You say “Eureka Valley”, I say “Castro”

When I moved to San Francisco, the Castro was the first place I called home. I didn’t know that my ‘hood went by other names, so you can imagine my surprise when I looked at the San Francisco MLS map and discovered that the Castro wasn’t called the Castro but was instead Eureka Valley. Was it named Eureka Valley from the ancient greek meaning to discover? As in “Eureka, I have found the gays and this is where they congregate” Or was their some other only-the-natives-know-the-answer reason for the dueling neighborhood names? Was it some type of lingering homophobia, an alternate name put forward by people who wanted to “save” the neighborhood from the gay influx?

Tracking down the answer to this neighborhood naming mystery took a little time. Finding how Noe got it name is easy by comparison. And once you know how Noe got it’s name, you also discover the origins for the names of the following streets: Castro Street, Noe Street, Sanchez Street, Guerrero Street and Valenica Street. All were named for prominent Mexican ranchers: General José Castro, José de Jesús Noe, José Antonio Sánchez, Don Francisco Guerrero and José Manuel Valencia (or his son Candelario). But still, why Eureka Valley?

Eureka Valley, it turns out, is named for one of the Twin Peaks. Twin Peaks, a San Francisco landmark that provides spectacular city views (when not fogged in), consists of (you guessed it) two peaks. The north peak is named Eureka peak, and the south peak is named Noe peak. Eureka Valley is the valley below Eureka Peak, and that, my dear readers is the  anti-climatic ending to the story of the dueling-neighborhood-name mystery.

twin peaks and noe

twin peaks and noe by dolanh, on Flickr

But as with all questions, the answer to one question inevitably just creates a new question: why is Eureka peak named Eureka peak? Stay tuned…

Comments

  1. Kevin Ballard says

    Howdy! I grew up in Eureka Valley/”the Castro” (1958-63, 1966-69). My parents moved back into the neighborhood in 1975 when it had becom known as “the Castro.” (1975-97) My Aunt and Uncle lived in the neighborhood from 1949-1990.) They’d all still be there if they hadn’t passed away.

    We were always told that the word “Eureka” was Greek for “I found it!” It was what John Sutter supposedly said when he found gold in 1848, which started the 1849 Gold Rush.

    When I went to high school across the City in 1967, my classmates did not know where I was from. They didn’t recognize “Eureka Valley.” They did not recognize Castro Street either. “Oh, we thought that was “Divisadero,” they said, when I told them it was where the “L” Taraval streetcar came out of the tunnel on the way downtown from the Sunset.

    Thirty years later I was in Kathmandu, Nepal. Pretty much halfway around the world from California. I mentioned that I had grown up in a neighborhood in San Francisco known as “the Castro.” Most of the Nepali people in the room nodded with recognition.! From unknown across town to world reknown.

    We also didn’t know we were in prime real estate. We were living in “old flats” or “railroad flats.” A lot of us were renters. Who knew we were in Victorians and Edwardians!! It was always a diverse neighborhood, and people had a sense of community. It was and still is a great place to live as well as be from. Thanks for caring for the treasure that this neighborhood and its neighbors have been and continue to be.

  2. Matt Fuller, GRI says

    Kevin,

    Wow – that’s some really nice perspective on it all. I’m going to have to look up the John Sutter quote and see if I can track it down, either way it makes an awesome story.

    Mind if I ask where you grew up in the Castro? I’m happy to tell you what it last sold for if you want to know! :-)

    Thanks again for the comment!

    - Matt

Trackbacks

  1. [...] So I spent a little time in photoshop, and made “original” Mission Bay blue in the above picture. The green parts were present in the original image and represent salt marshes – not quite land, not quite bay. The inland blue shows the various creeks and freshwater bodies of water that were once present in San Francisco (where did you think all that water running of Twin Peaks originally went?) [...]

  2. [...] So I spent a little time in photoshop, and made “original” Mission Bay blue in the above picture. The green parts were present in the original image and represent salt marshes – not quite land, not quite bay. The inland blue shows the various creeks and freshwater bodies of water that were once present in San Francisco (where did you think all that water running of Twin Peaks originally went?) [...]

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