A Prisoner to Geo-Oddities

On September 17, 2014 · 2 Comments

I noticed a reference to a prison in Alaska that turned out to be located not too distant from where I roamed around the Kenai Peninsula during my journeys a few summers ago. It was a prison with a view, in fact it was located somewhere (map) in the background of this photo I took from Seward’s Waterfront Park.



View from Seward, Alaska. My own photo.

This was the Spring Creek Correctional Center, the state’s maximum security prison for its most hardened criminals. One would never want to spend time there except perhaps as an employee, and none of us will likely ever find ourselves there as permanent guests unless county counting, state highpointing or extended road tripping suddenly become illegal. Nonetheless, from a purely geographical placement, the inmates have something pleasant to ponder through the slots of their tiny cell block windows during their lengthy incarcerations.

That got me to wonder what other prisons might be advantageous should, you know, one suddenly fall into an alternate universe where the laws are completely different. What correctional institutions would a criminal geo-geek mastermind appreciate?


Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, Louisiana, USA


Offenders Artwork at Angola Prison Rodeo
Offenders Artwork at Angola Prison Rodeo by crawford orthodontics, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

One the surface, the Louisiana State Penitentiary might seem to have a lot to offer with its annual Angola Rodeo and art show. Seriously, the prison started a rodeo in 1965 and spectators flocked to the site in droves each year ever since.

That would be a nice diversion from toiling in the fields although a true geo-geek would crave more. Knowing that Turnbull Island (map) — a disconnected piece of West Feliciana Parish separated from the rest of the parish by Concordia Parish — was visible on the other side of the Mississippi River, well that would be priceless.


Alexander Maconochie Centre, Australian Capital Territory, Australia



Alexander Maconochie Centre

Geographically savvy Australian prisoners might appreciate being being locked-up at the Alexander Maconochie Centre assuming anyone could truly appreciate such a loss of freedom (map). It was constructed within the borders of the diminutive Australian Capital Territory.

Why would this tiny dot upon the Australian continent require its own prison? Primarily for a single reason: "prisoners were transferred into the New South Wales prison system and the ACT reimbursed NSW for the cost of holding those prisoners." ACT believed it would be cheaper to handle its own prison population instead of paying NSW. Also prisoners would be closer to their families for visitation purposes.

I couldn’t find any photos of the Alexander Maconochie Centre with the proper licenses to share. The centre was new, accepting prisoners only since 2009, so there wasn’t much available. The Canberra Times offered a a representative slideshow though.


San Marino


San Marino
San Marino by fdecomite, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

On the subject of small, I imagined geo-criminals might commit felonies in various microscopic nations simply for the novelty. San Marino appeared to be a decent possibility (map). The European press seemed enamored of San Marino’s prison population, too. The Telegraph featured The ‘world’s most pampered – and bored – prisoner’ in 2011.

The 30-year-old man has his meals brought to him from a local restaurant because it is not economical to lay on a canteen service for him alone. He enjoys the exclusive use of a gym, library and television room and occupies one of six cells which make up San Marino’s only jail, which is tucked into a wing of a former Capuchin monastery… But his lonely penance is about to come to an end – a second inmate is expected to be incarcerated in the next few days.

Der Spiegel followed up in 2014 with "San Marino: Tiny State, Big Baggage." It focused on inmate Piero Berti, a former national head of state who’s holiday meal "consisted of risotto with parmesan, followed by roasted turkey with seasonal vegetables, and fruit for dessert. It was accompanied by wine."


Sing Sing Correctional Facility, Ossining, New York, USA



Sing Sing Correctional Facility

On the other hand, Sing Sing was a much more notorious place in spite of it’s charming Hudson River views and its 4-star rating on Yelp. This was a dismal place designed for hardened criminals since the 1820’s, with several hundred people executed onsite using the legendary electric chair Old Sparky.

