others; the presidents of the United States and statesmen of national reputation, as Fillmore, Buchanan, Clay, etc.; the names of states and of counties, and the numbered streets and avenues. In giving an account of the naming of the streets, I shall again pass beyond the time limit of this history and bring my account down to date. Prior to 1909, San Francisco enjoyed the distinction of having three sets of numbered streets and two sets of streets designated by letters of the alphabet. Two sets of the numbered streets were called "avenues" and one had the suffix "south"; one set of lettered streets had the same treatment. To remedy this condition, which was becoming intolerable, the mayor of the city appointed, in 1909, a commission to look into the matter of street names and recommend such changes as might be considered necessary. The commission in its report suggested many changes, most of which were adopted. The commission endeavored to avail itself of the wealth of material existing in the history of the city and state, and give to the streets names not only of historical significance but to add to their attractiveness the liquid beauty of the Spanish nomenclature of the colonial period. In this the commission was only partially successful, owing to a general opposition on the part of small tradesmen to having the names of their streets changed, claiming that they had established their business under the existing names and having, they said, an "asset" in the name of the street on which they were.

I will give the streets in order, first, in the Fifty vara survey, then the Western addition, the Hundred vara survey, and the Mission.

The Fifty vara survey is that part of the city lying between Market and Larkin streets and the bay. The street on the water front, which, when completed, will run from the presidio line to the San Mateo county boundary, was named by the commission of 1909, The Embarcadero (the Landing). That portion of it within the completed sea wall had been named East street North, and East street South, according to its extension to the north or south of Market street. On the Embarcadero the numbers indicate the location of buildings—odd numbers to the north, and even numbers to the south of Market street. Next west of the Embarcadero is:

DRUMM street was named for Lieutenant Drum who was adjutant of the department during the civil war; afterwards adjutant-general of the army.

DAVIS street was named for William Heath Davis at the instance of William D. M. Howard.

BATTERY street was so named because of the battery erected by Lieutenant Misroon on Clark's Point.

SANSOME street was originally named Sloat street in honor of the commodore and it so appears on the alcalde map of 1847; but between February 22d and July 18th of that year the name was changed to Sansome.

LEIDESDORFF street was named for William A. Leidesdorff.

MONTGOMERY street was named for Commander John B. Montgomery of the Portsmouth. The name of Montgomery avenue was changed to

COLUMBUS avenue, in honor of Christopher Columbus, by the commission of 1909, in order to avoid the confusion resulting from two streets bearing the same name.

KEARNY street was named for Stephen Watts Kearny, military governor of California, March 1, 1847, to May 31, 1847.

DUPONT street was named for Captain Samuel F. Du Pont, who commanded the flagship Congress and afterwards the sloop-of-war Cyane. This street was the original "Calle de la Fundacion" of Richardson and ran from about the line of California street north-northwest. It was later swung into line with the other streets by Jasper O'Farrell. The street acquired an unsavory reputation by becoming the residence of an undesirable class of citizens. When these disreputable residents were removed some years ago, the name of the street was changed to

GRANT avenue, by which it is now known.

STOCKTON street was named for Commodore Robert F. Stockton, military governor of California, August 22, 1846 to January 19, 1847.

POWELL Street is supposed to have been named in honor of Doctor W. J. Powell, surgeon United States sloop-of-war Warren, conquest of California.

MASON street was named for Richard B. Mason, colonel First dragoons and military governor of California, May 31, 1847, to April 13, 1849.

TAYLOR street was named for Zachary Taylor, the hero of Buena Vista and twelfth president of the United States.

JONES street was named for Doctor Elbert P. Jones, first editor of the California Star and member of the council of 1847.

LEAVENWORTH street after the Rev. Thaddeus M. Leavenworth, chaplain First New York regiment; alcalde of San Francisco.

HYDE street after George Hyde, secretary of Commodore Stockton on the Congress; alcalde of San Francisco.

LARKIN street was named for Thomas O. Larkin, United States consul at Monterey and secret agent of the government before the conquest.

GREEN street was named for Talbot H. Green who came with the Bartleson party in 1841 and was a prominent citizen of San Francisco. An account of him appears in chapter xvii.

VALLEJO street was named for Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo.

HALLECK street was named for Captain Henry Wagner Halleck.

PACIFIC, CLAY, SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA and PINE streets require no explanation, except that Pacific street was originally named for Alcalde Washington A. Bartlett and the original name of Sacramento street was Howard street, named for William D. M. Howard. Why these names were changed does not appear.

BUSH street was named, it is said, for Doctor J. P. Bush, an early resident.

SUTTER street was named for John A. Sutter.

POST street was named for Gabriel B. Post who came in 1847; member of the ayuntamiento of 1849.

GEARY street was named for John W. Geary, first alcalde, 1849-50, and first mayor under the charter.

