Baltimore's name game

August 04, 1994|By William Mueller

A BALTIMOREAN born and bred, I am aware of the innumerable advantages of our city. One that I think most people don't think of is the loveliness and variety of our street names in the metro area.

I have to wonder if this is unique for big cities. In Manhattan the vast majority of streets and avenues are simply numbered. Washington makes great use of the alphabet and state names on its boulevards and avenues. In Atlanta, most of the major arteries begin with Peachtree, followed by lane, street, boulevard, etc.

For the sake of brevity I will name a mere fraction of those Baltimore street names that I find interesting.

The list includes these categories: 1) names of universities, 2) names of literary figures, 3) names of sports figures, 4) names of U.S. presidents; 5) names of note, including signers of the Declaration of Independence; 6) others of historic importance; 7) intrinsically lovely names, 8) frivolous names.

Baltimore streets named for universities include two that pay tribute to great English centers of learning, Oxford and Cambridge, and to seven Ivy Leaguers: Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Columbia, Brown and Dartmouth. Note to Hopkins alums: there's one named for your alma mater, too.

Among the namesakes of the literati: Shakespeare Street in Fells Point; Dryden Drive near the city line in West Baltimore (Restoration poet and prose writer, John Dryden); Emerson Street in southwest Baltimore (the greatest American essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson); Hugo Avenue near Clifton Park (Victor Hugo, author of "Les Miserables,"); Ibsen Avenue in O'Donnell Heights, (Henrik Ibsen -- probably the best playwright since the Renaissance). Melville Avenue in Waverly (Herman Melville).

Among the streets named for sports figures are: Tilden Drive near Druid Hill Park (William Tatem Tilden Jr. was Wimbledon champ in 1920, 1921 and 1930); and Babe Ruth Plaza near Memorial Stadium.

Many Baltimore streets are named for U.S. presidents, including: Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Wilson and Kennedy (in Waverly).

A pair of downtown streets are named for two of Maryland's four signers of the Declaration of Independence: Paca Street (William Paca) and Chase Street (Samuel Chase).

Other streets named for historic individuals include: Key Highway (Francis Scott Key), on Federal Hill; Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in downtown; Downtown's Holliday Street is believed to have been named for John Robert Holliday, a high sheriff of Baltimore County before the American Revolution. Records suggest it was named for him because Holliday owned land in the area.

Some pretty names? Cathedral Street in downtown is lovely and historic, too; it's home to the nation's first Catholic cathedral. Belle Terre Avenue of Waverly is music to the ears.

Some frivolous names? For those who love the woods, try Waverly; there you'll find: Harwood Drive, Stonewood and Midwood avenues, and Pentwood Road. For car lovers, there's a Cadillac Street in West Baltimore near Edmondson Village and a Pontiac Street in Brooklyn.

When looking for a place to walk, try choosing a street that you have never traversed.

Why not let your imagination set up a game for you? For example, see how many street names you can find in any one of a number of categories: your friends, scientists, music composers, painters -- the list could go on and on. Happy hunting.

William Mueller writes from Baltimore.

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