By Marc Simmons

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A world of history can hide in the names of city streets. That's certainly the case with Santa Fe. But many residents use the street names daily with never a thought as to their origins.

We might suppose that Palace Avenue is the oldest and most historic street in Santa Fe. After all, it is named for El Palacio, the colonial residence of the Spanish royal governors. But that honor probably belongs to what is now San Francisco Street. Originally it bore the name Calle Real (Royal Street) and was in effect the tag end of Camino Real (Royal Road) that began in Mexico City.

The old Camino Real (today's Agua Fria Street) turned in front of the Santuario de Guadalupe, forded the Santa Fe River and narrowed to become the Calle Real leading to the Santa Fe Plaza.

After independence in 1821, the new national government of Mexico abolished use of the term Camino Real (because it referred to the rejected monarch) and ordered substitution of Camino Nacional. Oldtime Santa Feans, however, stayed with custom and kept using Camino Real into the early 20th century.

By then Anglos had introduced Agua Fria (Cold Water) Street, the name taken from the small community just south of Santa Fe. And the Calle Real had been transformed into San Francisco Street, in honor of Santa Fe's patron, St. Francis. A movement got started about 20 years ago to return Agua Fria Street to its historical first name, El Camino Real. But residents and businessmen resisted the change, and nothing was done.

In the same way, Galisteo Street funneled travelers onto the road going to the colonial village of Galisteo. Leaving Santa Fe for the town of Pecos, traffic used the street still called the Old Pecos Trail. College Street got its designation in the 1850s, when Catholics built St. Michael's College next to the Oldest Church in central Santa Fe. After the school moved to a new location, the street in the 1950s was renamed Old Santa Fe Trail.

Several avenues in the capital are named for past governors, including Onate Place for New Mexico's founding father and first governor Don Juan de Onate y Salazar. Don Diego Street honors Don Diego de Vargas, who in 1692 began the rebuilding of New Mexico following the Pueblo Revolt. Don Cubero Avenue commemorates his successor, Gov. Pedro Cubero.

Gov. Lew Wallace (1878-1881) receives double recognition, with General Wallace Drive and Ben Hur Drive. Authorship of the popular novel "Ben Hur" remains Wallace's greatest claim to fame.

Lincoln Avenue and Jefferson Street both honor American presidents. One would think that Washington Avenue does the same. But a respected source insists that it is in fact named for Col. John M. Washington, a distant relative of the first president, who was military governor here in the late 1840s.

Indians, too, come in for their share of names. Examples from the pueblos include Cochiti, Tesuque, Nambe, San Juan, San Felipe and San Ildefonso.

Sandia (Watermelon) Street could be named after the Indian pueblo or the turtleback hump of the Sandia Mountains visible to the south from most high points in the capital. Other street names relating to Indians are Navajo Drive, Montezuma Avenue, Kiva Road and Hopi Road. The Southwest's most spectacular cliff dwellings are given recognition with Mesa Verde Street.

Water Street downtown was once a river, or at least a rivulet known as the Rio Chiquito. It flowed from a spring east of the cathedral down to a point opposite the Santuario de Guadalupe, where it emptied into the Santa Fe River.

Read Marc Simmons's "Coronado Land: Daily Life in Colonial New Mexico" (University of New Mexico Press).

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