Bernal neighbor Michael Nolan has been here for many hundreds of moons, but he recently went for a short walk around west Bernal that sent him even farther back in time:
I walked down Heyman this morning en route to boot camp. It’s a block long street stretching from Prospect Ave. to Coleridge (formerly California), and just south of Virginia. We live here in West Bernal in the Heyman Subdivision of the Cobb Tract of Precita Valley Lands, once part of Jose Bernal’s rancho. I live on Elsie Street (formerly Cherubusco) which lies between and parallel to Bonview (formerly Buena Vista) and Winfield (formerly Chapultepec). Your corrections and amplifications of this history will be appreciated and acknowledged.
A quick comparison of maps old and new verifies many details of Neighbor Michael’s stroll down History Lane(s).
Here’s a west Bernal detail from the 1869 map. Notice Cobb Tract superimposed above the western end of Cortland (which, oddly, is spelled “Courtland,” but only east of North Ave., or modern-day Bocana):
Compare that with 2014, courtesy of the Google:
What’s up with the Cobb’s Tract business? The lovely Tramps of San Francisco blog ‘splains for us:
The first land sold in Bernal Heights had been transferred by auction at the real estate offices of H.A. Cobb and R.H. Sinton, 102 Montgomery Street, on July 14, 1860. The property consisted of “4, 5, and 6 acre lots on the ‘Bernal Heights’ … within 15 minutes drive from City Hall … for sale at a very low rate … The lands, for beauty of locality, commanding scenery and fertility of soil, are not surpassed in the county of San Francisco.” In August 1865, another 66 homestead lots were offered in on the “Cobb Tract” of Bernal Heights and buyers were to receive title and a U.S. patent.
Verified! Here’s an advert from the March 16, 1865 edition of the Daily Alta California:
In contemporary parlance, some might call H.A. Cobb a “speculator.” And the people who bought those homestead lots were “gentrifiers.” Especially if you were a displaced cow.
Anyway, It’s just a good thing Neighbor Michael wasn’t trying to meet his boot camp group at one of our many former California Avenues. He might never have found them.
If you enjoy fun with street history, our friends at the (awesome) Bernal History Project have complied a handy guide that explains where many of today’s Bernal streets got their names. To go even farther back, you’ll want peruse the top-secret spreadsheet Neighbor Michael keeps to track which of today’s Bernal streets used to be called something else. Want to see it? Just face toward Sutro Tower, chant the secret Bernalese password three times, and click here.