Sing Sing didn’t make the list because of its accommodations. I added it because the Metro-North Railroad’s Hudson Line commuter train ran directly through the facility! Walkways crossed above the tracks connecting both sides of the prison (for guards I’d suppose, not prisoners). Imagine hanging out in the prison yard and watching the trains pass through all day long. Better yet, imagine commuters riding through a prison, hearing a thunk and wondering if an inmate had jumped onto the roof of the car in an escape attempt like in the movies.

Surely there must be better geo-oddity prisons. How about the Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland? It’s surrounded by West Virginia on three side. Are there other candidates?

Kotsiubynske

On September 10, 2014 · 0 Comments

I’ve been examining maps of Ukraine closely over the last several months as I’m sure many in the 12MC audience have been doing likewise. In the course of that effort I noticed a little anomaly far removed from the action and completely unrelated to the conflict. It pertained to the Kyiv (Kiev) Oblast surrounding the self-governing City of Kyiv. The arrangement was convoluted. Kyiv, the city, was an enclave within the Oblast of the same name. In turn, the city was the administrative center of the Oblast even though not a physical part of it, as well as serving as the national capital.

That wasn’t a completely unique situation. I’ve seen similar things occur in other places including near where I live in a handful of Virginia’s independent cities that contain the seat of government for the surrounding county. I wouldn’t have bothered mentioning Kyiv if that had been the extent of the arrangement. However, I noticed a little dot on the northwest corner of the city of Kyiv and I thought it must have been a smudge or an error. It wasn’t. The tiny spec was a small bubble of the Oblast completely surrounded by the city which in turn was completely surrounded by the Oblast; an enclave within an enclave.



View Kotsiubynske in a larger map

It also had a name, Kotsiubynske or Kotsubynske or variations on that theme, although in its native Ukrainian it was something akin to Коцюбинське (assuming I managed to code all of those Cyrillic characters correctly). Kotsiubynske, an exclave of Kyiv Oblast subordinate to the city of Irpin, and an enclave enclosed with the city of Kyiv, had about fifteen thousand residents living within its unusual arrangement.

I attempted to discern the origins of this geographic oddity. Translation software pointed on the village website and the corresponding Ukrainian Wikipedia page only went so far. I did my best.

From what I could tell, it began as a small hamlet named Berkovets in 1900. A railway came through the area around that same time and the hamlet became a railroad stop. Berkovets may have been named after a wooden vessel used to hold honey, or it may have been named after an early settler. Accounts differed.

Another station was built nearby and named Squirrel. I thought that must have been a translation error except the websites kept mentioning Squirrel repeatedly. I felt some relief when I noticed a squirrel incorporated within the Kotsiubynske town logo. Okay, it really was a squirrel. The "squirrel village" portion dated back to the 12th Century, apparently.

Somehow the location of the railroad and the station conveyed some sort of special status upon the surrounding land. Later the name Kotsiubynske was applied to the area. Kotsiubynske became subordinate to Irpen in 1962, making it part of Kyiv Oblast rather than the city of Kyiv. I could probably come up with a better explanation if I understood Ukrainian, which I can’t, so hopefully I didn’t mangle the story too much. Anyone read Ukrainian? The whole squirrel thing threw me for awhile.



Undoubtedly 12MC readers would love to see Kotsiubynske in greater detail. We’re in luck! It’s one of the very few areas of Ukraine with Google Street View coverage (for example). Better yet, the village website included an embedded YouTube video which I’ve lifted and posted above. The entire premise involved someone driving around with a dashboard camera to a soundtrack best put on mute. Things I learned about driving in Kotsiubynske:

  • Stop signs were apparently optional
  • Drivers ran through intersections without looking
  • It would be dangerous to be a pedestrian
  • There were lots of pedestrians
  • Many of them were women pushing baby carriages
  • And Kotsiubynske must be pretty small because I think I saw the same street three times

If anyone ever doubted, I do watch every frame of every video I place on 12MC. Believe me, I was ready to get out of that virtual car after twelve minutes of back-and-forth. I started feeling carsick from all the motion.

