The article on Public Streets seemed generate more than the usual amount of interest and lots of great comments, as well as a hint of familiarity. Input from loyal reader David Overton sent me down an interesting tangent. He mentioned No Name Street, which he believed might be "another contender for ‘laziest street name’”. He also included a link to the photographic evidence. Thankfully the original photographer was generous enough to include a Creative Commons license so I was able to embed the image directly within this page, along with a proper citation.
SOURCE: Flickr by electropod via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
It wasn’t too difficult to track down the location of No Name Street, a brief connecting road in Sandwich, England. Google (Street View) confirmed that I’d found the proper spot. The author noted, "It’s only a little street, but surely they could have thought of a name for it", (and I agree!) to which someone responded, "If they had, what place would U2 have sung about?"
Feel free to listen to U2′s "Where the Streets Have No Names" released in 1987 on "The Joshua Tree" album, as you read through the rest of this article.
I began to experience déjà vu, like maybe I’d written about this situation before. That’s not an unexpected feeling after posting several hundred geo-oddity topics over several years on the Twelve Mile Circle. However I’m usually better at remembering what I’ve researched and published previously, plus I couldn’t find anything when I ran a search on all of the articles and comments ever posted.
Finally I found it on another website, the ever-beloved and much-missed Basement Geographer, which is currently on hiatus. Kyle had written about The Best of Newfoundland and Labrador Toponyms, Part III in July 2011, referencing an unusual location he uncovered known as Nameless Cove. The familiarity derived from a comment that I’d appended to his article. I guess it’s acceptable to quote myself from a different website, right?
We used to have an intramural athletic field called Nameless Field when I attended the University of Virginia. It was large enough for two games to be played simultaneously so it was split into portions: Upper Nameless and Lower Nameless. Yep, Google Maps says it’s still there.
I tend to agree with David’s contention that No Name (and it’s equally thoughtless variation, Nameless) gives Public Street a good run for the money when it comes to laziness. In fact I didn’t bother to create a map of every occurrence because they were so common. That right there should provide sufficient evidence of intellectual indolence. It forced me to focus on geographic units much larger than streets or roads.
The US Geological Survey’s Geographic Names Information System provided 595 instances of No Name. That’s a bit deceiving. I couldn’t find a way to extract the exact string so results included anything with a "name" contained within them. I had to remove a lot of religious properties (e.g., Holy Name, Jesus Name), for example. I also removed a lot of reservoirs, dams and wells where, for some reason, it was popular to call them something like No Name Dam Number X (fill in a sequential number) in certain states. Even so I found a lot of pure instances of names with no names, including 27 specific references to Nameless.
There were several other instances that I found even more interesting. They are all real geographic features recognized by the U.S. Government. I’ve provided map links based on lat/long coordinates listed in GNIS although they may not appear by those names (or at all) on Google Maps.
The Nameless Fire Department was entered into the Congressional Record by Hon. Bart Gordon on May 7, 1996: "Mr. Speaker, I am taking this opportunity to applaud the invaluable services provided by the Nameless Volunteer Fire Department. These brave, civic-minded people give freely of their time so that we may all feel safer at night…" Ten years later, according to Firefighting News, the Nameless Firefighters were "awarded a competitive grant through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program. Nameless Volunteer Fire Department will receive $75,240."
A number of items have come up recently although none large enough for a single article. It’s time to resurrect a recurring theme. The 12MC "Odds and Ends" compilation ratchets up to #7.
Google Maps Treasure Map
By now everyone should be aware of the April Fools layer on Google Maps yesterday, a so-called Treasure mode in the style of a pirate map. It’s already ancient history even as April 2 and the layer has been removed. I first noticed it on the afternoon of March 31, a day early. I guess they figured nobody would be checking Maps on Easter. They were wrong.
