Finding Fortuna's Street Names

The Many Street Names of Early Fortuna

You can't get there from here...

Annie Street? OK, you want O Street. Oh, the other side of the block? That was called Mill Street, but that's also O Street now. Uh, still not right? Well, for a while they were both called E Street, is that what you were looking for?

The Many Street Names of Early Fortuna.

Another example - it started out life as 2nd Street, which was then officially renamed as 5th Street. Then it became 11th Street. And pity the poor postmasters, it wasn't just the streets that were renamed, remember also that the town had gone through the names of Slide, Springville and finally, Fortuna (see "OK, What's This Place Called, Really?").

It was already a small settlement named after Slide Hill north of town, but the real history of Fortuna started with a small sawmill called the Springville Milling Company. It was located in what is now an industrial park, that block between today's 6th and 7th Streets and between the railroad tracks and Main Street. The mill built houses for the owners and employees on mill property. But gradually Springville town started spreading out, and the mill no longer controlled the town. The train depot was added at the southeast corner of the mill and the schools on the east side, and the hub of the town gradually moved toward the east. Since mail still had to be addressed to Slide (there already was a Springville in California), in 1888 the town formerly known as Springville decided to call itself Fortuna.

If an early street was given a name, it referred to a landmark, a relative, a friend or the owner of its first building. But there was little planning, and streets did not always intersect properly. Different sections went by different names and it was confusing to visitors. There were several attempts to rename the streets, and it gets a bit confusing, but we'll try to do our best.

In the first attempt, the Northwestern Pacific Railroad Depot, located at today's south end of 8th Street, was used as the map's baselines. This made sense, the train was the main mode of transportation, the Depot location was already measured as the official mileage to other towns, and the Depot's elevation above sea level was Fortuna's official altitude. Train arrivals were important events, they brought mail, newspapers, goods and passengers. There was no bus, people still traveled by horse; life revolved around the Depot.

Fortuna was growing to the east and the north, and the Depot was in the southwest corner of the town. Perfect. Beginning at the Depot, all north to south streets were given numerical designations, beginning with 1st Street, then 2nd, and so on, as one progressed east. All east to west roads were given an alphabetical designation, starting with A Street, then B Street, and so on, as one progressed north. Main Street became C Street, and is indicated so in advertisements and pictures of that time. This was a very progressive move and placed Fortuna in a good light as it was easy to find your way around.

But after a few years a problem reared its head. Streets were being built south of the Depot. Would those be South A Street, South B Street? Or would they run backwards, Z Street, Y Street, X Street? And what about streets to the west? West 1st Street? Minus 1st Street? The mind boggles.

What to do, what to do? Once again the streets were renamed, this time to allow for growth in all directions. Building and house numbers on the streets running east to west were keyed to the cross streets, the blocks between 6th and 7th would contain building numbers starting with 600, the 700 numbers were between 7th and 8th Streets, and so on.

But this numbering system couldn't work for the streets that ran from north to south. Instead, the baseline for the house numbers on those streets remained the same as the Depot's baseline. Smith Lane falls on that baseline. That's why building numbers on Fortuna Boulevard increase in both directions from the Smith Lane intersection (where Caltrans is), with 200 North Fortuna Boulevard being a block north of Smith Lane and 200 South Fortuna Boulevard being a block to the south. The same numbering system is found on 12th Street, where the baseline falls just south of the High School.


NEXT: What Streets Used to be Called.



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-- California Place Names' by Professor Erwin P. Gudde --
"The place was opened for settlement in the late 1870's by a minister named Gardner, who owned the land. He named it Fortune because he believed it was an ideal place in which to live. Later, for the sake of euphony, he changed its appellation to Fortuna." However, no documentation has even been found that mentioned that Gardner was responsible for naming the town 'Fortuna'.