Monday, May 28, 2007

The 17th Avenue South Gardens Initiative? Member Contribution to FOOTPRINTS

What’s in a name?
I would like to share some of the historical information about the Bayview and the people who lived here in years past that I have found on the Internet. (See and the San Francisco Museum & Historical Society.) It tells us about how we got the names of many of our streets.

In 1909 the city of San Francisco took on the task of renaming streets across the city. With the major rebuilding underway for much of the city after the 1906 earthquake this seemed like good time for change. The major problem they wanted to correct was confusions created by the multiple streets with the same or similar names. Prior to the renaming, Bayview streets running east-west (like Quesada) were numerical avenues, “with South attached in the hope of avoiding confusion with the numerical streets running from downtown southward or the numerical avenues in the Richmond and Sunset Districts.”

“The Post Office estimated that 500 letters a day were mishandled due to the problem of street names in San Francisco.” The city set up a committee to pick new names all over the city and like other areas there were disagreements here with some of the names chosen. The public argument tells us about some of the people who lived here in the Bayview in 1909:

Led by Father O'Sullivan of All Hallows Parish, and Father Ford, a Jesuit from St. Ignatius College, the Bayview attempted to influence the street name selection. The first contention was over the use of the name of the "patriotic" Thomas Paine, of American Revolutionary and "Age of Reason" fame. When Paine was suggested for Sixteenth Avenue, South, Father O'Sullivan protested vehemently against naming a thoroughfare after someone they branded an atheist. The Examiner quoted O'Sullivan as saying, "He was an infidel, and in South San Francisco we are all Christians." …

…In a final vain attempt to insert his Irish and Catholic prejudice, Father Sullivan objected to renaming Twenty-third Avenue, South as Wallace Avenue, saying "he was a Scotch hero - and we are Irish down South, three quarters of us anyway." In the last hearing on December 13, Father Sullivan vowed that no matter what changes the Board of Supervisors dictated, "You can't make us do it," and the people of the Bayview would "continue to call our avenues by their numerical names."
When the dust cleared, and the final vote was taken on December 21, the commission did placate the priests by naming one street for Padre Palou (instead of Thomas Paine), another for Charles Carroll (instead of Cromwell), and a third for the California historian Hubert Howe Bancroft (instead of Belfast, the Protestant city in North Ireland), although Bancroft was still living.”

Rochelle Santiago has lived with her family on Quesada Avenue for 10 years. Some of her interests are on-line research and history.

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