As I frequently point out, when I was growing up I had lots of cultural resources. The best was my grandparents. They always knew the answer! From time to time my questions would deal with how streets got their names, or how something came to be called what it is. Mike Casey, who had worked for both the Market Street Railway, and the Muni, knew all about this stuff. Unfortunately, I failed to record most of what he told me. As a result, I had to go out and dig up all of this stuff. It was worth it.
I have put up about 200 names in this format, and have information on a few more. Many of these folks have had numerous articles and books written about them and their exploits. The largest task facing me has been to edit all of this material. There are now three pages.
As you will see, the names of streets are as diverse as The City itself. There are businessmen and labor leaders. There are priests and publicans. There are politicians and pacifists. All have left a mark on this place. It is impossible to track down every name, and there is still much to be done in this arena. Again, comments and suggestions are always welcome.
One more point, in 1909 a commission was appointed to review street names and make recommendations for changes. This was during the height of the rebuilding. More than 400 changes were suggested, but less than 200 were adopted. Clearly, there is a need for unique street names to assist in delivery of mail and other services, but just as clearly, no one wants to give up a name that has been in use for several years.
Since this page has been up several people have contacted me with suggestions for additions. (There were even a few folks who suggested corrections!) In any case, I have now put up a page of San Francisco History Links. Please give it a look.
Ahern Way is named for Francis (Frank) J. Ahern who was Chief of Police from 1956 to 1958. He was recognized as a leader in the modernization of police work and was frequently called on to help other jurisdictions. He is also the only Chief of Police to have a street named for him.
Alvarado Street- Named for Juan Bautista Alvarado, Mexican Governor of California from 1836 to 1842. Joined Castro and Pico in Mexican opposition to occupation by United States.
Anza Street was named for Captain Juan Bautista de Anza who led a party to establish the Presido of San Francisco in 1776. He made another trip in 1779.
Arguello Street is named for Don Luis Antonio Arguello who was the second governor of California under Mexican rule in 1825. (Bret Harte's poem, Concepcion, was written about his daughter.)
Armstrong Avenue was named for General Samuel Strong Armstrong, who was the founder of the Hampton Institute.
Arthur Avenue was named for Chestur A. Arthur, the twenty-first President of the United States.
Baker Street was named for Colonel Edward Dickenson Baker who was a soldier, lawyer and orator. He was instrumental in keeping California on the side of the Union during The Civil War.
Balboa Street was named for Vasco Nunez de Balboa who discovered the Pacific Ocean.
Bancroft Avenue was named for George Bancroft who was a noted American historian. He served as Secretary of the Navy and U.S. Minister to Great Britain.
Bartlett Street was named for Lieutenant Washington A. Barttlett who was the first United States citizen to serve as Acalde. He is also responsible for The City being called San Francisco. On January 30, 1847 he issued a proclamation changing the name.
Bartol Street was named for Abraham Bartol who was the President of The Board of Alderman in 1850.
Battery Street obtained its name because it originally led to the battery erected by Lt. Misroon at Clark's Point.
Beale Street was named for Edward F. Beale who, in the Summer of 1848, was sent to Washington to officially report the California gold discovery. He served as a naval office in the Mexican War and was an Army Lieutenant in California after the Bear Flag revolt, later becoming Surveyor General of California. When Jefferson Davis was Secretary of War, Beale led an unsuccessful expedition to the California deserts, bringing camels intended to be used for transportation purposes. He is perhaps best known for his daring rescue of Col. Stephen Kearney after the Battle of San Pascual where Kearney was seriously wounded.
Bernal Heights Boulevard, (called the Bernal Cut by old-timers) was named for Juan Francisco Bernal, a soldier in Anza's expedition of 1776. Forebear of a family whose 4,400 acre ranch included land now known as Hunter's Point and part of San Mateo County. A recent visitor to the site, and long time area resident, Jerry F. Schimmel, has provided some very interesting additional iformation on Bernal Heights Boulevard. It is located here.
Bluxome Street was named for Isacc Bluxome, Jr., pioneer merchant. He commanded troops against The Hounds in 1849, served as Secretary of the Vigilante Committees of 1851 and 1856.
