San Francisco’s Historic Landmark Golden Gate Park’s Stow Lake to be Renamed

After nearly 130 years, one of San Francisco‘s most scenic and romantic locations might get a new name. Three city supervisors last week filed a resolution asking the Recreation and Park Commission to rename Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park.

The Assemblyman from California named William Stow, who gave the lake its name, had a history of open antisemitism. When asked whether Jews should recognize Christian holidays on Sundays during an Assembly session in Santa Cruz County in 1855, he responded, “I have no sympathy for the Jews, and would, were it in my power, enforce a regulation that would eliminate not only from our county but from the entire state.”

Supervisors Aaron Peskin, Connie Chan, and Myrna Melgar of District 7 are requesting that the name be changed for Stow Lake, Stow Lake Boathouse, and neighboring Stow Lake Drive.

“We must rename Stow Lake immediately. It was named after a vile, anti-Semitic individual “Chan spoke with SFGATE by email. “These values do not reflect San Francisco. And I eagerly anticipate hearing from the locals about renaming this lovely area. Golden Gate Park and our neighborhood deserve better.”

The push to rename the lake is underway, Melgar told SFGATE over the phone, because a June redistricting brought that area of Golden Gate Park under her district’s control, District 7. “My coworkers have been open. The neighborhood has mostly been receptive, however like everything in the city, some people believe it to be “the worst idea ever,” according to Melgar. Most importantly, it’s encouraging to hear that people desire to participate in the process.

New names for the lake, which has been called a landscaping masterpiece, are already being proposed, according to Melgar. The heron prefers to hang out there, so I’ve heard that we should call it Strawberry Lake or Blue Heron Lake, Melgar added. “People can be imperfect, with nature you can’t go wrong.”

“People can make mistakes, but nature can never let you down.”

The rejection of an antisemitic voice from more than a century ago coincides with the loss of fans and various brand affiliations for artist and designer Ye, previously Kanye West, following a string of antisemitic tweets and comments. Adidas cut relations with the rapper on Tuesday, reportedly costing the German garment giant $246 million.

According to the Stow Lake renaming resolution, it’s unknown how the boating lake got its name, but it may have been because of Stow’s brief membership on the city’s parks board in 1889—the same commission that may now make the decision to remove his name.

Since 1893, couples and families have traveled to this serene area of Golden Gate Park to relax in the boathouse, explore the water in rowboats in search of turtles and blue herons, or simply pass a few hours. Strawberry Hill is an island in the lake surrounded by the pump-fed Huntington Falls cascade, which is reached by two old bridges. In addition, one of San Francisco’s most notorious ghosts is said to reside at the lake.

The San Francisco Examiner requested that Stow’s body be put on Strawberry Hill after he passed away in 1895, but the request was unsuccessful, therefore he was buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland. The Recreation and Park Commission will decide whether to rename the lake in the upcoming months if there is sufficient public support for the idea.

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