O'FARRELL street was named for Jasper O'Farrell.

ELLIS street was named for Alfred J. Ellis who came in 1847; member of the ayuntamiento of 1849, and of the constitutional convention.

EDDY street was named for William M. Eddy the surveyor. He completed the survey of the city under the charter of 1850.

TURK street was named for Frank Turk, clerk of the ayuntamiento and second alcalde.

GOLDEN GATE avenue was originally named Tyler street for John Tyler, tenth president of the United States, but after the opening of Golden Gate park the street was asphalted, made the driveway to the park, and the name changed.

MCALLISTER street was named for Hall McAllister the eminent jurist.

This completes the origin of the streets' names, so far as any explanation may be necessary, of the Fifty vara survey. The description of the streets of the Hundred vara survey would perhaps be next in order as these two surveys comprised the extent of the city as defined by the charter of 1850; but for convenience I will continue the streets north of Market street, comprising the Western addition and the adjoining Outside Lands survey.

HAYES street was named for Colonel Thomas Hayes, county clerk from 1853 to 1856. He had a large tract of land in what was known as Hayes' valley which the Van Ness ordinance confirmed to him. He was one of Terry's seconds in his duel with Broderick.

PAGE street was named for Robert C. Page, clerk to the board of assistant aldermen, 1851 to 1856.

HAIGHT street for Fletcher M. Haight, a prominent lawyer of San Francisco and later United States district judge for the Southern district of California.

WALLER Street for R. H. Waller, city recorder in 1851, also in 1854.

ANZA street (Outside Lands survey) was named by the commission of 1909 in honor of the father of San Francisco, Lieutenant-colonel Juan Bautista de Anza.

BALBOA street, in honor of the discoverer of the Pacific ocean, Vasco Nuñez de Balboa.

CABRILLO street, in honor of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo the navigator.

LINCOLN way, in honor of Abraham Lincoln.

IRVING street, for Washington Irving.

J UDAH street, for Theodore D. Judah.

KIRKHAM street, for General Ralph W. Kirkham.

LAWTON street, for General Henry W. Lawton.

MORAGA street, for Lieutenant José Joaquin Moraga, founder of the presidio and mission of San Francisco.

NORIEGA street, for José de la Guerra y Noriega.

ORTEGA street, for José Francisco de Ortega, discoverer of the Bay of San Francisco.

PACHECO street, for Juan Salvio Pacheco, soldier of Anza's company and one of the founders of San Francisco.

QUINTARA street, for Spanish family.

RIVERA street, for Captain Fernando Rivera y Moncada, comandante of California.

SANTIAGO street, Spanish battle cry.

TARAVAL street, Indian guide, Anza expedition.

ULLOA street, for Francisco de Ulloa, the navigator.

VICENTE street, Spanish name.

WAWONA street, Indian name.

YORBA street, for Antonio Yorba, sergeant of Catalan volunteers, with Portolá expedition, 1769; sergeant of San Francisco company, 1777.

These names were given by the commission of 1909, not only for the historical value some of them possess, but to preserve the order of the alphabet, the streets having been lettered.

POLK street was named for James K. Polk, eleventh president of the United States.

VAN NESS avenue, for James Van Ness, mayor of San Francisco 1856, and author of the Van Ness ordinance which confirmed title to the actual possessors on January 1, 1855, of property west of Larkin street. Mr. Van Ness' residence was Western addition block 73, bounded by Van Ness avenue, Franklin, Hayes, and Fell streets.

FRANKLIN street may have been named for Selim Franklin, a pioneer merchant.

GOUGH street was named for Charles H. (Charley) Gough. In 1850 he sold milk for J. W. Harlan, at four dollars a gallon, carrying it on horseback in two two and a half gallon cans, one swung on each side of the saddle pommel. In 1855 he was a member of the board of aldermen and was appointed on a committee to lay out the streets in the Western addition.

LAGUNA street was named for Washerwomen's lagoon.

OCTAVIA, BUCHANAN, WEBSTER, PIERCE, and SCOTT require no explanation.

STEINER street was probably named for some friend of Alderman Gough.

DIVISADERO street was named for its position: the summit of a high hill. The name comes from the verb divisar—to descry at a distance. Divisadero: a point from which one can look far. The Spanish name for Lone mountain was El Divisadero.

BRODERICK street, for David Colbert Broderick.

BAKER street, for Colonel E. D. Baker.

LYON street, for Nathaniel Lyon, captain of C Troop, 1st dragoons. In 1849 he punished the Indians of Clear Lake for murder and then marched to the Oregon border to punish the Pitt river Indians for the murder of Lieutenant Warner and recover his body, which was found near Goose lake. Lyon, then a general officer, was killed at the battle of Wilson's creek, Missouri, August 10, 1861.

