The Ferry Building to Castro Street
Known as the Path of Gold due to their golden hue which emanates from yellow sodium vapor lamps the 33-foot high lampposts along Market Street were designated historic landmarks in 1991.
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 (who has been in this blog before here) 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.
A timeline to help simplify things:
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.
Lentelli was born in Bologna, Italy. He studied in both Bologna and Rome and worked as a sculptor in Italy. Immigrating to the United States in 1903 at the age of 24, Lentelli initially assisted in the studios of several established sculptors. In 1911 he entered the Architectural League exhibition and won the Avery Prize. The following year he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. Chosen to provide sculptural ornament for the Panama-Pacific Exposition, Lentelli moved to San Francisco in 1914.
I'm sharing on Sunday's in My City