When it was incorporated in April of 1869, The Excelsior District was part of a land deal between a Spanish soldier and the local town council. The council was offering the land to the soldier as a reward for his service. It was part of the Rancho Rincon de Las Salinas y Potrero Viejo land grant.
It was also part of the disputed territories when the United States seceded that territory. A treaty to keep the land in tact had to be honored, but the families who held those lands gradually lost power and wealth. Little by little, the lands were sold off to form the area collectively known today as “Southern San Francisco”.
Over time, the district received multiple redevelopments and parts were renamed. Bernal Heights, Ingleside and The Excelsior District being the three main names among many others. These smaller neighborhoods branched off as the real estate market took off. Jeanette and Emmanuel Lewis named most of those streets after either capitals or countries. In fact, Excelsior Avenue’s original name was “China”.
Emanuel was instrumental to the growth of the community after the 1906 quake. He bought and built 200 houses that sold after the quake hit, and he and his daughter rewarded their own hard work by naming streets. Some were even named after native American tribes. What’s interesting is how race has impacted the neighborhood over the years. The street of “China” was eventually changed to Peru (before becoming Excelsior), after the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was signed.
Historic immigrant populations coupled with an influx in Mexican and Filipino immigrants makes the Excelsior District one of the most diverse in modern San Francisco.