CLOSE
Original image
istock

How San Francisco's Neighborhoods Got Their Names

Original image
istock

San Francisco’s modern history began after the United States claimed California during the Mexican-American War in 1846. The city was originally known as Yerba Buena until Lt. Washington A. Bartlett renamed it the following year. Since then, the city’s seven by seven miles have divided into distinct neighborhoods that have witnessed the height of the Gold Rush to LGBT rights to the current tech boom. But do you know how the city’s neighborhoods got their names? Here’s an extensive (if not quite comprehensive) list of the City by the Bay's origins.

Bayview-Hunters Point

Peter Merholz

This hyphenated neighborhood is located at the southeastern point of San Francisco. Bayview presumably comes from its proximity to the Bay. Hunters Point is named after John, Phillip, and Robert Hunter, three brothers who acquired José Cornelio Bernal’s land in 1842.

Bernal Heights

IMLS

Bernal Heights used to be part of Rincon de las Salinas and Potrero Nuevo. In 1839, the Mexican government granted the land to Jose Cornelio Bernal, a Spanish soldier who was part of the Anza expedition. The land was divided in the 1860s. Soon after, Irish immigrants inhabited the land as dairy farmers.

The Castro

torbakhopper

The Castro is San Francisco’s LGBT mecca, but its name is derived from a Commanding General from the Mexican-American War, José Castro. He led the opposition to the American occupation with Juan B. Alvarado, who served as California’s governor between 1836 and 1842.

Chinatown

Alden Jewell

San Francisco’s Chinatown is the largest and oldest in North America. The first two Chinese immigrants arrived on the Eagle, an American brig, in 1848. The first Asian church in North America, Old St. Mary’s, was built in 1853. Of course, people came for the Gold Rush, but other immigrants made the journey after natural disasters hit China in quick succession after their loss to Great Britain in the first Opium War.

Cow Hollow

recities

In the mid-1800s, this neighborhood on the northeastern side of the city was called Spring Valley for its freshwater springs. But it quickly became known for something else: dairy farming. Even though the cows are gone, the name Cow Hollow stuck.

Crocker-Amazon

This area is named after Charles Crocker, the man who founded the Central Pacific Railroad in the 1860s, and was one of the Big Four in Nob Hill. The neighborhood is also named after Amazon Street in the Excelsior District.

Diamond Heights

IMLS

Diamond Heights was the last undeveloped area of Rancho San Miguel. However, after the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency was established in 1950, this area’s 300 acres became its first development project. Using a combination of federal, state, city, and county funds, the agency called the area Diamond Heights.

Dogpatch

Jesse Mullan

The Dogpatch was called "Butchertown" until the 1960s. At the time, slaughterhouses covered the neighborhood. However, it’s unclear how it became known as the Dogpatch. One rumor is hungry canines waited for scraps of meat outside the abattoirs.

Duboce Park

Wikimedia Commons

Victor Donglaim Duboce was a lieutenant colonel during the Spanish-American War, eventually elected to be part of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. After he died in 1900, the other Supervisors named this patch of land after him.

The Embarcadero

Wikimedia Commons

Spanish for "wharf," the Embarcadero saw more than 700 vessels enter the waterfront district between April and December 1849. The Gold Rush wasn’t the only appeal for residents to set up camp here. It served as one of the Barbary Coast’s premiere sites for saloons and prostitution until 1911. Mayor James Rolph cleaned up the area, favoring a produce district over debauchery.

Excelsior

The Excelsior was part of the Rancho Rincon de las Salinas Y Potrero Viejo. The name Excelsior Homestead was filed at city hall on April 15, 1869.

Financial District

Kevin Lund

After the United States took San Francisco from Mexico in 1847, the traditional communal landholding system ended. The town commons and waterfront were auctioned off and land was quickly bought. But the Financial District sits on what used to be Yerba Buena Cove. It was filled in the 1850s as San Franciscans abandoned their ships to take part in the Gold Rush and the area quickly became the city’s financial center.

