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History of San Francisco Place Names (noahveltman.com)
96 points by sethbannon 1690 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 29 comments

Hey guys, I made this map. Happy to answer any questions about how it was done, I'm going to do a detailed writeup when I have a chance. The short version is: no Wikipedia link-up, it's all manual research from archives, books, and sites (including Wikipedia). There are lots of Wikipedia links included but that's just for people who want more detail than I included in the descriptions. I parsed the street/polygon geometry from OSM and tied it together with Leaflet and then added lots of nitpicky extra design choices in JS.

Wow! I take it that history of SF is a personal interest of yours?

Well, I'm interested in history generally, but I'm not sure I was an SF history obsessive going into this project. I was just interested in the fact that I was surrounded by streets that were clearly all named after people and I had no idea who they were. I thought a map like this would be a cool way to see those same streets I walk/drive down all the time a little differently.

I remember reading that Palo Alto streets (or maybe some subsection of them) are named after Authors. I've always been curious about this, but never looked into researching it further.

Maybe I'll give it a shot now :)

Yes. A good number of streets are named after famous authors. I used to live on on Poe St. and remember seeing Byron, Seneca, Kipling, and Homer (and others I can't remember). A subsection of streets close to Stanford is also named after famous colleges. In general, I think its a good strategy for a University town to surround citizens with subtle reminders of famous/successful examples of education and the educated.

IIRC, streets in downtown Santa Monica are also named after universities.

It's great! Any chance you could overlay the neighborhoods and their name origins?

It would be fun, but really tough, and occasionally impossible.

Not all of the origins of the names of neighborhoods are known. The one I've always wondered about was the "Tender Loin"/"Tenderloin" district of SF. There are a lot of anecdotes about the origin of this name [1] but no one has a definitive answer.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenderloin,_San_Francisco

I'm going to add a version of this soon! Not overlays, but at least popping up the neighborhood name histories when you use the "Jump To" neighborhoods list in the corner. I didn't make it too high a priority since most of them are either duplicates of street histories (e.g. Cole Valley, Upper Haight, the Mission) or self-explanatory (e.g. the Sunset, Chinatown, the Marina).

Very nice. I've been curious about the origin of Gough Street and was quite amused by the explanation:

Charles H. Gough - A local milkman who served on the 1855 committee tasked with naming the streets of the Western Addition. He named Gough Street after himself and Octavia Street after his sister, and may have named Steiner Street after a friend.

According to Last Call by Daniel Okrent, Gough St was named after famed temperance orator John Bartholomew Gough. I'd assumed that was true until I saw this site. Wikipedia has support for both theories, but it looks like Charles H was the real namesake.

Also amusing: Main St. was named after Charles Main.

Been planning on making an app that does this based on current location. The government in South Australia lists source information like this along with almost every named street, suburb, etc. Should be standard worldwide IMO.

One item of curiosity: We all know who recognizable figures such as Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and MLK Jr. are. When did they decide to name streets after them?

Been planning to add this, dates for when the street got its current name (when available). Coming soon!

This is awesome. It would be cool to see neighborhood names, too, when they aren't linked directly to a street

Yeah, there are lots of categories like neighborhood names that have their own interesting stories but I wasn't sure how to display. Definitely lots of room for improvement, there are also plenty of gaps in the streets, I'll hopefully be able to fill some of those in in the coming weeks.

neighborhoods are actually easier than streets because you can find neighborhood polygons in many databases... this must have involved linking up Wikipedia with a real GIS database like Open Street Maps. I'd love to hear more about how it was done!

Equal representation for O-Town!! What's the history of T-graph? Peralta? San Parblo? I bet MLK (nee Grove) has some interesting history.

(I assume T-graph followed a telegraph route between Oakland and Berkeley. I more or less know where West MacArf got its name.)

I would imagine there's a lot of overlap in the names! Plenty of the SF streets are for figures of general California/Bay Area history, not purely local figures. There are also a bunch of folks like Jack London and Ralph Kirkham who had some notoriety in both cities.

MacArthur is for General Douglas MacArthur. It was cobbled together from a bunch of existing streets to provide a through route to the Bay Bridge when the bridge was new.

San Pablo is the road to the town of San Pablo.

Peralta is from Don Luís María Peralta, owner of Rancho San Antonio.

Thanks for this. I've heard that some of the alleys south of Market got their names from the proprietors of brothels in that area, such as Minna, Natoma, Tehama, Clementina. Can anyone debunk/confirm this?

I've always wondered if Howard Beale in the film Network was named after the intersection of those streets in SF. Alas, this does not answer that question.

Bookmarked! I'm going to use this when I'm cruising around the city next time (perhaps OracleWorld/JavaOne).

FYI, if you view it on your phone, you should be able to use the link in the lower-right corner to zoom to your current location!

Sweet! How did you reconcile Wikipedia concepts with the line geography of streets?

It looks like it was a manual process:


dude this kicks so much ass.

super cool!

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