Boalt Street was named for John Henry Boalt, an Ohioan, who devoted himself to mechanical engineering and mining as a young man. He came West at the close of the Civil War, obtained a law degree and practiced in Nevada, then moved to San Francisco. He was appointed to the California State Supreme Court, later becoming Chief Justice. Following his death some years later, his widow presented a gift of $100,000 to the University of California School of Law that now honors his name - Boaltt Hall.
Brannan Street was named for Sam Brannan, who was the publisher of The Star newspaper. He was also a leader in vigilante activities.
Brenham Place was named for Charles J. Brenham who was San Francisco's second mayor in 1851. He was an average sized man, but always stood his ground.
Bret Harte Terrace is named for the great American poet, who was also the Secretary of the US Mint in San Francisco in 1865.
Broderick Street is named for Senator David D. Broderick. There is a granite slab marking the place where he was killed at Lake Merced. He was the US Senator from California and vigorously opposed slavery.
Bryant Street was named for Edwin Bryant who served as the second Acalde under American rule. He was also an author, and is sometimes refereed to as "San Francisco's first author". Please note that the man who became the fourteenth mayor in 1875, Andrew J. Bryant was no relation, and the street was named for Edwin.
Buchanan Street was named for John C. Buchnan, who came overland in 1846 and joined Fremont's Company; later joined firm of McDonald & Buchnan, auctioneers. He served as a clerk to Alcades Bryant and Hyde.
Burke Avenue was named for General John Burke of the Revolutionary Army.
Burnett Avenue was named for Peter Hardeman Burnett who was the first civil Governor of California. He was from a poor family and always took the side of poor. He is buried in Santa Clara.
Bush Street is reported to have been named for J.P. Bush who reached Yerba Buena in 1845 as a cabin boy on the whaler Margaret. He assisted Jasper O'Farrell in making the first map of The City. One story is that O'Farrell named the street after him in lieu of payment for his services with the survey.
Cabrillo Street was named for Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who was a famous navigator. He commanded an expedition to cross the Gulf of California and explore uncharted sea. In 1542 he sighted California from the sea.
Cameron Way is named for Miss Donaldina Cameron, who was called "The Angel of Chinatown". She ran the Chinese Presbyterian Mission and rescued several thousand Chinese girls from the brothels of San Francisco.
Carroll Avenue was named for Charles Carroll who was a signatory to The Declaration of Independence.
Castro Street was named for Jose Castro, who was a descendant of a soldier in Anza's company. He was active in resisting United States rule after Monterey and Yerba Buena were taken by American forces. He failed in his efforts to regain Monterey.
Ceaser Chavez which was formerly known as Army Street, was named for the organizer of the UFWOC (United Farm Workers Organizing Committee). He was instrumental in bringing some measure of justice to Agribusiness. (However, it will always be Army Street to me.)
Clay Street was named for Henry Clay.
Cleary Court was named for Alfred John Cleary. He was San Francisco's first Chief Administrative Officer.
Cleveland Street was named for Charles Cleveland who was a 49'er who became a banker.
Cole Street was named for Corneilus Cole, who was an Auburn, New York lawyer, who arrived in San Francisco in late 1849, mined for a time, and than practiced law in San Francisco. He became one of the principal organizers of the Republican Party; later becoming publisher of the Sacramento Daily Times. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1863, and to the US Senate in 1866.
Coleman Street is named for William T. Coleman. He was a successful merchant and banker in the 1840's and 50's. He was also active in the Vigilantes.
Columbus Avenue was named for Christopher Columbus.
Corbett Avenue was named for the pioneer family. In the early 1850's, John a son was a deputy county clerk under Tom Hayes.
Custer Avenue was named for General George Armstrong Custer. He was killed in a battle with Sioux Indians under Sitting Bull on Little Big Horn River, Montana, June 25, 1876.
Colin P. Kelly Jr. Street is named for a member of the famous Kelly-Cohn team that dropped the first bomb to sink a warship in World War II.
Cyril Magnin was named for the last of the Magnin family. During my life time it was a big deal to go shopping either at I of J Magnins. He did a great deal for The City after the stores were sold to Federated Department Stores.
