Saturday, May 2, 2009

San Francisco's Sidewalk Street Signs

One of San Francisco's many little quirks is the way that its street names are written on the sidewalks – either embossed or inlaid into the concrete – on each and every street corner. Unfortunately, the concrete guy seems to have had a little trouble at the meeting of Howard and 2nd streets, a discovery which led me to discover a whole Flickr collection of misspelled or mutilated street names from around the city.

But, while lots of people gleefully post pictures of similar mistakes, I can't seem to confirm the story I've heard about why the names are there in the first place. Supposedly, the practice began after the 1906 earthquake and fire, when parts of the city were devastated to such an extent that the emergency services had trouble finding their way around – with large areas razed to the ground, all the normal buildings and landmarks they would have used to navigate by had disappeared. But, while walls may still collapse and street signs fall in a future quake, these sidewalk signs should remain.

Indeed, they already help people to find their way around; as this Flickr user says, "It's hard to get lost in San Francisco." But what I like most about them is that they reinforce a powerful sense of place for those of us lucky enough to live here.

1 comment:

ingridkeir said...

omg this is SO FUNNY. i love 2th ave!! i didn't realize that the concrete guy had such troubles -- i really enjoy the flickr photos.