Monday, May 27, 2013

History of San Francisco Streets

Photo from Kevin Connors 

Today it is raining in San Francisco ... after weeks of sun and warmth. Rain and fog makes me always kind of melancholic when walking through the city in rubber boots. I start thinking about the city's past and I was questioning myself how many millions of people did walk already through the streets of San Francisco, did wander over Golden Gate Bridge in the fog or traveled in its cable cars over the 42 city hills. 

Our streets have a lot of history and I want to share the history of some of the most well-known streets with you: 

Van Ness Avenue
Van Ness Street is the city's life preserver. Because of the wideness of the street, the fire that ensued after the 1906 earthquake could not jump it, preserving the other half of the city from further advantage. Van Ness Street is named after mayor, James van Ness. 
Polk Street
Hop one street over to the east from Van Ness and you've hit the lively Polk Street, a street populated by many restaurants and bars, spanning from Nob Hill through Russian Hill. Polk Street is named after James Polk, the US President who led the US to victory in the Mexican-American War, which is how California became part of the US.
Fillmore Street
Named after another president, Fillmore Street, which was the national center for jazz in the 1940's and 50's and dubbed the "Harlem of the West," is littered with great music venues, boutique shops and delicious restaurants today. The president the street is named after is Millard Fillmore, who officially California as a state of the union.
Haight & Ashbury
The epicenter of the counter-culture movement and the Summer of Love, Haight and Ashbury have ties back to the city's early residents. Haight Street is presumably named after Henry Haight, although it is unclear because there were three Haight brothers. Henry Haight was an early pioneer of the city and the manager of Page, Bacon & Co, a reputable bank back in the day.
Ashbury Street is named after Munroe Ashbury, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from 1864-1870.
Lombard Street
One of the curviest streets in the city (the curviest is actually Vermont Street in Potrero Hill) and the most popular street among visitors has no link to San Francisco. It is actually named after a street in Philadelphia.
Market Street
The main artery of the city, Market Street touches everyone's day. Market has seen some much history from the parades to marches to celebrations. It has seen it all. So what's the history behind the name our most important street? It is likely named after Market Street in Philadelphia too. Jasper O'Farrell, the civil engineer who surveyed the city in 1847, named many of today's major streets, used to live there.
If you want to take a deeper dive into the history of our streets, head over to Noah Veltman's map.

The history of San Francisco streets was originally found here from author Dan Rosenbaum.

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