In San Francisco, we have a lot of streets with no-nonsense names, like Pine, 3rd Street and Broadway. But what about Geary? Divisadero? Castro? Do you know what they’re named for?
There’s a map for that.
A new interactive map from Noah Veltman, a Knight-Mozilla OpenNews Fellow at the BBC, gives the history behind the names of San Francisco’s streets and parks. If you’re interested in San Francisco history in the slightest, this map is a goldmine.
“It’s a very interesting window into the layers of San Francisco history,” Veltman said. “You have the mission era, the gold rush, railroad tycoons,” and many others represented in the city.
See the interactive map here. It lets you filter by categories and neighborhoods, or you can type in a place of interest.
Veltman said worked on the map for two months. He used Open Street Map, an open-source depository of world map data, and he designed and built the map himself.
The hardest part, he said, was the historical research.
Reliability was an issue, he said. He tried to cross-check all his facts, because often one source would tell one story and another source would tell it slightly differently.
“It’s a lot of just manual legwork,” Veltman said. “Looking at old archives, school books, old newspaper articles from The Chronicle, checking out historical society pages. There were certainly no shortcuts.”
Two of Veltman’s favorite resources were “San Francisco Street Secrets” by David Eames and “Streets of San Francisco” by Louis Loewenstein.