Period Piece: Laguna and McAllister Streets sense

Pub date December 29, 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 the laundry pool of Laguna Street and the bravery of Matthew Hall McAllister. Click here for yesterday’s installment on Green and Gilbert Streets.


Laguna Street

Named for Washerwoman’s Lagoon

A little south of Fort Mason a big old body of water once lay where San Franciscans took their (likely filthy) laundry once and a while. Enterprising citizens soaked and scrubbed their long johns, underthings, and the like ’til they resembled clean clothing, then laid them out to dry. The whole thing sounds rather idyllic -– yet an 1879 Chronicle article refers to the place as “that horribly-smelling and disease-producing pool,” a description that likely had some basis in reality. Our modern day Laguna Street stems from the site of the old quagmire. 

McAllister Street

Named for Matthew Hall McAllister, lawyer, judge

Southern lawyer Matthew Hall McAllister (1800-1865) first began practicing law at the sprightly age of 20 and ended up tackling a fearsome foe: the Hounds, a militantly nativist band of civilians bent on wreaking havoc throughout San Francisco. The Hounds peaked in 1849, robbing, murdering, and terrorizing Hispanic citizens in broad daylight. McAllister prosecuted 19 Hounds successfully, though no official sentences seem to have been enforced (several Hounds were later hung by a mob of angry miners). Fittingly, McAllister Street helps border the Civic Center; it stretches from Arguello to Market Streets.