Oakland Street names and from whence they came

If you look at older maps of Oakland, the street names have changed a lot over the years. This was done partly to resolve street name conflicts as Oakland grew and annexed other towns. Eventually [ date, anyone? ] they settled on a system of numbered streets north from downtown (with “East” pre-pended to the numbered streets if they go east of the lake), and numbered avenues east/south from the lake. So the numbered streets go from 1st Street (Embarcadero) at Jack London Square to 67th Street at the Berkeley border. The numbered avenues go from 1st Avenue near Lake Merritt to 109th Avenue near the San Leandro border.

For some inspiration, look at this cool map of San Francisco street names.

Also note that addresses have also been changed over the years, some multiple times.

The old downtown

The historical core of Oakland was defined by the three scoundrel founders and the street plan they had surveyed by Julius Kellersberger in 1852. The names of the streets, which must have chosen in consultation with the founders, imply an attempt to strike a delicate political balance in the uneasy times before the Civil War. The first pair of streets flanking Broadway was named for George Washington, a Southerner, on the west and Benjamin Franklin, a Northerner, on the east. Next came a pair named for Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, the senators from South and North respectively who brought California into the Union as part of the Compromise of 1850. Third came streets named for Thomas Jefferson and William Henry “Tippecanoe” Harrison. The names of successive outlying streets declined in prestige to West Street on the one side and Oak Street on the other.

1897 Renaming

Even before the annexation of 1897 created duplicate names throughout the city, the Council changed nearly 50 street names in January of 1897. 7

Great Renaming of 1907

One batch of approximately 50 name changes occurred with ordinance #2616 approved on August 24, 1907 by mayor Frank K. Mott. For example, an existing 2nd Avenue was renamed Shafter Avenue to avoid conflicting with 2nd Avenue east of the lake which was part of the 1897 annexation. According to Peter T. Conmy, this was to honor General William Rufus Shafter from the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. But there was also the Shafter family who lived in Oakland; Oscar L. Shafter served on City Council. See the April 10, 1907 article below for more information.

Other Renamings

With the annexation of Fruitvale in 1909, another round of renaming became necessary to avoid confusion between duplicate street names. (Q: In what year(s) did this take place?) The most significant example of this was the changing of Peralta Avenue to Coolidge Avenue, which suggests that at least some of the changes were delayed for years seeing that President Coolidge didn't leave office until 1929. Or perhaps the street was named after a different famous Coolidge. Also, an existing Ohio Street was renamed to Dakota Street due to the prior existence of a one-block Ohio Street that runs parallel to Lakeshore Avenue connecting Mandana and Prince Street. Curiously, this street was renamed Lakeshore Avenue at some later date, creating the unusual situation where there are actually two parallel Lakeshore Avenues for a one-block stretch by Mandana Plaza Park. The Oakland History Room has a little booklet of street name changes for those people who obsess about these sorts of things.

Another batch of streets was renamed in 1913. Some renamings seemed to cause a ripple effect: Maple St. in Temescal was renamed Clarke St.; Clarke Ave. near Park Blvd. was renamed to Greenwood Ave. so there wouldn't be a conflict. 6

Yet more were changed in 1914. 8 [need to add some color]

In 1923, the city council changed the names of a few short streets, including changing Cottage St. to Mandana to match Mandana on the other side of Lakeshore. Other streets in that renaming were: Kanning St. to Masterson St., Storer Ave. to Redding St., Storer Place to Redding Place, Fremont Way to Burbeck Ave., Hill Lane to Burke St., Jones St. to 21st St., Indian Road to Sunnyhill Road. 2

Oddly, Oakland still has two Walnut Streets: One is a two-segment street in Allendale/Maxwell Park a block west of Allendale Avenue, and the other runs between 90th and 104th Avenues east of International Boulevard.