I started solving the puzzle immediately as did many others around the world. Someone started a collaborative Google Docs spreadsheet and I was invited to participate through my Twitter feed. We’d pretty much solved the puzzle by early evening the day before most people even knew it existed. I think the collaboration may have been the first to complete the puzzle although I don’t know that for a fact. It was amongst the very earliest of solutions in any case.
Here is how it appeared as we worked through the answer on Docs.
My little contribution also involved plotting all of the letters on a shared Google Map.
I was hoping that I might be able to draw a line between the points and maybe find an additional Easter Egg or something. However it appeared that individual solutions were all placed randomly and far apart for perhaps no other reason than to make it difficult to find them without solving each of the clue chains.
The most entertaining part of this was collaborating in real time with about fifty people — all strangers to me — from around the globe in a single Doc simultaneously.
White House Easter Egg Roll
Speaking of Easter Eggs, in a more literal sense this time, I lucked into tickets to the White House Easter Egg Roll held on Monday. This is a 135 year-old tradition that dates back to the administration of President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1877. It’s become a Washington, DC area institution over the years, one of those events everyone living here has to do at least once in his or her lifetime, and one of the simple joys of being near the Nation’s Capital. It’s a sign of springtime as surely as the annual blooming of the cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin.
This is one tough ticket. Each year the White House opens a lottery, and although tickets are free, the demand far outstrips supply. I’ve never attended the event before. My kids are getting older and we figured if we didn’t act on the tickets this year then we might never get another chance.
It’s a rare privileged to be able to walk on the White House lawn, even as part of a large crowd. This was only the third time I’ve done that in the many years I’ve lived here. The kids had a great time and will probably remember this forever. Even the weather was perfect. The only tiny blemish happened as we left and right after as we cleared the security gates, when we could hear someone start to sing the National Anthem. I knew we’d just missed an opportunity to see President Obama by maybe thirty seconds. I guess that means we have an excuse to try again.
Go South to Go North
I love it when readers notice Twelve Mile Circle articles and use them as inspiration for their own personal travel adventures. Please send a message to me whenever you do that. Unlike some of your friends, family or loved ones, 12MC understands your geo-oddity obsession and consider it worthy of accolades and attention. I want to share your stories with fellow enthusiasts who will find them endlessly fascinating.
"Kevin" was influenced by North AND South, an article about a town named North located south of the South Carolina capital and southeast of Due West, and by All Ways – Every Cardinal Direction, where I imagined that one could travel to neighboring states in numerous counterintuitive ways given sufficient motivation.
Kevin traveled to a point outside of Charlotte, North Carolina marked on the map. I’ve edited Kevin’s photo, below, by adding a line on the border and a circle around a sign that reads "North Carolina State Line – Union County." I had to shrink the photo down to make it fit within the margins of 12MC so hopefully my additions will increase the clarity. It might be more legible if you open the image in another tab, too.
Traveling here, one can drive south from the state of South Carolina into North Carolina, and vice versa. Go south and hit north. Go north and hit south. This isn’t some insignificant border anomaly either. It’s actually rather more noticeable than many of the tiny border nicks I pointed out in my previous article. Also, at least for now, Street View does not provide coverage here. This will be your only chance to view the spot unless you go there personally.
The intersection of my various hobbies provides a nice tangential benefit for the Twelve Mile Circle, a steady stream of curiosities and article ideas. I like to look through census records and use Street View to see if I can spy on the former homes of ancestors and distant relatives. Many of the census records from the first part of the 20th Century included street addresses. Frequently those have remained unchanged (as in the case with my Great Grandparents’ home in 1940) and it can provide a window into their lives. More often streets changed names or numbering schemes over the years, or the houses have been demolished. Sometime that can still lead to interesting if unrelated discoveries. Like today. That’s how I found Little Canada.
The census record said a family lived on Canada Street in Ramsey County, Minnesota, in a suburb near St. Paul. Canada Street doesn’t exist on a modern map as far as I could tell, however Google suggested Little Canada Road in the City of Little Canada. That seemed like a name with a story. I put down genealogy for awhile and redirected my investigative energies to geography.