Fisherman’s Wharf

Pedro Szekely

Most locals avoid Fisherman’s Wharf. Aside from astounding views of Alcatraz, it’s littered with novelty shops and souvenirs. But the incredible boats that line the Bay showcase its history. They belong to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Italian fishermen who were drawn to San Francisco during the Gold Rush.

Forest Hill

Forest Hill exists on the south and west sides of Twin Peaks. It was originally called Mount Parnassus in 1886 when Adolph Sutro planned for thousands of Bluegum eucalyptus trees to be planted in celebration of Arbor Day. However, 12 years after Sutro died in 1898, his heirs hired A.S. Baldwin to assess the land. He eventually bought the area to be developed by the Newell-Murdoch Company into a residence park, completed in 1913. It became known as Forest Hill for its pines, cypress, and eucalyptus trees.

Golden Gate Park

Andrew Smith

Golden Gate Park was a wasteland of dunes owned by the United States government until the City and County of San Francisco’s petition for it succeeded in 1866. Surprisingly, the term “Golden Gate,” which is also the name of San Francisco’s famous bridge, doesn’t come from the Gold Rush. Its origins come from John C. Fremont naming the Golden Gate Strait in his 1848 memoirs.

Haight-Ashbury

Aboutmytrip

San Francisco’s hippie epicenter got its hyphenated name from two men: Henry Haight, a banker who became the 10th governor of California in 1867, and Munroe Ashbury, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors between 1864 and 1870. Both men were actively involved in the development of Golden Gate Park.

Hayes Valley

torbakhopper

This high-end area of San Francisco used to be full of prostitution and crime. It was named after an Irish immigrant, Colonel Michael Hayes, who allegedly dueled with pistols and supported slavery. He constructed a beautiful Victorian home in the 1880s for individuals to enjoy their vices, but he also had ulterior motives: The home was a bid to extend a streetcar line into the area.

Ingleside

Ingle is Celtic for "fireplace," while an ingleside is the area beside it. That’s why Cornelius Stagg named his new roadhouse The Ingleside Inn in 1885. Within a few years, locals referred to the whole area as Ingleside.

Lakeshore

Lakeshore gets its name for its proximity to Lake Merced. Originally named “Laguna de Nuestra Senora de la Merced” (“The Lake of Our Lady of Mercy”) by Captain Don Bruno de Heceta in 1775, the surrounding area was developed in the 1950s after the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department acquired jurisdiction from the Public Utilities Commission.

The Marina

Shayan

Directly west of Cow Hollow overlooking the Bay is the Marina. Before its stunning houses were built, it consisted of tidal marshlands and dunes. After the devastating 1906 earthquake decimated parts of the city, residents gathered debris and put it here. It became the area’s foundation. In 1915, the Marina served as the location of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Its close proximity to the water and harbors helped inspire San Franciscans to rebuild and grow their city.

The Mission

Big Swift

Father Palou was a Spanish priest in the 18th century. He established a church on June 29, 1776 at Laguna de Dolores. It became the first building in the city and was named Mission Dolores. A few years later in 1783, the church moved to what we now know as 16th and Dolores. It’s the base of the Mission today.

Mission Bay

Eric Fredericks 

Mission Bay describes the neighborhood’s location, which is east of Mission and west of the Bay. The area’s development started in 1998 and showcases San Francisco’s radical growth due to the Internet, with start-up offices replacing the neighborhood’s former rail yards.

Nob Hill

Sharat Ganapati

Nob Hill is named after its early settlers from the late 1800s. They were reportedly a highly successful, criminal bunch. “Nob” comes from Nabob, a Hindu word describing wealthy, powerful Europeans making their fortunes in the East. The “Nobs” included “Bonanza King” James Flood and James Fair. But perhaps most important were Mark Hopkins, Collis P. Huntington, Charles Crocker, and Leland Stanford. They were known as the Big Four, a group that invested in the first intercontinental railroad. The neighborhood remains affluent to this day (locals sometimes refer to it as “Snob Hill”).