Plants | States | Oakland People | Explorers | Famous People | Places

Trees and Plants and Fruits

Acacia Ave. ? Alder St. ? Apple St. ? Apricot St. ? Beech St. ? Blenheim St. ? Birch St. ? Chestnut St. (could be named after a school director Chestnut in the 1890s? Given proximity to other tree streets, I’d guess the tree) ? Daisy St . ? Elmwood Ave. ? Graffian St. ? Gravenstein St. ? Holly St. ? Ivy Dr. ? Laurel. ? Linden St. ? Locust St. ? Magnolia St. ? Manzanita Dr. ? Maple Ave. ? Oak St. ? Olive St. ? Palm Ave. ? Palmetto St. ? Pearmain St. ? Pine St. ? Pippin St. ? Poplar St. ? Prune St. ? Redwood Rd. ? Royal Ann St. ? Russet St. ? Sequoyah Rd. ? Spruce St. ? Stone [fruit] St. ? Sycamore St. ? Tartarian St. ? Willow St. ? Wood St.

Named after States

Laurel Park Grove, now known as the Laurel District, was laid out in 1900 by a man named George E. Fogg. The boundaries of the area were School Street, Quarry Street (Maple Street), Kansas Street and Midvale Street. Fogg laid out the streets running from School Street toward the hills in the order Maine, Vermont, Jersey, Montana, Texas, Ohio (now Dakota), Delaware, Georgia, Idaho and Kansas. [This list and its order don't match the current map] California, Kansas and Wisconsin Streets continue past 35th Avenue in Redwood Heights. Some of these streets were lost with the construction of the MacArthur Freeway (580) in the 1960s.

Named after Horse-drawn Carriages

In Sequoyah Hills which located in the Oakland Hills above 580, off of Keller Avenue, directly below Skyline Blvd. Hansom Drive, Coach Drive, Chariot Lane, Phaeton Drive, Shay Drive and Surrey Lane are named after a variety of horse-drawn carriages. There is a wheel-like arrangement of Shay Drive, Phaeton Drive and Coach Drive radiating from Hansom Drive. (Sequoyah Hill Homeowners Association site it clearly states all the streets were named for horse-drawn carriages)

Not named for a carriage, but possibly a horse:

  • Santa Ray Ave. - possibly named for a racehorse

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Oakland People

April 10, 1907 Oakland Tribune

  • Aitken Dr. – George E Aitken?
  • Alice St. – Alice Carpentier, sister of Horace Carpentier (src — sort of) 3
  • Alida St. - Mother of Charles Young who was a surveyor and Oakland City councilman. See Linnet Ave
  • Alida Ct. - See Alida St and Linnet Ave
  • Barbara Road - Named after the wife of Henry Gordon a manager at the Oakland Tribune 4
  • Bemis St. - Ken Bemis, developer of Chabot Park and founder of White Log Tavern restaurants
  • Boyd Ave. - Percy "Bill" Boyd4
  • Brockhurst St. - Named for Henry Brockhurst who came to Oakland in 1858 (src)
  • Butters Dr – WWI fatality Henry A. Butters, Jr. son of Henry A. Butters
  • Capell Street - J. R. Capell, Progressive Party candidate in 1896 (src)
  • Chabot Road – Anthony Chabot
  • Chauncey Bailey Way - journalist Chauncey Bailey
  • Cole Street - Rector E. Cole
  • Colton Blvd. – developer Frank Colton Havens

