I found myself launching into one of my characteristic diatribes about the origins and nature of street names while relaxing with friends yesterday. Then today I notice this blog post about an LA Times profile of the man who’s job it is to approve new street names in Riverside County, California, the fastest-growing county in the country. Apparently it’s all he can do to prevent duplicate names too close together and ensure cul-de-sacs are honestly named.
Ann Arbor blogger and acquaintance of mine Larry Kestenbaum has a great page on the history of street naming on his website, where he suggests a book that’s on my to-read list for DC, George Washington Never Slept Here: The History of Street Names in Washington, D.C.. (Which appears rare after a couple failed web searches.)
Back in April I posted some thoughts about place names in general: “A Few Thoughts on Place Names“
As a former librarian at the D.C. historical society, I can tell you that George Washington Never Slept Here can be skipped – it’s got quite a few errors in it, and the author didn’t
cite her sources, so it’s not even a good jumping off point for further research.
Her entry on Benning Road is a good example of the problems w/the book – she claims (w/no evidence) that it’s named after Georgia state justice Henry Louis Benning, rather its actual namesake, William Benning (1771-1831), an early D.C. landowner whose estate fronted onto the Road that now bears his name.
Unfortunately, there’s no good book on D.C. street name origins available at the moment –
Thanks for posting this information, Ryan, I won’t keep trying to track down the book in this case.
I second Ryan’s comments. I’m puzzled how Alotta conjured up some of her guesses. I’m pretty sure she never visted Washingtoniana or the Historical Society.
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