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San Francisco Landmark #200: Path of Gold Light Standards
Path of Gold Light Standard and Hobart Building
14 June 2008
(Click Photo to Zoom)
San Francisco Landmark #200
Path of Gold Light Standards
1-2470 Market Street
Built 1908, 1916, 1925

The 327 Path of Gold standards are a legacy from the City Beautiful movement of the early 20th century, which also gave San Francisco the Civic Center. Their distinctive color and pattern of light identify Market Street from distant viewpoints.

The Winning of the West bases by sculptor Arthur Putnam feature three bands of historical subjects: covered wagons, mountain lions, and alternating prospectors and Indians.

Willis Polk designed the base and pole in 1908 for United Railways' trolley poles with street lights. The City required the company to provide highly ornamental poles, with lamps and electricity, as the price of permitting the much opposed overhead trolley wires.

The tops were designed in 1916 by sculptor Leo Lentelli and engineer Walter D'Arcy Ryan, whose lighting designs for the Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915 had inspired emulation on the City's principal thoroughfare.

This project was linked to graft payments to Mayor Schmitz, political boss Abe Ruef, and seventeen of the eighteen members of the Board of Supervisors.

Timeline:

  • 1916: The original installation, from the Ferry Building to Seventh Street, was a cooperative effort by private companies including Pacific Gas & Electric. To service the tall poles, PG&E invented an ancestor to the cherry picker.
  • 1920s: Path of Gold tops were added to the Winning of the West bases from Seventh Street to Valencia Street.
  • 1972: As a component of the Market Street Beautification program which followed BART construction, all the poles and ornaments were replaced with replicas and fitted with new high pressure sodium vapor lamps.
  • 1980s: The original Path of Gold standards were used to extend the system out Market Street to just beyond Castro.

Source: Adapted from Planning Commission Resolution No. 13049 dated 28 March 1991.

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