Noe Valley Voice November 2005

The Noe Valley Voice Kids' Page

by Laura McCloskey

The Earliest Settlers in Noe Valley

Before California--and Noe Valley within it--became a part of the United States, many people inhabited the land. Among the first were native Indian tribes called the Ohlone. The Ohlone people hunted and fished in the valleys and streams flowing into the bay. Next came explorers, soldiers, and missionaries from Europe. In 1776, the Spanish sailed into our waters and built a military camp called the Presidio. At the same time, they set up a mission church named San Francisco de Asis (after St. Francis of Assisi). It was near a lagoon they called Nuestra Senora de los Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows). The church became known as Mission Dolores. In 1821, Spain granted Mexico the land we now call California, and Mexico ruled the area until the United States took control in 1846.

Many streets and buildings in Noe Valley are named after people from the Spanish era. For example, Sanchez Street is named for Jose Sanchez, a commander of the Presidio. Alvarado Street is named for Juan Bautista Alvarado, a Mexican governor of Alta (Upper) California. Also, Castro Street is named after General Jose Castro, an important officer in the Mexican army.

Who Is Noe Valley Named After?

Noe Valley is named after Jose de Jesus Noe. He moved from Mexico to Alta California in 1834. Starting in 1840, Noe established his family in Yerba Buena (an older name for San Francisco), and in 1845 was granted more than 4,400 acres of land, which included what we now call Noe Valley. He needed the land for his growing number of cattle and sheep. Noe named the land Rancho San Miguel.

In 1842 and 1846, Noe served as the 12th and 16th alcalde, or mayor, when Mexico ruled San Francisco. Alcaldes performed many jobs, such as being the sheriff or the judge when crimes were committed. In 1846, when the U.S. army took over San Francisco, Noe retreated to Rancho San Miguel in hopes of avoiding arrest.

When the United States took control of California, it took Jose Noe over 10 years to get the U.S. government to recognize his ownership of Rancho San Miguel. During his fight for ownership, Noe started selling off parts of Rancho San Miguel. He eventually sold the whole ranch, including the part we now call Noe Valley.

Horner Who?

John Meirs Horner is the man responsible for creating the grid of streets in Noe Valley, as well as for naming most of the streets. He moved to San Francisco around 1846 and started a fruit and vegetable farm south of the town. He became rich selling produce to the gold miners.

Horner and his brother William bought part of Rancho San Miguel from Jose Noe for $200,000. With the intention of building homes there, Horner named the area Horner's Addition. Unfortunately, Horner went bankrupt soon after he bought the land. He sold off the land to builders, many of whom built the Victorian homes Noe Valley is well known for.

Twenty-third Street was originally named Horner Street, after John and William Horner. Elizabeth Street was named after Horner's wife Elizabeth.

What Did This Building Used to Be?

Many of the buildings throughout Noe Valley were used for other purposes in the past.

The Rite Aid on 24th Street used to be the Palmer Theatre, where movies were shown. It also was the Surf Super Market for many years.

On the corner of 24th and Noe, there used to be a gas station. Now, there are apartments and a bank. There were also gas stations at 24th and Diamond, and at 24th and Church.

This building near the corner of Castro and Jersey used to be part of a large "barn" that housed the cable cars when they were not in use. For many years, it was a supermarket. Now it is a Walgreen's drugstore. A cable car ran on Castro Street until 1941.

Noe Valley once had four movie theaters. This building on the corner of Church and 28th streets is the last theater still intact. Instead of showing movies, it is used as a church.

Special thanks to Bill Yenne and his book San Francisco's Noe Valley, and to the San Francisco History Center for access to these publications: Jose de Jesus Noe by Mae Silver; California and Californians by Rockwell D. Hunt; "Noe and Eureka Valleys," by Mary Duenwald, in Pacific; A Victorian Walk in Noe Valley by Judith Waldhorn; and Victorians of Noe and Eureka Valleys, by Rita Georg.