Certainly there are places much farther east, say within the St. Lawrence River watershed and along the Atlantic coast where a blended population occupied a space with little regard for an international border. Add to that Acadian exiles from the Canadian Maritime provinces who settled in Louisiana in the mid 18th Century and its obvious that many people in the U.S. trace a portion of their ancestry back to Canada. The Little Canada community felt somehow different though, resembling a more traditional ethnic enclave instead of a broader mix and meld of Canadian and U.S. populations directly along the border or a mass migration to Louisiana’s Nouvelle-France.
Let’s begin with a definition that I’ll steal from Wikipedia since it seems to get the point across succinctly and I’m not sure I could write it any better:
An ethnic enclave is a physical space with high ethnic concentration; thus these spaces are culturally distinct from the larger receiving society. Their success and growth depends on self-sufficiency, and is coupled with economic prosperity. Therefore, the general definition of an ethnic enclave is a geographically defined space with characteristic cultural identity and economic activity.
I can think of numerous prominent ethnic enclaves in the United States, historic and current. Chinatown in San Francisco, Little Italy in New York City, Little Havana in Miami, Koreatown in Los Angeles, and Irish "Southie" in Boston all come to mind. Add to that, Little Canada in Minnesota?
Ethnic enclaves don’t last forever. They assimilate into broader communities over time. That’s largely the story of Little Canada albeit the assimilation didn’t appear to have presented much of a challenge. The cultural distinction between its French Canadian settlers and the Minnesota population as a whole were pretty similar despite the language difference. The state absorbed numerous ethnic groups during the latter 19th Century, reflecting a large swath of northern European cultures in addition to French Canadians. Immigration and ethnicity were common features across Minnesota’s population during its formative years.
The Mdewakanton Dakota from Little Crow’s Village or Kaposia (seasonal home) made their summer home in the area that is today Little Canada because of the abundant fishing and hunting resources. The first white settlers in the region were French/Canadians. Many of the descendents of these settlers still reside in Little Canada. The city’s largest lake, Lake Gervais, was named after Benjamin Gervais. He was the first white man to claim land here in 1844. In 1850, the first school was established and classes were taught in French… In 1858, Little Canada became a township, a village in 1953, and in 1974 a city.
This city of 10,000 residents continues to cling to its Canadian heritage in a number of ways, most visibly through its flag.
The sentiment carries forward through a long-standing Sister Cities relationship with Thunder Bay, Ontario, a six hours drive by automobile (map). There might be better ways to select Sister Cities however it’s hard to discount the convenience factor.
That also makes it easy for Canadian delegations to participate in Little Canada’s annual community festival, "Canadian Days." It’s held the first weekend every August to coincide with Canada’s August Civic Holiday. Canadian visitors can participate in the festivities and drive home on Monday without missing any work.
Canadian heritage has also been stamped upon the town’s geographic features and landmarks. Benjamin Gervais is recognized by the previously-mentioned lake and by the location of his pioneer grist mill which is now a park (map). The theme carries forward with Thunder Bay park, situated between Thunder Bay and Ontario Roads, as well as through several French-language roads sprinkled throughout the city.
The citizens of Little Canada continue to recognize their heritage, albeit largely shifting from French-Canadian culture specifically to a relationship with Canada more broadly as a nation.
The same family I researched also had a connection with a nearby neighborhood called "South of Maryland" (map). Like SoHo (South of Houston) in NYC and SoMa (South of Market) in San Francisco, this one derived its name from a street; south of Maryland Avenue in St. Paul, MN in this instance. It came to mind solely because I thought of my own home in Virginia as more appropriately south of Maryland, along with West Virginia and the District of Columbia. There’s even an anomaly along the Maryland border where a small part of Delaware is south of Maryland (map). I’m not sure where I’m going with that other than I found it interesting.