ARGÜELLO boulevard was named by the commission of 1909 for José Darío Argüello, comandante of San Francisco, 1785-1806; governor, ad interim, 1814-15.

LA PLAYA (The Beach) was the name given by the commission to the street next to the ocean beach and running parallel with it.

The Hundred vara survey is that part of the city which is south of Market street and east of Ninth (formerly Johnston) street. South of Ninth street and extending to Thirtieth is the Mission Dolores, or the Mission, as it is usually called. The Mission extends from Harrison street on the east to the hills of the San Miguel rancho (Twin Peaks) on the west. East of Harrison street is the Potrero Nuevo, extending from Division street on the north to Islais creek on the south. South of Islais creek is the Potrero Viejo, commonly called South San Francisco. This extends to the San Mateo county line. To the west of the Potrero Viejo, or South San Francisco, are a number of small subdivisions, bearing various names, each having its own survey.

The street next to the Embarcadero in the Hundred vara survey is

STEUART street, named for William M. Steuart who came as secretary to Commodore Jones on the line-of-battle ship Ohio in 1848. He was a member of the ayuntamiento in 1849-50 and chairman of the judiciary committee. In the records of the ayuntamiento to December 1, 1849, his name is spelled Stewart. From that date it is Steuart. He was one of the delegates from San Francisco to the constitutional convention and was, at times, acting chairman. He was a candidate for governor in the election of November 1849.

SPEAR street was named for Nathan Spear who was one of the earliest merchants of San Francisco (see chapter xiv) and was upright and honorable in all his dealings. He died in San Francisco in 1849, at the age of 47.

BEALE street was named for Lieutenant Edward F. Beale, United States navy. Beale took an active part in the conquest of California serving as lieutenant with the California battalion; later he was surveyor-general of the state and at one time United States minister to Austria.

FREMONT street was named for Colonel John C. Frémont.

MARKET street is the dividing line between the Fifty and Hundred vara surveys, the Western addition, and the Mission Dolores. It runs diagonally, from northeast to southwest and cuts the city in two. The streets of the Hundred vara survey, run parallel with, and at right angles to it. The name was probably suggested by Market street, Philadelphia.

MISSION Street was the first street opened in the southern portion of the city and followed the road to the mission.

STEVENSON street, between Market and Mission, was named for Jonathan Drake Stevenson, colonel of the First New York volunteers. The blocks in the Hundred vara survey were so large that it was found necessary to run what were called sub-division streets through them. Many of these have names of no significance, such as Annie, Jessie, Clementina, etc.

NATOMA street, a sub-division street, was originally named Mellus street for Henry Mellus, Howard's partner; but after the quarrel between the partners it was changed to Natoma. The name is that of an Indian tribe on the American river.

HOWARD street was named for W. D. M. Howard.

FOLSOM street was named for Captain Joseph L. Folsom.

HARRISON street was named for Edward H. Harrison, quartermaster's clerk of First New York volunteers, collector of the port, member of the ayuntamiento, and member of the firm of DeWitt and Harrison.

BRYANT street was named for Edwin Bryant who succeeded Lieutenant Bartlett as alcalde of San Francisco. Bryant served in the California battalion as first lieutenant of company H.

BRANNAN street was named for Elder Samuel Brannan.

BLUXOME street was named for Isaac Bluxome, Jr., a prominent business man.

TOWNSEND street was named for Doctor John Townsend, a native of Virginia who came overland with the Stevens party in 1844. He took part in the Micheltorena campaign as aid to Captain Sutter, was alcalde of San Francisco in 1848, and member of the ayuntamiento, 1849. He died of cholera in December 1850, or January 1851.

VALENCIA street was named for the family of José Manuel Valencia, a soldier of Anza's company.

GUERRERO street was named for Francisco Guerrero. His biography is in chapter xv.

DOLORES street was named for the mission and contains the mission church.

SANCHEZ street was named for the family of José Antonio Sanchez, a soldier of Anza's company.

NOE street was named for José de Jesus Noé. A brief biography of him is given in chapter xv.

CASTRO street was named for the family of Joaquin Isidro de Castro, a soldier of Anza's company.

The streets of the Potrero Nuevo ("The Potrero") are mostly names of states for the streets running north and south, and those running east and west are the continuation of the numbered streets of the Mission Dolores. The streets in the Potrero Viejo (South San Francisco) were mainly numbered "avenues" and lettered streets. These names the commission insisted on changing, giving the following names to the avenues:

ARTHUR ayenue, for Chester A. Arthur, twenty-first president of the United States.

BURKE avenue, for General John Burke of the Revolutionary army.

CUSTER avenue, for General George A. Custer United States army, killed in a battle with the Sioux under Sitting Bull, on the Little Big Horn river in Montana, June 25, 1876.

DAVIDSON avenue, for Professor George Davidson, the eminent scientist and engineer.

EVANS avenue, for Rear-admiral Robley D. Evans of the United States navy.

