Place & Street Names

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cottage court bathed in warm Caribbean sunlight at Mahogany Bay Village on Ambergris Caye in Belize is backed by a Family Cottage across the canal

   There is an authenticity crisis in place-naming and street-naming today. It stems in part from the inherent conflict of suburban development, where for more than seventy years, developers have been enticing people out of the city to the dream of a wide-open green countryside. And so they pick names like Fox Run, Quail Ridge, Meadow Green, etc. But the reality is that Fox Run is the place where foxes will never run again, and the green meadow has long been lost to asphalt and tract housing.

   Another culprit is focus group naming, which is usually calibrated to create super-sweet place names that sound like nothing so much as marketing fluff. Today, places fighting for the sweetest names sound fake. Here are some ideas for place names and street names that I hope you find helpful:

Place Names

   The best choice for a place (neighborhood or town) name is some characteristic of the place that will remain once the place is developed. Seaside is a classic general place name, because that’s where the town is built: by the sea side. Mahogany Bay Village (pictured above) is a more specific name for a village built on a bay using a lot of local mahogany wood. If you want the name to sound timeless, choose something that isn’t so sweet. You’re unlikely to be courageous enough to name a place something like Foggy Bottom or Rocky Ridge, but our ancestors had no problem naming places for real characteristics they embodied.

Street Names

   Here are several categories of street names that have been used through the years. I went through a number of cities and towns and catalogued all of the street names in their historic districts and then sorted them into the following types. These categories seem timeless because they have been used for so long and therefore don't sound like "contemporary marketing fluff."

Numbers

   Numbers are possibly the most common method ever used. This works best in areas that are fairly well-gridded.

1st

2nd

3rd, etc...

Letters

   This is a similar principle, but much less common. Washington DC is probably the most notable example.

A

B

C, etc.


Presidents

   “Founding fathers” are more common than later presidents. Most recent presidents would not be a good choice because you would alienate the half of the market who did not vote for them.

Washington

Adams

Jefferson

Madison

Monroe

Jackson

Van Buren

Harrison

Tyler

Polk

Taylor

Fillmore

Pierce

Buchanan

Lincoln

Johnson

Grant (popular in the North, very uncommon in the South due to Civil War history)

Hayes

Garfield

Arthur

Cleveland

Harrison

McKinley

Roosevelt

Taft

Wilson

Harding

Coolidge

Hoover (very uncommon everywhere because of Depression history; very few after this date have been used)

US States

   The most populous and oldest states are most common; some derivatives drop North or South.

Alabama

Alaska

Arizona

Arkansas

California

Carolina

Colorado

Connecticut

Dakota

Delaware

Florida

Georgia

Hawaii

Idaho

Illinois

Indiana

Iowa

Jersey

Kansas

Kentucky

Louisiana

Maine

Maryland

Massachusetts

Michigan

Minnesota

Mississippi

Missouri

Montana

Nebraska

Nevada

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina

North Dakota

Ohio

Oklahoma

Oregon

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota

Tennessee

Texas

Utah

Vermont

Virginia

Washington

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Wyoming

York

Geographic Features

   These should be features that occur at least somewhere if not entirely along the thoroughfare.

Bay

Bayou

Big Cove

Boundary

Canal

Center

Central

Cliff

Division

Fairway

Forest

Front

Grove

Hill

Hillsedge

Lakeside

Levee

Line

Railroad

Rampart

River

Riverside

Valley

Wall

Water

Wharfside

Geographic Directions

North

South

East

West

Destinations On/Of Thoroughfare

Airport

Bank

Barracks

Battery

Bridge

Capitol

Church

City Park

College

Commerce

Country Club

Court

Depot

Exchange

Fairground

Ferry

Fountain

Inn

Market

Meeting

Mill

Nursery

Park

Port

Prospect

Society

Spring

University

Description of Thoroughfare Itself

Broad

Broadway

Circle

Circlet

Crescent

Grand

Main

Short

Little

Great

High

Major Specific Destination on Thoroughfare

   Ursulines (convent in French Quarter), etc.

Trees

   This is possibly the most enduring name type, and has continued through the postwar era to today. Some cities use them in alphabetical order, which helps with orientation, like using street numbers or letters.

Ash

Blackberry

Boxwood

Cedar

Cherry

Chestnut

Cypress

Dogwood

Elm

Fig

Gum

Hickory

Holly

Hollywood

   If you’re naming alphabetically, there aren’t any good names that begin with I, which is why cities often skip to J.

Juniper

   K has the same problem as I, and is often skipped as well.

