What the?

On June 29, 2014 · 7 Comments

It couldn’t possibly be true, a place named for Dwayne Johnson a.k.a "The Rock", the professional wrestler and actor?


This guy had more than 7 million Twitter followers and he followed only one person, Muhammad Ali. That would indicate someone of immense popularity, and yet, could that be enough to get an entire town named for him?

The Rock, Georgia, USA

No, of course not. The Rock in Georgia was not named for Dwayne Johnson and I never figured that was a realistic possibility. I was simply amused by the weird juxtaposition of a professional wrestler and a populated place with the same name. Johnson didn’t have any association with the state or for the town as far as I could determine. Nonetheless I never considered that The Rock — the town — had anything to do with the Chick-fil-A fast food restaurant chain either. However it did, as improbable as that sounded.

The Rock in Georgia was named for The Rock Ranch, and:

The Rock Ranch is a beautiful 1,500 acre cattle ranch located about an hour south of Atlanta in Upson County. It’s a place where families, school groups and even businesses can come to enjoy what we call "agritourism." The Rock Ranch is owned by Chick-fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy and dedicated to "Growing Healthy Families"!

S. Truett Cathy and kin are no strangers to controversy. There’s no doubt that The Rock Ranch would have a strong opinion on those Healthy Families that it was dedicated to Growing, regardless of where one’s own personal feelings fell on that spectrum.

The Others

Bequia by Globalgrasshopr, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

My tangential thought process led me to consider other placenames beginning with the definite article. It had to be unusual, I considered, and then I realized it may not have been all that rare even if it wasn’t the norm. A simple visit to the US Department of State’s A-Z List of Country and Other Areas demonstrated that quickly at a national level.

  • THE Bahamas
  • THE Congo (Republic of, and Democratic Republic of)
  • THE Gambia
  • Saint Vincent and THE Grenadines

The rule of thumb seemed to center upon entities named for something like a river or a group of islands. Those increased the likelihood of having the definite article tacked onto them. The Grenadines portion of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines fascinated me, I guess because Saint Vincent and the Grenadines included only a portion of the Grenadines. The largest island of the Grenadines, Carriacou, was actually a dependency of Grenada. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines had to settle for the second largest island, Bequia. Perhaps the name should be changed to Saint Vincent and Some of the Grenadines? It seemed like false advertising.

While not explicitly stated in the US Department of State list in this form, one often encounters THE Netherlands and THE Philippines too. I suppose while I’m at it I could add THE United States and THE United Kingdom. There used to be THE Ukraine although that began to shift to Ukraine by iteself after becoming an independent state in 1991.

Nonetheless I think the only two nations where the definite article would always be capitalized would be The Bahamas and The Gambia (vs. the United States and the United Kingdom, where lowercase would be acceptable in many circumstances). It all gets so confusing.

In the United Kingdom

I looked for instances of THE attached to placenames in many areas and found no nation with a greater prevalence than the United Kingdom. There must be hundreds of them. Some where quite remarkable such as The Burf, The Folly, The Glack, The Mumbles, and The Shoe. The best of course were the several places named The Butts because 12MC couldn’t resist another opportunity for lowbrow humor. This would be an appropriate time to turn on the video of Da Butt for some inspiration.

Many British placenames that sounded odd to the rest of us were rooted in things that made complete sense in their original context. English Heritage provided a logical explanation for The Butts:

An archery butts is an area of land given over to archery practise in which one or more artificially constructed mounds of earth and stone were used as a target area. The name originally applied to the dead marks or targets themselves but the earthen platforms on which the targets were placed also became known as butts… Archery butts can be recognised as field monuments through their earthwork mounds but documentary sources allow the best identification of archery butts, usually through place-names eg. Butt Hills… Archery butts are associated with the use and practise of the longbow which was in part responsible for England’s military power throughout the medieval period.

Thus, many of The Butts derived from archery fields although some did not: "The Middle English word ‘butt’ referred to an abutting strip of land, and is often associated with medieval field systems." In Britain, The Butts could have been associated with archery or with an odd leftover land remnant.

The Gazetteer of British Place listed two specific location of The Butts, one in Glamorgan, South Wales (map) and the other in Hampshire, England (map), although other sources listed more.

I noticed something interesting next to The Butts in Hampshire, Jane Austen’s House Museum. Jane Austen (1775–1817) resided here during the latter part of her life, where she wrote the novels Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion. She may have also revised drafts of Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey here as well. Thus it could be said that the famous author gazed upon The Butts regularly.


