Period Piece: Green and Gilbert Streets sense

Pub date December 28, 2011
SectionPixel Vision

Guardian history writer Lucy Schiller is exploring the city street-by-street in the slow week inter-holiday weekends. Today, learn about a newspaper editor that died in a duel and a ghost from Philadelphia. Click here for yesterday’s installment on Brannan Street and Geary Boulevard.

Gilbert Street

Named for Edward Gilbert, newspaper editor, congressman

Like many a valiant man before him, Edward Gilbert died in a duel. The newspaperman exercised editorial control over The Alta California, which in 1848 was San Francisco’s only newspaper, and he made his positions on political matters clear as day. He served a single term in the U.S. Congress before returning to his post at the Alta and attacking General James Denver for mismanaging supplies meant for stranded, West-moving immigrants. Gilbert was 33 at the time of his death by Denver’s hand in a duel near Sacramento. His incongruously tiny street runs a block between Sixth and Seventh Streets in SoMa. 


Green Street

Named for Talbot Green, fraudulent businessman

Like any early pioneer to San Francisco, businessman Talbot Green left a lot behind back east. In his case, though, it was an entire identity along with a family and some pretty massive debt. No one in San Francisco knew of his checkered past and Green rose to prominence as a successful civic leader, which ultimately got him recognized by a ghost from his previous Pennsylvanian life. Green denied the serious charges – that he was operating under a fake name, that he had abandoned his family, that he embezzled large amounts of money. But he disappeared the day after accusations were made and his reputation never recovered, though he attempted to return to San Francisco years later. A major artery in North Beach, Green Street runs from the Presidio to the Embarcadero.