Davidson Avenue is named for George B. Davidson, who is sometimes called the "California's most remarkable man". He worked at The University of California for more than 35 years, published several books and received many honorary degrees. Not only is a street named for him, but so is a large mountain in the heart of The City (which is still the cause of much controversy).
Davis Street is named for William Heath Davis, Jr. who was the nephew of Nathan Spear. He was a successful merchant who gave much to The City.
De Boom Street was named for Corneilus de Boom, Belgian consul. He was associated in the real estate business with Dr. John Townsend. (See Santa Clara Valley Street Names.)
De Haro Street was named for Francisco de Haro who was the first Acalde of the Pueblo of Yerba Buena (what we now call San Francisco) He is also remembered as a shrewd real estate trader. He purchased Rancho de la Merced, what is now the greater part of San Francisco and San Mateo counties, from Jose Antonio Galindo for 10 cows and merchandise to the value of $25.00 in 1837.
Divisadero Street was named for its position. The word literally translates in Spanish to divider. It was the boundary between the City of San Francisco and The Presido. The original Spanish name for Lone Mountain was El Divisadero. A recent visitor to the site, Sergio Perez, was kind enough to forward this additional bit of information. The word divisadero derives from the verb divisar which means to see from a distance. You mentioned Divisadero St. was named for it's position been the boundary between The Presidio and San Francisco. The literal translation for a place or thing that divides something is called a divisor in spanish.
Dolores Street is named for Mission Dolores, one of the original 21 established by Padre Serra.
Donahue Street is named for Peter Donahue, who is sometimes described as the "Father of California industry". He opened a small shop on Montgomery at Jackson called the Union Iron Works, it later became the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation. He also organized the San Francisco Gas Company which later became Pacific Gas and Electric.
Donner Avenue was named for the ill-fated Donner party.
Dow Avenue was named for Willaim H. Dow who was a merchant in the 1850's.
Dupont Street was named for Captain Samuel F. DuPont, USN, who commanded the flagship, Congress, that brought Robert F. Stockton to California in July 14846. He took an active part in the conquest of California. The street was later renamed to Grant Street.
Ecker Street was named for George F. Ecker who was a pioneer watchmaker.
Eddy Street was named for William M. Eddy who was the city surveyor. In 1847 he completed a new enlarged map of the city extending streets laid out by Jasper O'Farrell. He later became Surveyor General of California.
Egbert Avenue was named for Colonel Egbert, USA, who was killed in The Philippines.
Ellis Street was named for Alfred J. Ellis, who reached Yerba Buena in 1847. He operated a popular saloon and boarding house on Montgomery Street. He was a member of the Auyntamiento of 1849 and the State Constitutional Convention. He also commanded a company of vigilantes.
Embarcadero roughly translated in Spanish means "the place where the boats leave". The street along the waterfront is clearly well named.
Evans Avenue was named for Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans, known as "Fighting Bob Evans". He is credited with an important part in modernizing the U.S. Navy and building steel ships. In command of the Atlantic fleet, he led a world tour of his vessels in 1907, putting into San Francisco Bay for a visit.
Fair Avenue was named for James G. Fair, an associate of Mackay, Ralston, and Sharon, the Comstock Kings. Born in Dublin in 1831, he first worked in California as a pick and shovel miner. He occupied a modest Pine Street home near Nob Hill.
Fairfax Avenue was named for Thomas Fairfax, sixth Baron Fairfax, who became an American colonist: a friend of Washington. He died near Winchester, Virginia on March 12, 1782.
Fallon Place was named for Thomas Fallon who arrived from Canada in 1844 and took an active part in the Bear Flag Revolt. He raised the American flag in San Jose, and later became prominent in San Francisco business.
Fanning Way was named for Charles Fanning, a well known engineer.
Farragut Avenue was named for Admiral David Glasgow Farragut, who in the 1840's was sent West from Washington to establish Mare Island Navy Yard, which he commanded for a time. He also fought in the War of 1812 at the age of eleven.
Fell Street was named for William Fell a native of Denmark, who arrived in San Fransciso in 1849. He became a popular merchant.