On June 1, 2014 · 0 Comments

What does one call it when a bunch of fabric gets cut-up when making an item of clothing, and then there are a bunch of leftovers? What are those residual scraps? Remnants? That’s what I was left to work with today, a bunch of little snippets that didn’t quite make it into previous articles. They’ve been hording valuable real estate on my list of potential topics for quite awhile, cluttering up the place. I think I have enough of them to cobble together into a single article and dispense with them.

Shooting for H’s

4-H Stamp
4-H Stamp by Hacktweeters, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

I grew up in farm country. I’m quite familiar with 4-H. The 4-H of my childhood focused on making better farmers through agricultural fairs, educational efforts, overnight camps, and the like. I vaguely remember my sister grooming a horse or something like that for some "Old School" 4-H contest. The present-day 4-H, from what I gleaned from their website, shifted rather more broadly into the suburbs, urban areas and even internationally. The four H’s referenced head, heart, hands, and health. What I didn’t know until just now was that 4-H was part of the US Department of Agriculture, through its National Institute of Food and Agriculture, specifically. I guess I never thought about it in that amount of detail before.

How should I interpret this odd lake in Carthage, Texas?

H and H Lake / 3-H Lake, Carthage, Texas, USA

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names provided two names for this lake. One was "H and H Lake" with a Geographic Names Information System entry date of 30-Nov-1979. The alternate name was 3-H Lake, entered 06-Apr-2000. It’s like the lake was trying to work its way up to 4-H status.

Actually, I think the H’s may have been associated with families that lived in the area, Heaton, Hill and Hull. Notice the small roads named for them, all leading up to the lake. I’m related to the Hull family which is how I discovered this odd little lake. That wasn’t the only minor, inconsequential road named for my distant relatives. I’ve also discovered a Howder Street in Hillsdale, Michigan, named for the brother of my 3rd-great-grandfather (and featured in the third article every published on 12MC!)

Rappers Delight

Sandfly (actual size)
Sandfly (actual size) by Seth Mazow, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license

No-see-um is another term for a sandfly. They made a very brief appearance in The Article That Nobody Will Ever See. Well the bug wasn’t featured. Rather I posted a map of No-see-um Lake, Shoshone Co., Idaho. I almost chose another location, a lake in Wisconsin.

Old School Road, Phelps, Wisconsin, USA

I found it amusing that Old School Road led to the lake. I reserved it because I thought I might want to create a pun with Old School Rap. Then I discovered that there were lots of Old School roads because apparently there were a lot of old schools, and the potential joke lost its allure (although I still think that the Sugarhill Gang should live here).

Caribbean Paradox

Basseterre - City from Ship
Basseterre – City from Ship by Roger Wollstadt, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) license

I found a nice photograph of Basseterre, St. Kitts, the capital city of the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis. It looked so typically Caribbean, and dare I say perhaps even a bit Old School Caribbean.

Caribbean There, Ft. Collins, Colorado, USA

Does Fort Collins, Colorado look anything like the Caribbean? No, I feel fairly certain that Fort Collins might be considered pretty much the equal and opposite of anything Caribbean. That’s not intended to disparage Fort Collins. I wouldn’t expect to see Rocky Mountain High in Basseterre, either.

Why would a developer consider Caribbean-themed streets appropriate along the Front Range: Basseterre Place; Saint John Place; Barbuda Drive; Aruba Drive, and so on. Really? How hard up for names would someone have to be before having to resort to something this far out of alignment with the prevailing geography?

Pueblo Deco

On May 13, 2014 · 0 Comments

I learned about an uncommon, unusual design style known as Pueblo Deco as I researched Pre-Nazi Swastika Architectural Details. Native American tribes of the US Southwest such as the Navajo used a symbol that would be mistaken by the general public today as a swastika. That element carried forward to some of the derivative Pueblo Deco buildings constructed prior to the Second World War, which is how I came across the style.

Pueblo Deco arrived at the intersection of two other architectural movements popular during the early part of the 20th Century through the 1930′s, Art Deco and Pueblo Revival. 12MC isn’t an architecture site and I don’t have any training in the field so I won’t even begin to describe the styles. I’ll let the images explain themselves: Art Deco was an unmistakable you know it when you see it design and Pueblo Revival was rather self-explanatory too. Imagine a mash-up of the two. Their spawn became Pueblo Deco.

KiMo Theatre, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Kimo Theater
Kimo Theater by Mike Tungate, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

Albuquerque’s KiMo Theatre may best exemplify Pueblo Deco, or at least serve as its most recognizable landmark (map). This was the property I featured in my earlier article that sparked my initial curiosity.

