What’s in a Street Name?

You may have noticed that many of Hayes Valley’s thoroughfares have names based on a botanical theme; there’s Birch, Grove, Ivy, Linden, Hickory, Oak, Lily, and Rose. But what are the stories behind the rest?

We did some digging to fill in the gaps.

As it turns out, the majority of our streets were named after lawyers, entrepreneurs, pioneers, members of the military, and politicians. Here’s the history behind your favorite Hayes Valley street names.

Starting in the north with our east/west roads, we have Fulton Street, named for the engineer Robert Fulton. His many accomplishments include the design of the first working submarine, commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte himself.

  • Next we have our neighborhood’s namesake, for Colonel Thomas Hayes. He owned a large amount of the land in the area in the 1850s. It is believed that his brother Michael’s position on the committee to name streets in the Western Addition was ultimately responsible for the name selection.

 

  • Fell Street gets its moniker from a Danish merchant named William Fell who belonged to the Society of California Pioneers. Fell came to San Francisco in 1849, and Fell Street was named by 1854 — so he must have made quite an impression.
  • SF Genealogy notes that Page Street was named after Robert C. Page, who was a clerk to the Board of Assistant Alderman of Common Councils in the 1850s.
  • After Page comes Haight Street, the name of which has been the subject of some debate over the years. It is likely for Henry Haight, a pioneer and manager of a banking firm, who gave the land for the Orphan Asylum at what is now 55 Laguna.
  • Continuing this theme is Waller, for R. H. Waller. He was a lawyer who later was elected a Police Judge in the 1850s. Interestingly, Waller’s wife and her friends founded the aforementioned Orphan Asylum.
  • Beginning our north to south streets, starting in the east, we have Daniel Webster, the statesman and senator from Massachusetts. Webster died after falling from a horse in 1852, right around the time when our streets were being named.
  • Many claim that Buchanan is a tribute the 15th P.O.T.U.S., but in fact the name comes from John C. Buchanan, an auctioneer during the Gold Rush.
  • Laguna simply means “lake” in Spanish, and was named for Washerwoman’s Lagoon, a pond that used to exist at the cross of Greenwich and Gough.
  • There was a contractor called Charles H. Gough, who along with Michael Hayes sat on the committee to name streets in the Western Addition. He named both Gough and Octavia Streets – Gough for himself, and Octavia for his sister.

For more on the history of San Francisco’s street names, please visit: http://hayeswire.com/2013/02/whats-in-a-street-name.html | “What’s in a Street Name?” was written by Elizabeth Nolan, Hayeswire.com

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