Noe Valley

torbakhopper

Pio Pico, the Mexican governor of California in 1846, gave approximately one-sixth of San Francisco to Jose de Jesus Noe. The land was called Rancho San Miguel before Noe began to sell it in 1852. Today, the land he owned includes Noe Valley, the Castro, Glen Park, and more.

North Beach

Dustin Gaffke

In its early days, North Beach was an actual beach until the coast was augmented. Immigrants from Europe, South America, and the Australian penal colonies made their way to the Barbary Coast’s North Point docks. As such, its name is a geographical marker for the neighborhood’s spot in the Bay. The late 1800s saw an influx of Italians making their way to the area, also making it San Francisco’s Little Italy. According to legend, the Italian-Americans allegedly saved the area, draping their houses in wine-soaked blankets to avoid fires caused by the 1906 earthquake.

Pacific Heights

Aboutmytrip

Pacific Heights is south of the Marina and stands tall at 371 feet. Similar to Russian Hill and Nob Hill, the early residents of the late 1800s were very wealthy. They made their way to the area after the cable-car line was built to the neighborhood.

Parkside

William Crocker bought what is now Parkside from Adolph Sutro in July 1905. Its name refers to its proximity to the trees at Pine Lake, which was then called Laguna Puerca.

Potrero Hill

Bernt Rostad

Don Francisco de Haro, the former Alcalde of Yerba Buena, acquired a land grant in 1835 to graze cattle from the Mission, which sits directly west of the neighborhood. It was called Potrero Nuevo then, which translates to "New Pasture." The area eventually dropped its nature-inspired surname when the city’s mayor, Dr. John Townsend, divided the land into a grid in 1849. Companies like the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Company and the Western Sugar refinery made the area their industrial base. Potrero stands 300 feet high.

The Presidio

Amanda

Presidio means "fortress" in Spanish. Established in 1776, it’s the oldest installation in the western part of the United States. It initially served as an outpost for Spain’s military until Mexico took it over. Twenty four years later, America gained control in 1846. The Presidio was an active installation until it was passed over to the National Park Service in 1994. Two years later, Congress developed a federal agency to preserve its historical and scenic integrity.

The Richmond

An Australian-born art dealer, George Turner Marsh, thought the Inner and Outer Richmond resembled sand dunes from Richmond, Australia. At least that’s how one story goes. Others credit a man named George Fletcher for coming up with the name. The area rose to prominence after the 24th mayor of San Francisco, Adolph Sutro, built transportation services to it.

Russian Hill

Patrick Nouhailler

Russian Hill is known for Lombard Street’s sharp curves, beautiful architecture, and cable cars. It originated in 1850 when a minister, Bayard Taylor, discovered seven marked graves at the top of the hill, which sits at 343 feet. Little is known about who the buried men were. Some say they were merchant sailors, while others say they were fur trappers. But their tombs were inscribed in Cyrillic, giving the hill its name. Unfortunately, the markers were removed during Russian Hill’s development in the 1850s.

SoMA

torbakhopper

SoMA, an abbreviation for South of Market, might sound like a SoHo knockoff to New Yorkers. In a way, it is. Market Street runs from the port of San Francisco into Eureka Valley and the industrial SoMA sits directly underneath. But originally its name was South of the Slot, referring to the apparatuses that carried cable cars.

Sunnyside

Wikimedia Commons

San Franciscan Behrend Joost was supposed to provide dredging services to create a canal in Panama in the late 1880s. It was a failed attempt, but left him with enough money to start the “Sunny Side Land Company,” which bought and developed the land in the 1890s.

The Sunset

SF Brit

The Sunset used to be called Outside Lands, a name now reserved for the city’s yearly music and arts festival in Golden Gate Park. However, the once barren land remained property of the United States government from 1848 until 1866, and it’s unknown exactly when Outside Lands became The Sunset. Some claim a property owner and developer, Aurelius Buckingham, named it so. A separate theory suggests the California Midwinter Fair of 1894, also called The Sunset City, was the source of inspiration. Still, there’s also speculation it was the result of a neighborhood organization.

