Iconic Landmark Seeking New Identity
written by; Mauricio Segura / photo by: Mauricio Segura
San Francisco's beloved Stow Lake, nestled within the picturesque Golden Gate Park, is on the brink of a significant transformation after 130 years. Known for its romantic ambiance and scenic beauty, the iconic lake is shedding its former name due to its association with the deeply antisemitic views of William Stow, a 19th-century California Assemblymember.
William Stow's political career was tainted by outspoken antisemitism. His efforts to enforce discriminatory regulations and even propose a "Jew tax" created a dark shadow over the once idyllic Stow Lake. In response to growing concerns, three city supervisors, Myrna Melgar, Aaron Peskin, and Connie Chan, introduced a resolution last year calling for the lake's renaming.
District 7 Supervisor Connie Chan emphasized the urgency of the change, stating, "It is long overdue that we rename Stow Lake. It was named after an antisemitic, hateful man. These are not San Francisco values. And I look forward to community input to rename this beautiful space. Our community and Golden Gate Park deserve better."
After the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution supporting the name change, the public contributed 14 diverse name suggestions for consideration. The shortlist includes options like Blue Heron Lake, Mary Ellen Pleasant Lake, Turtle Lake, Ramaytush Ohlone Lake, Heron Lake, Lake Hall, Dr. Ho Feng Shan Lake, Joan Davenny Lake, Mikveh Lake, Patrick Quigley Lake, Strawberry Lake, Wong Kim Ark Lake, Harriet Beecher Stowe Lake, and Peter Peacock Lake.
Each proposal carries a unique story, celebrating figures from San Francisco's rich history or showcasing the flora and fauna surrounding the lake. Mary Ellen Pleasant, a heroic Black woman, has a park named after her in the city, while William Hammond Hall, a civil engineer, designed Golden Gate Park in the 1870s. Dr. Ho Feng Shan, a Chinese diplomat, earned recognition for saving thousands of Jewish lives during World War II.
As the community eagerly awaits the final decision, the renaming of Stow Lake represents more than just a change in nomenclature; it symbolizes a commitment to inclusivity and a celebration of San Francisco's diverse heritage. The transformation promises to breathe new life into this cherished landmark, ensuring it continues to be a welcoming space for all.