04/29/2013 09:01 pm ET

San Francisco Street Names Map Reveals City's Hidden History

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Pop quiz hotshot: who is Van Ness Avenue named after? What about Mt. Davidson?

If you answered "probably two guys named Van Ness and Davidson," you're not technically incorrect, but it might behoove you to learn a bit more San Francisco history.

Luckily, web developer and San Francisco native Noah Veltman has created SF Streets, an interactive map detailing the history of street and landmark names across the city.

Veltman's map reveals, for instance, that Van Ness Ave. is named after Gold Rush-era Mayor John Van Ness and Mt. Davidson is named after former California Academy of Sciences President George Davidson.

sf street names map

"I was interested in the idea that I've been walking and driving on these streets for years and never stopped to think about where the names came from," explained Veltman. "I must have driven down Geary Boulevard hundreds of times without ever wondering who Geary was. As soon as you stop to look, you realize you've got all these layers of local history staring at you from every street corner: explorers, Spanish missionaries, Gold Rush pioneers, railroad tycoons, Civil War heroes, 20th century activists."

Each entry comes with a mini-history lesson and handy link where Golden Gate history buffs can dive head-first down the Wikipedia rabbit hole.

Veltman noted that some of his favorite backstories include that of Green Street (named for prominent businessman who not only turned out to be total fraud, but wasn't even really named "Green"), Broderick Street (named for a California political boss who was killed in a duel against the chief justice of the state Supreme Court) and Woodward Street (named after the proprietor of a now-forgotten amusement park that used to exist in the Mission).


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