Telegraph Hill

Roger Wollstadt

Telegraph Hill was a semaphore built in 1849 used to identify ships entering San Francisco. The Spaniards called the area Loma Alta before that, which translates to High Hill. It also has one of San Francisco’s best landmarks, Coit Tower, as well as an invasive species of parrot, cherry-headed conures, originally from Ecuador.

The Tenderloin

Ken Lund

The Tenderloin isn’t far from Nob Hill and Russian Hill. In fact, its boundaries are blurred. Many locals call the northern side underneath Nob Hill the Tendernob. Despite its ritzy neighbors, the Tenderloin gets a bad rap as a home to drug deals, prostitutes, and confrontational strangers. This gritty disposition helped the Tenderloin earn its name. Police officers working there in the 1930s were compensated with higher wages, and they took to calling the area "tenderloin," after the better cuts of meat they could afford.

Twin Peaks

Melodie Mesiano

Twin Peaks was originally called Los Pechos de la Choca in the 18th century, which translates to “Breasts of the Maiden.” The adjacent peaks’ elevation is 922 feet, giving it some of the best views of the Bay Area. The name changed after Americans took control of San Francisco in the 19th century.

Union Square

Tony Fischer

Union Square is San Francisco’s main cultural center for retail shopping. There’s also an urban park bordered by Geary, Powell, Post, and Stockton Streets. But it was originally built and named in 1850 by San Francisco’s first mayor, John Geary, inspired by the pro-Union rallies that took place there before and during the Civil War.

Visitacion Valley

Wikimedia Commons

Legend has it that Visitacion Valley got its name in 1777 when friars got lost in the Bay Area’s fog. As it lifted, they found themselves in the valley on the same day as the feast of the Blessed Virgin. Some suggest they saw a vision on a rock.

The Western Addition

Aboutmytrip

As San Francisco expanded beyond its west boundary on Larkin Street in the 1850s, the result was the geographically named Western Addition. However, this section of San Francisco can also be broken into different neighborhoods that have their own distinct names. For example, the current Japantown was built in 1968, but its history extends back to the 1920s and 30s when Japanese immigrants filled 30 blocks. They were forced out during World War II, and in the 1950s when the area was being gentrified. The Fillmore District was named after President Millard Fillmore at the end of the 19th century. NoPA, a fairly recent term, is used to describe the area North of the Panhandle, an elongated section of Golden Gate Park.

BONUS: Alcatraz

Ramey Logan

Spanish naval officer Lt. Juan Manuel de Ayala called Yerba Buena Island, the small spot that sits between San Francisco and Oakland, Isla de Alcatraces, which translates to “Island of the Pelicans.” Seventy two years later, the United States military began fortifying a different island in the Bay, Alcatraz Island, inspired by Ayala’s pelicans.

arrow
geography
Clever GIFs Show Subway Maps Compared to Their Actual Geography
Original image
Original Berlin Underground map.

Clarity, user-friendliness, and visual appeal are all considered when designers map out the metro systems of the world’s cities. Geographic accuracy is one factor that’s often left by the wayside. In a break from these norms, the Berlin-based web designers at Sansho Studio created a GIF that pairs the official map of Berlin’s Underground with its real-world depiction.

The animation uses data pulled from Google Maps, Wikipedia, and Berlin’s public transit system. As you can see in the GIF above, the transformation from one image to the next is dramatic. The first map shows the lines of Berlin’s underground as parts of an orderly, integrated system with a few graceful bends here and there. The geographic counterpart displays a map of sprawling scribbles more reminiscent of veiny waterways than the subway routes commuters know best.

Reddit user vinnivinnivinni of Sansho Studio posted their work on the subreddit Data is Beautiful, where it received more than 66,000 upvotes. It also inspired Reddit users to create similar GIFs for metro systems around the world. Below you can see some of the most impressive designs.