The City of Albuquerque purchased the KiMo Theater in 1977, saving it from probable destruction after years of neglect. It began as the vision an immigrant entrepreneur, Oreste Bachechi, and opened in 1927 during the golden era of elegant movie palaces. As the city’s Kimo Theater History explained, Bachechi wanted a building "that would stand out among the Greek temples and Chinese pavilions of contemporary movie mania." His architect Carl Boller "traveled throughout New Mexico, visiting the pueblos of Acoma and Isleta, and the Navajo Nation" in search of inspiration. Even the name KiMo derived from the pueblos; it reflected a Tiwa word for mountain lion.

Albuquerque seemed to be the epicenter of Pueblo Deco. The Art Deco Society of New Mexico even published a Pueblo Deco Tour of the city.

Arizona Biltmore Hotel, Phoenix, Arizona

IMG_2994 by Daniel Langer, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

Pueblo Deco spread within neighboring Arizona too. The state’s preeminent example may be the Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, now a Waldorf Astoria resort, billed as "The Jewel of the Desert since 1929" (map).

Sometimes it’s mistaken for a Frank Lloyd Wright design. While Wright consulted on the project for several months, the actual architect was one of his former students, Albert Chase McArthur. As the hotel’s history page noted, "Perhaps the most obvious and dramatic design link to Wright is the use of indigenous materials that led to the creation of the ‘Biltmore Block.’ The pre-cast concrete blocks were molded on-site and used in the total construction of the resort."

The Arizona Biltmore anchored a high-end commercial and residential neighborhood that developed around it, the Biltmore District. Famous celebrities and politicians relaxed in the desert over the years. For example "Irving Berlin penned many tunes, including ‘White Christmas’ while sitting poolside at the Arizona Biltmore." The hotel last scored a minor historical footnote as the site where John McCain conceded defeat after his failed 2008 presidential campaign.

(former) Casa Grande Train Station, Casa Grande, Arizona

Casa Grande, AZ train station (destroyed by fire 6/09)
Casa Grande, AZ train station (destroyed by fire 6/09) by Ron Reiring, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license

Pueblo Deco buildings didn’t need to be grandiose and monumental to fit the general style. The Southern Pacific Railroad constructed a station in Casa Grande, Arizona in 1940 that presented a much more utilitarian form. It was rather simple although it clearly displayed elements of the fusion. Unfortunately despite being listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building fell into neglect, remained empty for many years, caught fire in 2009 and could not be saved. Photographs of the fire were included on the Casa Grande Firefighters site.

The station used to stand at 201 W Main Street, now a vacant lot. Such a pity. The location still appears on OpenStreetMap for now (map).

Cliff Dwellers’ Apartments, New York City, New York

Cliff Dwellers’ Apartments, New York, NY

While primarily a regional style generally confined to the desert southwest, Pueblo Deco sometimes appeared outside of its natural range. The Cliff Dwellers’ (Cliff Dwelling) Apartments on Riverside Drive between West 96th and 97th Streets in New York City employed a number of similar design characteristics. The New York Times featured this structure in 2002, describing it as "A Terra Cotta Masterpiece."

On the exterior, [Herman Lee] Meader again used terra cotta inventively. His designs of double-headed snakes, the skulls of cows, mountain lions, scowling masklike faces, spears and various American Indian details were worked into ornament. In 1916, The New York Herald praised the Cliff Dwelling’s appearance on a lot that had been considered "only fit for a billboard" and hailed its "made-in-America feeling." The Herald said its name opened up a new horizon for developers who had "exhausted the supply of names and styles from every famous palace, chateau and castle in Europe."

It was an interesting solution to fit a narrow, oddly-shaped lot. All apartments faced towards the Riverside Drive side of the building. CityRealty called it "…New York City’s architectural ode to the Wild West, this narrow and angled building is one of the city’s most eccentric." and noted that the American Institute of Architects had earlier said, it "symbolizes the life of the Arizona cliff dwellers and serves to tie these prehistoric people to Manhattan’s modern cliff dwellers."

It All Gets Confusing

I found plenty of other buildings that had been described as Pueblo Deco, or not. Once again my lack of architectural background made it impossible for me to parse. Was the La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe a Pueblo Deco structure, or Pueblo Revival? Was Fort Worth’s Texas & Pacific Railroad Passenger Station Pueblo Deco or Zigzag Moderne Deco? I dunno. Sources differed and I didn’t have the knowledge to make an intelligent judgment. I still enjoyed looking at them.

I didn’t even know Zigzag Moderne was a thing. Maybe I should stick to geography.

12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
Don't miss an article -
Subscribe to the feed!

RSS G+ Twitter
RSS Twelve Mile Circle Google Plus Twitter
Monthly Archives
Days with Posts
July 2014
« Jun