  • Dimond Ave. – Hugh Dimond
  • Fallon St. - Malachi Fallon, first police chief of SF; lived at 7th and Fallon. His home became the Chabot Woman's Home.
  • Flagg Ave - Anthony & Fred Flagg developers in the Fruitvale District
  • Hampel St. - John Hampel, who owned an adjacent tract of land north and west of Park Blvd.
  • Harwood Ave. – William Harwood?
  • Havenscourt Blvd. – Frank Havens
  • Hawley St. - George Hawley subdivided the Buenaventura Tract
  • Hillegass Ave. – William Hillegass
  • Howe St. - Montgomery Howe who with Walter Blair started the first horsecar line into Piedmont He also lived on Piedmont Ave across from Rio Vista
  • Jayne Ave. – Hannah Jayne, wife of Edson Adams
  • John B. Williams Freeway (I-980) – John B. Williams
  • Julia St. (c.1850; now Madison) – Julia Adams, sister of Edson Adams (src) 3
  • Kirkham St. – Ralph Kirkham
  • Leighton St. - Leighton MacGregor, son of Charles "One Nail" MacGregor (src)
  • Leimert Blvd & Place – Walter Leimert and Harry Leimert
  • Lincoln Ave. – Lincoln Rhoda, son of Frederick Rhoda
  • Linnet St. - Named for the Linnets that landed on Charles C Young's instruments while surveying the area.
  • London Rd. - Named for Jack London. (src; see comments)
  • Lynde St. - George L. Lynde (src)
  • Mandana Blvd. - named for the mother of Frank Havens' 2nd wife, Lila Mandana Rand Colton, Elizabeth Mandana Abbott, who married C. D. Rand, then OPD police chief (src) 3
  • McClure St.- Rev. David McClure, founder of the California Military Academy src)
  • McMillan St. - Anthony McMillan, mining engineer and businessman who lived nearby
  • Medau Place - for Medau family, which had ranch and dairy that included much of what is now Montclair
  • Merritt Ave. – Samuel Merritt
  • Montgomery St. - See Howe St.
  • Moss Ave – like Mosswood, J. Mora Moss and Julia Wood.
  • Mott Place – Frank K Mott (probably)
  • Newton Ave - Charles Newton
  • Peralta – the Peralta family
  • Perkins St. – George C. Perkins
  • Poirier St. – John Baptiste Poirier, early landowner
  • Rand Ave - Named after Lila Rand, 2nd wife of Frank Havens
  • Rhoda Ave. – Frederick Rhoda family
  • Rishell Dr. – council member and mayor Clifford E. Rishell
  • Roderick Rd. - Harry L Roderick - he built the first model plane in 1909
  • Ross St. - J. Ross Browne onetime ambassador to China and a writer. His home called Pagoda Hill was on the northern side of Chabot Road. (src)
  • Rumford Freeway – William Byron Rumford
  • Sanborn Dr. - Edgar Madison Sanborn, Park Board president and manager of Woodminster Amphitheater (src)
  • Saroni Dr. - developer Louis Saroni
  • Shattuck Ave. – Francis K Shattuck
  • Shorey St. – William Shorey (probably)
  • Simson Ave.- Robert Simson (src; NB: his son Leslie Simson was the lion hunter)
  • Snell St – (probably) one of the Snells – Richard, Mary or Snell Seminary
  • Stanford – Josiah Stanford?
  • Sylhowe Rd. - Named after two female doctors - Dr. Florence Sylvester and Dr. Frances Howe (src)
  • Thomas L. Berkley Way - Thomas L. Berkley
  • Thornhill Drive - was Thorn Road until 1932 - Hiram Thorne
  • Valdez St. - Joe Valdez who owned land from 20th & 28th between Broadway and Harrison. 1866 he sold it St.Marys church for the site of the College of Holy Name. Kaiser Center is now on part of the property (src)
  • Van Dyke Ave - W. Van Dyke, who owned land (probably)
  • Vicente Way - José Vicente Peralta
  • Virden Avenue - Charles E. Virden, president of the Virden Packing Company, who purchased the area
  • Waterhouse Rd. – named for Waterhouse, a WWI veteran (Lt. Hascall F. Waterhouse?)
  • Watson (now part of Athol) - Watson, early landowner (probably)
  • William St. - named after Frederick William Delger - He had 3 streets named after him 19th St was Frederick and 20th St was Delger
  • York St. - Bert York - Manager of Idora Park and was born on the sw corner 34th & Elm

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Named for Zodiac Signs, WW1 Generals and Spanish Explorers

In the Merriewood neighborhood of Montclair, there is a group of streets for the signs of the Zodiac. The streets are Aquarius Way, Capricorn Ave, Leo Way, Taurus Ave, Uranus Ave and Virgo Rd. There is small cluster streets named in honor of Robin Hood. They are Nottingham Dr., Robin Hood Way and Sherwood Dr.