Animation of Barcelona subway map.
J.Robb Digital

Original image
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
arrow
History
10 Things You Should Know About The Treaty Of Paris (1763)
Original image
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Winston Churchill called it "the first world war." Fought between 1754 and 1763, the misleadingly named Seven Years' War (often called the French and Indian War in North America) pitted Europe's major colonial powers against each other in theaters across the globe, from North America and Africa to India and the Philippines. On one side of the conflict stood Great Britain and its allies, including Portugal and German states. The other camp was led by France, whose comrades included Russia, the Holy Roman Empire, and Spain.

In the end, Great Britain prevailed. On February 10, 1763, representatives from Britain, France, Spain, Hanover, and Portugal met in Paris to sign a peace treaty. Few documents have shaken up global politics so dramatically. This Treaty of Paris wrested Canada from France, redrew North American geography, promoted religious freedom, and lit the fuse that set off America's revolution.

1. THE TREATY HANDED CANADA TO BRITAIN—A MOVE ENDORSED BY BEN FRANKLIN AND VOLTAIRE.

Before the war ended, some in the British government were already deciding which French territories should be seized. Many believed that Great Britain should annex Guadaloupe, a Caribbean colony that produced £6,000,000 worth of exports, like sugar, every year. France’s holdings on the North American mainland weren't nearly as valuable or productive.

Benjamin Franklin thought that securing the British colonies' safety from French or Indian invasion was paramount [PDF]. In 1760, he published a widely-read pamphlet which argued that keeping the French out of North America was more important than taking over any sugar-rich islands. Evidently, King George III agreed. Under the Treaty of Paris, Britain acquired present-day Quebec, Cape Breton Island, the Great Lakes basin, and the eastern bank of the Mississippi River. France was allowed to regain possession of Guadaloupe, which Britain had temporarily occupied during the war. Some thought France still came out on top despite its losses. In his 1759 novel Candide, the French philosopher Voltaire dismissed Canada as but a "few acres of snow."

2. FRANCE RETAINED EIGHT STRATEGIC ISLANDS.

Located in the North Atlantic off the coast of Newfoundland, the Archipelago of St. Pierre and Miquelon is the last remnant of France's North American empire. The Treaty of Paris allowed France to retain ownership of its vast cod fisheries around the archipelago and in certain areas of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In return, France promised Britain that it wouldn't build any military facilities on the islands. Today, the 6,000 people who live on them are French citizens who use euros as currency, enjoy the protection of France's navy, and send elected representatives to the French National Assembly and Senate.

3. AN EX-PRIME MINISTER LEFT HIS SICKBED TO DENOUNCE THE TREATY.

william pitt the elder
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Prime Minister William Pitt the Elder had led Britain's robust war effort from 1757 to 1761, but was forced out by George III, who was determined to end the conflict. Pitt's replacement was the third Earl of Bute, who shaped the Treaty of Paris to placate the French and Spanish and prevent another war. Pitt was appalled by these measures. When a preliminary version of the treaty was submitted to Parliament for approval in November 1762, the ex-Prime Minister was bedridden with gout, but ordered his servants to carry him into the House of Lords. For three and a half hours, Pitt railed against the treaty's terms that he viewed as unfavorable to the victors. But in the end, the Lords approved the treaty by a wide margin.

4. SPAIN SWAPPED FLORIDA FOR CUBA.

Florida had been under Spanish control since the 16th century. Under the Paris treaty, Spain yielded the territory to Britain, which split the land into East and West Florida. The latter included the southern limits of modern-day Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida panhandle. East Florida encompassed the the territory's peninsula. In return, Spain recovered Cuba and its major port, Havana, which had been in British hands since 1762. Twenty-one years later, Great Britain gave both Florida colonies back to the Spanish after the American War of Independence.

5. THE DOCUMENT GAVE FRENCH CANADIANS RELIGIOUS LIBERTY.

French Canada was overwhelmingly Catholic, yet overwhelmingly Protestant Britain did not force religious conversions after it took possession of the territory. Article Four of the Treaty of Paris states that "His Britannic Majesty, on his side, agrees to grant the liberty of the [Catholic] religion to the inhabitants of Canada … his new Roman Catholic subjects may profess the worship of their religion according to the rites of the [Roman] church, as far as the laws of Great Britain permit."

