9 San Francisco Streets Named After Immigrants
San Francisco is an old, iron safe filled with gold, glory, disaster, and secrets. SFCentric History is a column, by SF writer V. Alexandra de F. Szoenyi, that digs in the vaults of local history and shares the sensational people, places, and things that rocked San Francisco.
In 2017, it is important to remember that this country is made up of immigrants (in addition to its native peoples). The reminder needs to be put out there, in a time where those who want the American dream aren’t being given the opportunity to pursue it. This country wouldn’t be what it is without those who came here and left their mark. In San Francisco, there are several streets that pay homage to some of these immigrants, many who influenced and changed San Francisco itself. For this week’s edition of SFCentric History, let’s take a look at nine of these streets.
Photo: Apartment Ratings
Serrano Drive is in Parkmerced, a neighborhood where the streets are named after members of the Juan Bautista de Anza expedition. The group reached San Francisco in 1776, locating the areas of today’s Presidio and Mission Dolores on March 28, 1776. Serrano Drive is named after Ana Regina Serrano, Juan Bautista de Anza’s wife. She was the daughter of Francisco Perez Serrano, a Spanish mine owner.
Leidesdorff Street is located in the Financial District. It is named after West-Indian, mixed-race (Afro-Cuban, Danish, Jewish) businessman William Alexander Leidesdorff. While in California, William opened the City Hotel, San Francisco’s first hotel, the first commerical shipping warehouse, served as the U.S. Vice Counsel at San Francisco during Mexico’s rule, and San Francisco city treasurer, among other roles. He is considered to be America’s first black millionaire.
Rizal Street is located in SOMA Pilipinas, San Francisco’s Filipino Cultural District. It is named after author Dr. Jose Protasio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda (more commonly known as Jose Rizal), a national hero of the Philippines who was part of the Propaganda Movement. This movement called for reforms to Spanish rule. Rizal was executed by the Spanish in 1896, becoming a marytr to the cause.
Dirk Dirksen Place
Photo: Jeff Good
German-born Dirk Dirksen was known as the Pope of Punk. He was a promoter and emcee of punk clubs Mabuhay Gardens and On Broadway in North Beach, during the late 1970s and early ’80s. Dirksen also wrote and directed the Amapola Presents Show, which showcased local and punk talent. Dirk Dirksen Place (formerly called Rowland Street) is located right next to where the Mabuhay Gardens stood on Broadway.
Fell Street is believed to have been named after Danish-born William Fell. The merchant arrived in San Francisco in 1849, and was a member of the Society of California Pioneers.
John Muir Drive
Photo: My Yosemite Park
John Muir is closely tied to California, but was actually born in Scotland. He was a known naturalist, preservationist, glaciologist, botanist, and author, who helped establish Yosemite National Park. John Muir Drive is located along Lake Merced.
Rose Pak Way
Photo: San Francisco Magazine
Pak was born in China, and became a political activist in San Francisco, organizer of the Chinese New Year Parade, and consultant for the San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce. Rose Pak Way is located next to the Chinese Hospital, in Chinatown, that she helped save.
Photo: Jacquie Proctor
Davidson Avenue, in Bayview-Hunters Point is named after George Davidson. He was a geographer, astronomer, engineer born in England. He founded the Davidson Astronomical Observatory in San Francisco, and was the president of the California Academy of Sciences (from 1871-1887), among other distinguishments.
Photo: Famous Philosophers
Both Berkeley Way, and the city of Berkeley, are named after 18th century Irish bishop and philosopher George Berkeley. Frederick Billings was a trustee of what was then the College of California (later UC Berkeley), and was the one who suggested the college and town be named Berkeley. He was inspired by George’s words:
“Westward the course of empire takes its way;
The four first acts already past,
A fifth shall close the drama with the day;
Time’s noblest offspring is the last…”