Another group of streets in Montclair are named after WW 1 Generals.

There's a cluster of streets in Montclair, seemingly all named for early explorers. These origins have not been confirmed.

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Other Famous People

Question: the original Oakland street grid of 1851 included streets named Grove, Castro and Brush. Who were they?

  • Byron Ave. – Geo. Gordon?
  • Cleveland Ave. – Pres. Grover Cleveland (source: Peter T. Conmy)
  • Bessie Coleman Dr. - pilot Bessie Coleman
  • Dante Ave. – Mr. Alighieri?
  • Doolittle Rd. - pilot Jimmy Doolittle
  • Earhart Rd. - pilot Amelia Earhart
  • Gerry Adams Way — long-time leader of Sinn Fein (ref)
  • Harrison St. – probably President William Henry Harrison, the hero of Tippecanoe, noted diplomat and a strong reformer of federal practices
  • Hegenberger - Albert F. Hegenberger, who along with Lester Maitland, flew Bird of Paradise in first non-stop flight to Hawai'i
  • Jackson St. – Pres. Andrew Jackson
  • Jefferson St. – Pres. Thomas Jefferson
  • Longfellow Ave. – the poet H.W.?
  • MacArthur Boulevard – WWII general Douglas “I Shall Return” MacArthur, part of a border-to-border highway that was never built
  • Madison St. – Pres. James Madison
  • Mandela Parkway (Cypress St) Nelson Mandela
  • Martin Luther King Jr Way - (Grove Way)
  • McKinley Ave. – Pres. William McKinley (src)
  • Nimitz Freeway – WWII admiral Chester Nimitz (he spent time in Oak Knoll Naval Hospital, but has no other Oakland connections I know of)
  • Shafter Ave. – General William Rufus Shafter from the Civil War and the Spanish-American War (source: Peter T. Conmy)
  • Lindbergh Drive - Charles Lindbergh? - changed to Castle Drive in 1931 5
  • Ron Cowan Parkway - failed developer (see: Road to Nowhere)
  • Voltaire Ave.
  • Washington St. – Pres. George Washington

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  • Attu St
  • Bataan Ave
  • Boston St
  • Brooklyn (the annexed town)
  • Burma Rd
  • Carmel (maybe?)

  • Detroit
  • Elmhurst (the annexed town)
  • Erie St
  • Genoa St (I’m guessing?)
  • Midway St
  • Monterey Blvd
  • Murmansk St
  • San Leandro Blvd - another road to San Leandro.
  • Scout Rd. - was Boy Scout Road named for proximity to Camp Dimond, Boy Scouts of America
  • Tobruk St
  • Yosemite


  • Steinway Ave. - Steinway pianos sold by Sherman and Clay (src)

Pages tagged “street”

And did you know that many Oakland sidewalks have stamps in the concrete with names (and dates) of who poured them?

Links and References

  1. Naming Our Streets by Albert E Norman - various Oakland Tribune articles from the early 1960s
  2. Streets Get New Names by Council Oakland Tribune February 9, 1923
  3. Street Names Go With The Years Oakland Tribune& May 1, 1952
  4. Naming Our Streets Oakland Tribune September 11, 1960
  5. Street Name Plan Held Up Oakland Tribune November 4, 1931
  6. Names of Many Local Streets Are Changed Oakland Tribune January 31, 1913
  7. Street Names Changed (part of larger article Council's Big Work) Oakland Tribune January 23, 1897
  8. 43 Street-Name Changes Proposed Oakland Tribune January 31, 1914
  9. Names of Streets to Change in Night Oakland Tribune March 23, 1916