Spanish Footprint in San Francisco

Gaspar de Portola

San Francisco, and California, used to be under Spain’s rule.  During this time, several well known explorers were sent up the coast from San Diego in order to explore this area and chart any features that would make it conducive to settlement and commerce.  Several of these founders are honored in San Francisco in the following ways:

  • Portola Drive and the Portola District:  This section of town is named after the never married Gaspar de Portola, the Spanish Explorer that discovered the San Francisco Bay Area.  Because of the fog and the small opening into the bay, sea captains had passed by for many years without ever knowing of the great possibilities that existed in this area.
  • Angel Island Cove:  Lieutenant Juan Manuel de Ayala was the first European to actually sail through the Golden Gate, and he set about naming several of the places around the bay. Ayala Cove on Angel Island is named after him.
  • Alcatraz (Isla de Alcatraces): This now famous island was named by Ayala, and it means the “island of pelicans.”
  • Sausalito (Saucelito): This trendy area of the bay was also named by Ayala, and it means “little thicket of willows.” 

Spain had control of this new land for many years, but lost the West Coast when Mexico became independent in 1821.  It was at this point that Mexican rule came to this part of the country, and a time of relative prosperity began as this area saw more and more settlers.  The then named village of Yerba Buena became part of the United States in the 1840’s as a result of the Mexican/American War.  Shortly after that, the area was renamed San Francisco.

Cheers!

Mike

Source:  Historic San Francisco:  A Concise History and Guide.  by Rand Richards

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