Laurel

Live Oak

Locust

Magnolia

Maple

Mulberry

Myrtle

Nectarine

Nutmeg

Oak

Orange

Palmetto

Peach

Peachtree

Pecan

Persimmon

Pine

Plum

   Q is skipped as well.

Redbud

Spruce

Sycamore

Teak

   Most places don’t name more than 20 streets for trees, so U, V, X, Y, and Z which have few good tree species aren’t usually needed. There are, however, a couple good W trees that are often used as street names:

Walnut

Willow

Compound Tree Names

   These are dangerous because they can sound contrived, unless they actually describe a preserved feature.

Walnut Grove

Maple Hill

Forest Glen

Pine Hollow

Willow Shore

Oakmont

Chestnut Hill

Nearby Towns

   These should occur on thoroughfares that connect to towns in the middle distance of 5 to 50 miles or so.

Regional Favorite Towns or Places

Augusta

Charleston

Savannah

Lansing

Macon

Natchez

Forsyth

Charlotte

Biltmore

Monticello, etc.

Regional Locations

Arcadia

Cumberland

Delta

Appalachia

Appalachian

People, Cities or Places in Another Country Invoked by Neighborhood

   These examples are all from New Orleans' French Quarter:

Bourbon

Burgundy

Chartres

Conti

Dauphin(e) (used here and many other places)

Dumaine

Iberville

Orleans

Pere Antione

Toulouse

   These examples are from Columbus, Ohio's German Village:

Beck

Berger

Hoster

Jaeger

Klein

Kossuth

Lathrop

Rader

Reinhard

Frankfort

   These examples are from St. George's Bermuda:

Duke of Clarence

Duke of Kent

Duke of York

Wellington

Military Heroes

Decatur

Eisenhower

Forrest (South only)

Grant (more common in North)

Greene

Jackson

Lafayette

Lee (more common in South)

Marion

Sherman (North only)

Saints

St. Ann

St. Louis

St. Peter

St. Philip

St. Charles

St. Denis

St. Louis

St. James

St. Paul

Santa Rosa

Santa Lucia

Planners & Related Professionals

   Unlike most thorougfare names, New Urbanist Town Founders often use names of living professionals, often to the chagrin of those professionals. Andrés Duany is well-known for discouraging Duany Street, for example.

Burnham

Calthorpe

Carter

Davis

Duany

Eliot

Geddes

Gindroz

Haussmann

Howard

Jacobs

Krier

L'Enfant

Lewis

Morris

Moule

Nolen

Olmsted

Plater-Zyberk

Polyzoides

Porphyrios

Pullman

Riis

Robertson

Sharpe

Solomon

Stern

Vaux

National Political Leaders

   Presidents are not the only leaders whose names are used for thoroughfares. The following are some of the more common names:

Bryan

Calhoun

Claiborne

Clay

Franklin

Hamilton

Hancock

Houston

Marshall

Paine

Founding Leaders (Regional or Local)

Bienville

Braxton

Governor Nicholls

Gwinnett

Habersham

Heyward

Lynch

Oglethorpe

Penn

Rutledge

Wythe

Royalty

   These names are rarely used in the US, but are common throughout the British Commonwealth.

King

Queen

Prince

Princess

Royal

Government

Assembly

Confederate

Congress

Federal

Government

National

Senate

State

Union

Merchants, Craftsmen or Other Inhabitants

   The trade name is often followed by a unique thoroughfare description.

Factor's Row

Music Alley

Old Maids' Lane

Pirates' Alley

Printer's Alley

Printer's Row

Silk Alley

Tailor's Alley

Crops

Olive

Vine

Wheat, etc.

Universities

   Ivy League university names are by far the most common.

Cornell

Harvard

Princeton

Stanford

Vanderbilt

Yale

Qualities

Concord

Confidence

Fair

Liberty

Memorial

Tenacity

   And here are some really quirky ones from Prospect New Town in Longmont, Colorado. Some of these could only have been named in our time, but are consistent with the character of earlier names. Thanks to Nathan Norris for suggesting adding these to this post.

100 Year Party

Half Measures

Incorrigible

Neon Forest

Tempted Ways

Other

   These are recurring names in multiple cities for which I have not discovered their origin. It’s possible they may have been named for different locally- or regionally-significant people who had the same last name.

Alexander

Bull

Gates

George (Washington? King?)

Gordon

Lauderdale

Livingston

Lowe

Morgan

Peabody

Peters (Saint?)

Randolph

Roper

Steele

Walker

White

Williams


   I hope you find this list useful. If you think of other types, please leave 


   ~Steve Mouzon


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