Fitch Street was named for George K. Fitch who was a well known pioneer.
Fitzgerald Avenue was named for Edward Fitzgerald, an English poet and translator.
Flood Avenue got its name from James Clair Flood, one of the famous Big Four silver kings. (He was the only one of the four who was born in this country. His parents had arrived a few months before his birth.)
Folsom Street is named for Joseph L. Folsom who established a supply depot on the bay shore in 1847. He completed this task quickly. After leaving the military he invested heavily in real estate. He owned large parts of The City when he died in 1855.
Fowler Avenue was missing from the list. I have been curious for the 30 years that I have resided on this avenue. What I have learned is that when Miraloma Park was first laid out, it was designated as East Teresita, and was changed about 1937 to Fowler Ave. I have also seen on a map from the late 1800's that a Fowler Street was shown up into the Red Rock, or Diamond Heights area. When the change was made in 1936 or 1937, could this have been to honor the early SF aviation pioneer and airplane manufacturer? (Above was contributed by Dennis Ericson.)
Franklin Street was named for Silim Franklin who was a pioneer businessman.
Fremont Street was named for General John Charles Fremont. The readings that I have done on this man vary greatly. Some call him a great pathfinder, others call him a murder. In any case, he was in charge of American forces at the time of The Bear Flag Revolt.
Fulton Street was named for the inventor of the steamboat.
Funston Avenue was named for General Frederick Funston who was Acting Commander of the Army's Pacific Division when the earthquake struck. He led the efforts to save The City.
Galindo Avenue was named for Jose Galindo, who was the grandson of Nicholas Galindo, who came in 1776 with the Anza party as a settler. Jose owned 2000 acres extending through present San Francisco County and in to San Mateo County.
Galvez Avenue was named for Don Jose de Galvez, Vistador-General of Spain and a member of the Council of the Indies. He organized an exploring expedition led by Don Gaspar de Portola in 1768.
Garrison Avenue was named for Cornelius K. Garrison who was the fourth Mayor of San Francisco.
Geary Boulevard was named for John W. Geary who was the first postmaster of San Francisco.
Gilbert Street was named for Lieutenant Edward Gilbert USA, a printer arriving with Stevenson's regiment in 1847. He became part owner and editor of Alta California, and was later elected to Congress. He was killed in a duel over an editorial in his paper.
Gilman Avenue was named for Daniel Coit Gilman, president of the University of California from 1872 to 1875. A native of Connecticut, he did graduate work at Yale; served as an attachť of the American Embassy at Saint Petersburg; returned to Yale as a faculty member; finally accepted a call to U.C. where he distinguished himself by developing the campus. He advocated changes in educational policies with less attention to classical subjects.
Golden Court is a tiny alley off of Leavenworth and Sacramento. It was named for my (I donít even know how many greats) grandaunt and granduncle; John and Ellen Golden. They built a boarding house at #3 Golden Court before 1870. The house was burned in the fire following the 1906 Earthquake. Ellen Golden received only half of the insured value of the home. After paying off her mortgage (Iím sure the bank only accepted half the value of the mortgage. Arenít you?) She sold the land and used what little money she had left to buy the cottage at 332 Jules Avenue. My Grandmother and Mother grew up there. Ellen Golden died in 1919. (The above was provided by Peggy Wilson.)
Golden Gate Avenue was named after the opening of Golden Gate Park when it became a driveway to the park. It was originally Tyler Street, named for John Tyler, the tenth President of the United States.
Gordon Street was named for George Gordon, an Englishman who in the early 1860's developed South Park as a select residential area for the wealthy.
Gough Street was named for Charles H. Gough, a popular milkman the early 1850's, delivering milk on horseback. In 1855, when he was named to a committee to lay out streets West of Larkin, he gave his own name to one of them.
Griffith Street was named for Millen Griffith, a well known pioneer.
Grijalva Street was named for Juan Pablo Grijalva. He came with the Anza party as a Sergeant. There is some interesting history on his family here.
Guerrero Street was named for Francisco Gurrero, a popular Mexican landowner who held several local offices before and after American occupation.
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