Most Frequent U.S. Communities

On August 28, 2014 · 5 Comments

The Geographic Names Information System had a little "frequently asked questions" page I somehow overlooked until a couple of days ago. Most of the FAQ dealt with mundane issues although a few gems hid within its midst. For example,

The most frequently occurring community name continues to vary. In the past year, it was Midway at 212 occurrences and Fairview at 202. More recently, Fairview counted 288 and Midway 256. The name Springfield often is thought to be the only community name appearing in each of the 50 States, but at last count it was in only 34. The most recent count shows Riverside with 186 instances in 46 States, only Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Oklahoma not having a community so named.

This compilation was great from a couple of perspectives. First, I found it interesting in its own right. Second, it meant that someone else did all of the dirty work today and I could simply steal borrow the idea and elaborate upon it. 12MC didn’t mind getting a brief respite from research for once.


Fairview


Jefferson Davis Monument
Jefferson Davis Monument by J. Stephen Conn, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license

The United States had more places with nice views than ones located equidistant from two points in recent years so I started there. I selected Fairview in Kentucky because the border separating Christian County from Todd County cut right through the settlement (map). I’d always favor a geo-oddity above the others.

It seemed familiar and then it clicked in my mind when I spotted Jefferson Davis Historic Site, a memorial to the Confederate President who was "born on this site on June 3, 1808." Reader Bill Cary brought this site to my attention in a comment after I posted the Jeff Davis article in April 2013.

The Jefferson Davis monument looked a lot like another object named for a different first president, the Washington Monument. I’m sure that an obelisk wasn’t a coincidence although it was considerably shorter in stature (351 feet/107 metres versus 555 ft/169 m). Jefferson Davis’ monument probably didn’t have a precious tip either.


Midway



Midway, Utah, USA

The wonderful thing about Midway was that every instance had a built-in story by definition. Someone once thought they should all be defined by their geographic placement between two or more other locations.

I focused on Midway, Utah because it was a Midway with a decent population (about 4,000) and an interesting explanation. As noted by the city:

A wagon road completed through Provo Canyon in 1858 brought the first settlers to the area. In the spring of 1859, many more families began moving farther to the west along Snake Creek. Two small communities were established, called the Upper and Lower Settlements… In 1866, Indian hostilities grew and territorial governor Brigham Young encouraged settlers to construct forts for protection. The two small settlements reached an agreement to build a fort halfway or midway between the two existing communities… thus the beginning of our modern day town named Midway.


Springfield


The Simpsons house, remodeled, in Henderson, NV
The Simpsons house, remodeled, in Henderson, NV by rscottjones, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license

Springfield came next although there’s really only one Springfield that matters and it’s fictional. Maybe I’ll give a nod to Springfield, Oregon (map) because the town recently commissioned a Simpsons mural. Also it’s just down the road from Portland which may have inspired the cartoon Springfield so it had that geographic proximity going for it.


Riverside



There were so many Riversides and I chose Riverside, California because of the Parent Washington Navel Orange. I’d visit it. The city even had a little park to protect the historic tree (map). I’ll let the University of California Riverside Citrus Variety Collection explain this particular specimen:

Washington navel orange is also known as the Bahia for the Brazilian city from which it was imported into the United States in 1870. Although its origins are uncertain, it is believed to come from a bud sport found in a Selecta orange tree in the early 1800s. Upon its arrival at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. it was propagated and trees were sent to California and Florida. Although the Florida trees did not flourish, those sent to Eliza Tibbets in Riverside, California found an ideal climate for their culture

Why focus on one specific navel orange tree in a tiny park in Riverside, California from amongst the millions of others in groves throughout the state? Because this exact tree was one of the first two original trees brought to Riverside in 1873, and the other one died in 1921. All California navel oranges descended from those two trees. They were the parents of the California citrus industry.

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12 Mile Circle:
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