Origin of name Mountain Lake

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Anyone know the real origin of the name "Mountain Lake" in the Presidio? I have a friend who's insisting it's named after an army officer named Captain Mountain...

-- P.S. Perris (psperris@slip.net), March 17, 2004


The name Mountain Lake is clearly a mistranslation of its Spanish name, "Laguna de Loma Alta" (Lake of the High Hill). Early Spanish maps of San Francisco also identify the lake as "Laguna del Presidio" (Lake of the Presidio). It would be interesting to find what name was used by the US Army Corps of Engineers survey of 1847 (I haven't been able to locate a copy yet).

-- will (willstaiger@yahoo.com), April 24, 2004.

Mountain lake was called Washerwoman's Lagoon in 1847

Previous to the laying out of this reserve (Presidio), Mr. Thomas O. Larkin of Monterey, notified Colonel Mason, governor of the territory, on June 16, 1847, that he was, by purchase from Don Benito Diaz, owner of two leagues of land near San Francisco running from Laguna de Loma Alta (Washerwomen's Lagoon) to Punta de los Lobos, embracing the old presidio and castillo, for many years abandoned, deeded and granted on the 25th of June 1846, to said Diaz by Pio Pico, governor of California, and on the 19th of September same year, sold and conveyed by Diaz to Larkin for a valuable consideration. Larkin further notified Governor Mason that, in going over the land the previous May, he found that some troops of the United States government were in possession of the presidio; that they were living there; that they had torn down some of the buildings to repair others, and in some cases were putting new roofs on the houses. Larkin protested against his property's being used without his consent, or without compensation, and against damages sustained now or hereafter.

www.zpub.com/ sf50/sf/hbbega.htm#f3top

-- strange (stranger@yahoo.com), April 25, 2004.

Hate to nitpick but your geography is a tad off. Washerwoman's Lagoon was located in today's Marina District near the intersection of Franklin and Lombard Streets, not the Presidio.

-- P.S. Perris (psperris@slip.net), April 29, 2004.

Nitpicking aside, you're right. Washerwoman's Lagoon, indeed, was located in today's Marina District. I referenced the Zpub article and now wonder if Thomas O. Larkin, the editor of Zpub, or Zoeth Skinner Eldredge made the error.

Maybe someone with a copy of the Larkin Papers (v.6. or v. 7.) could clarify the mistake by finding the 03 Sept 1847 letter. Any help?

-- strange (stranger@yahoo.com), April 29, 2004.

Interesting. Army maps prepared in 1847 show that the boundary line for their proposed miltary reservation started at the tip of Pt. San Jose (today's Fort Mason, then extended due south to Washerman's Lagoon, and from there roughly SSW to Pt. Lobos. Could Larkin have been right and that Laguna de Loma Alta was indeed the Spanish name for Washerwoman Lagoon? The Lagoon was indeed on the lower slopes of a Loma Alta (High Hill), namely Russian Hill.

-- P.S. Perris (psperris@slip.net), April 29, 2004.

This site says Washerwoman's lagoon was called Laguna Peque–a. Heck, I don't know what's what anymore. Maybe we need a [u]good[/u] Mexican map of San Francisco to find our answers.

Besides supplying early San Francisco's milk, the Hollow was the communal wash basin. Fresh water was scarce along the Barbary Coast in the 1850s, much so that rich miners sent their laundry to Honolulu and even to China to be washed. Consequently, the little lake located in the area roughly bounded by Franklin, Octavia, Filbert and Lombard Streets became a drawing card.

Laguna Peque–a, as it is referenced to on early maps, was used by the robust washerwomen who took in laundry from the Presidio officers and by thrifty housewives who congregated there from all over town on washday outings. The locals dubbed it Washerwoman's Lagoon.

The bucolic era ended with the 1800s. Tanneries, slaughterhouses and sausage factories crept into the valley. They were tolerated for a while...until their offensive odors reached the nostrils of the bonanza kings and affluent businessmen building homes nearby PacificHeights.

Washerwoman's Lagoon was filled in 1882 when tannery wastes fouled its waters. The cows were banished by the Board of Health in 1891. After that, Cow Hollow developed into a district of sedate residences and modest stores.

-- strange (stranger@yahoo.com), April 30, 2004.

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