FAIRFAX avenue, for Thomas Fairfax, sixth Baron Fairfax, who became an American colonist, friend of Washington, and died near Winchester, Virginia, March 12, 1782.

GALVEZ avenue, for Don José de Galvez, visitador-general of Spain and member of the council of the Indies, who organized the expedition commanded by Portolá, 1768-69.

HUDSON avenue, for Henry Hudson, English navigator, discoverer of Hudson river and Hudson's bay.

INNESS avenue, for George Inness the noted American landscape painter.

J ERROLD avenue, for Douglas William Jerrold, English dramatist and humorist.

KIRKWOOD avenue, for Samuel J. Kirkwood, war governor of Iowa.

LA SALLE avenue, for Robert Cavalier, Sieur de la Salle, French explorer, discoverer of the Ohio river.

MCKINNON avenue, for Father McKinnon, chaplain of First California volunteers, Spanish war, who died in the Philippines.

NEWCOMBE avenue, for Samuel Newcombe, the distinguished astronomer.

PALOU avenue, for Fray Francisco Palou, companion of Junípero Serra, and his historian.

QUESADA avenue, for Gonzalo Ximinez de Quesada, Spanish explorer and conqueror of New Granada.

REVERE avenue, for Paul Revere, American patriot and hero of the midnight ride.

SHAFTER avenue, for General William R. Shafter, commander of the United States army in Cuba.

THOMAS avenue, for General George H. Thomas, "The Rock of Chickamauga."

UNDERWOOD avenue, for General Franklin Underwood, United States army.

VAN DYKE avenue, for Walter Van Dyke, justice of the supreme court of California.

WALLACE avenue, for William T. Wallace, chief justice of the supreme court of California.

ARMSTRONG avenue, for General Samuel Strong Armstrong, founder of Hampton Institute.

BANCROFT avenue, for George Bancroft, American historian, secretary of the navy, United States minister to Great Britain and Berlin.

CARROLL avenue, for Charles Carroll, signer of the Declaration of Independence.

DONNER avenue, for the leader of the party of immigrants who perished in the Sierra Nevada.

EGBERT avenue, for Colonel Egbert, United States army, killed in the Philippines.

FITZGERALD avenue, for Edward Fitzgerald, English poet and translator.

GILMAN avenue, for Daniel C. Gilman, American educator, former president of the University of California.

HOLLISTER avenue, for Sergeant Stanley Hollister of California, killed in Cuba.

INGERSON avenue, for Doctor H. H. Ingerson, a citizen of San Francisco.

KEY avenue, for Francis Scott Key.

LE CONTE avenue, for Professor Joseph Le Conte, teacher, scientist, and author.

MEADE avenue, for General George G. Meade, a commander at Gettysburg.

NELSON avenue, for General William Nelson, a loyal Kentuckian.

OLNEY avenue, for Richard Olney, American lawyer and statesman.

PULASKI avenue, for Count Casimier Pulaski, Polish general who served in the Revolutionary war.

RICHTER avenue, for Captain Reinhold Richter, First California volunteers, killed in Philippines.

SAMPSON avenue for Admiral William T. Sampson, United States navy.

TOVAR avenue, for Don Pedro de Tovar, ensign-general of Coronado's army.

UGARTE avenue, for Father Juan de Ugarte, founder of missions in Lower California; first ship builder of the Californias, 1719.

For the lettered streets of South San Francisco the following names were adopted by the commission:

ALVORD street, for William Alvord.

BOALT street, for John H. Boalt.

COLEMAN street, for William T. Coleman.

DONAHUE street, for Peter Donahue.

EARL street, for John O. Earl.

FITCH street, for George K. Fitch.

GRIFFITH street, for Millen Griffith.

HAWES street for Horace Hawes.

INGALLS street, for General Rufus Ingalls.

JENNINGS street, for Thomas Jennings (Sr.).

KEITH street, for William Keith.

LANE street, for Doctor L. C. Lane.

MENDELL street, for George H. Mendell.

NEWHALL street, for Henry M. Newhall.

PHELPS street, for Timothy Guy Phelps.

QUINT street, for Leander Quint.

RANKIN street, for Ira P. Rankin.

SELBY Street, for Thomas H. Selby.

TOLAND street, for Doctor H. H. Toland.

UPTON street, for Mathew G. Upton.

BERNAL Heights and Bernal avenue, were named for the family of Juan Francisco Bernal, a soldier of Anza's company.

PERALTA avenue, for the family of Gabriel Peralta, corporal of Anza's company.

DE HARO street was named for Alcalde Francisco de Haro.

The commission in selecting new names for numbered and lettered streets was limited in its choice by the necessity of preserving an alphabetical order.

Source: Eldredge, Zoeth Skinner. The Beginnings of San Francisco. 1912: San Francisco.

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