The policy was meant to ensure French Canadians' loyalty to their new sovereign and avoid provoking France into a war of revenge. As anti-British sentiment emerged in the 13 American colonies, historian Terence Murphy writes, Great Britain needed to bring the French Canadians into the fold because they were "simply too numerous to suppress." This provision in the Treaty of Paris probably influenced the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of religious freedom.

6. A SECOND, SECRET TREATY GAVE HALF OF LOUISIANA TO SPAIN.

By the 1760s, the French territory of Louisiana stretched from the Appalachians to the Rocky Mountains. Faced with a likely British victory in the Seven Years' War, France quietly arranged to give the portion of Louisiana west of the Mississippi River, including the city of New Orleans, to its ally, Spain, in 1762. (The rest eventually went to Great Britain.) The deal was struck in the Treaty of Fontainebleu. This arrangement wasn't announced to the public for more than a year, and Britain's diplomats were completely unaware that it had taken place while they negotiated the Treaty of Paris. By ceding so much territory to Spain, French foreign minister Étienne François de Choiseul hoped to compensate that country for its forfeiture of Florida.

7. CHOISEUL PREDICTED THAT THE TREATY WOULD LEAD TO AMERICAN REVOLT.

Before the Treaty of Paris, the threat of a French Canadian invasion had been keeping Britain's colonies loyal to the crown. When Canada became British, king and colonies no longer shared a common enemy, and the colonists' grievances with Britain came to the fore.

Choiseul predicted this chain of events, and saw it as an opportunity for France take revenge on Britain. Before the Treaty of Paris had even been signed, he'd started rebuilding France's navy in anticipation of a North American revolt. He also sent secret agents to the American colonies to report signs of growing political upheaval. One of these spies, Baron Johan de Kalb, later joined the Continental Army and led American troops into numerous battles before he died in action in 1780.

8. THE TREATY HAD A MAJOR IMPACT IN INDIA.

In the early 1750s, the British East India Company and its French counterpart, the Compagnie Française des Indes, clashed regularly over control of lucrative trade on the Indian subcontinent. Once the Seven Years' War began, this regional tension intensified. France's most vital Indian trading post was the city of Pondicherry, which British forces captured in 1761.

The Treaty of Paris returned to France all of its Indian trading posts, including Pondicherry. But, it prohibited France from fortifying the posts with armed troops. That allowed Britain to negotiate with Indian leaders and control as much of the subcontinent as it could, dashing France's hope of rivaling Great Britain as India's dominant colonial power.

9. IT TRIGGERED A HUGE NATIVE AMERICAN UPRISING.

Ottawa chief Pontiac meets with British troops after French and Indian War
Ottawa leader Pontiac (center) meets with British generals after the Treaty of Paris was signed.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

For decades, French leaders in the eastern Louisiana Territory had developed alliances with native peoples. However, when that land was transferred to the British, some Native Americans were shocked at the French betrayal. Netawatwees, a powerful Ohio Delaware chief, was reportedly "struck dumb for a considerable time" when he learned about the Treaty of Paris. In 1762, the Ottawa chief Pontiac forged an alliance between numerous tribes from the Great Lakes region with the shared goal of driving out the British. After two years, thousands of casualties, and an attack with biological weapons, Pontiac and representatives of Great Britain came to a poorly enforced peace treaty in 1766.

10. THE TREATY CAME TO AMERICA AFTER 250 YEARS.

Once the Treaty of Paris was signed in that city, it stayed put. In 2013, the British government lent its copy—the first time the document would be displayed outside Europe—for an exhibit in Boston, Massachusetts, commemorating the 250th anniversary of the signing. The Bostonian Society's "1763: A Revolutionary Peace" exhibited the document alongside other artifacts from the Seven Years' War. Afterward, the manuscript returned to Great Britain.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios