Highest Numbered Street

On October 19, 2017 · 19 Comments

Newer cities created on grid patterns often used street naming systems based on numbers. The closest street to an important urban feature would become 1st Street. Numbers increased from there. Distinct patterns emerged in different cities, of course. Maybe numbered streets increased outward in two directions, north and south or east and west. Plenty of other variations existed too.

I wondered about the highest numbered street, though. Apparently a lot of other people on the Intertubes wanted to know the same thing according to what I found as I searched. Specifically though, I sought something within a single city in a generally contiguous manner. There shouldn’t be huge gaps. Otherwise I’d look at something like 1010th Street way outside of Eau Claire, Wisconsin and be done with it.

New York City


Queens County Farm Museum
Queens County Farm Museum. Photo by Nick Normal on Flickr (cc)

New York City seemed like a logical starting point. The city sprawled densely across five boroughs and used a numerical grid for much of it. The highest numbered street seemed to land in the Glen Oaks neighborhood of Queens. There, way out on the distant edge of the city near its border with Nassau County, appeared 271st Street. This quiet middle class neighborhood consisted primarily of a large garden apartment complex. On 271st St. however, just three blocks long, the houses all appeared to be detached single-family homes (map).

This neighborhood sat so far away from the action that it contained an actual farm. A farm in New York City? Well, actually, that might be a slight exaggeration. A few blocks away from 271st Street stood the Queens County Farm Museum. I guess that counted as a farm in a sense. As the museum explained,

Queens County Farm Museum’s history dates back to 1697; it occupies New York City’s largest remaining tract of undisturbed farmland. The farm encompasses a 47-acre parcel that is the longest continuously farmed site in New York State.

Where in New York City could someone go on a hay ride? Only way out near 271st Street, I’d imagine.


Washington, DC



I figured I could also look closer to home in the District of Columbia. With Washington being so much smaller than New York, I certainly wouldn’t expect it to reach the same number. However, it did have a nice grid divided into quadrants. Looking near the right angles of its rectangular border should help find the largest street numbers. They ran north-south in the nation’s capital. The western cornerstone fell in what is now Virginia so that wouldn’t work. That left the streets near the eastern cornerstone as the best place to search.

There I found 63rd Street Northeast as probably the highest number street (map) in the District of Columbia. These four blocks featured mostly modest brick duplexes with a few small apartments. The boundary stone could be found about a block farther to the east near the intersections of Southern and Eastern Avenues. Some maps called this the East Corner neighborhood appropriately enough, although I couldn’t find any more information about it. The cornerstone near 63rd Street, it should be noted, went through a rededication recently after many years of neglect.

The highest numbered street in the Virginia area previously part of the District of Columbia appeared to be 44th Street in Arlington (map).


Tehran, Iran


Tehran , Iran
Tehran, Iran. Photo by daniyal62 on Flickr (cc)

The city of Tehran in Iran had something of a grid in spots, including some with numbered streets. The city even had a 305th Street (map). This short block included space for two apartment towers, a park and a farmers’ market. However, I couldn’t make sense of the numbering scheme and it seemed like several different patterns existed in close proximity. I included Tehran solely because I wanted an Iranian push-pin on my Complete Index map. Now I have one.


Milton Keynes, England


Milton Keynes, England (June 2009)
Milton Keynes, England. Photo by Mark Pegrum on Flickr (cc)

Few examples of numbered streets existed within the United Kingdom. Most towns formed centuries ago in a haphazard manner. They didn’t include regular grids like their cousins that formed from scratch on the North American prairies. Milton Keynes incorporated one of the the best examples of numbered streets that I could find, though. The city didn’t follow the same model as much of the rest of the UK. It didn’t have an ancient pedigree. "When the UK Government decided to build Milton Keynes in the 1960s, the area was mostly farmland and undeveloped villages." Thus, it followed a model much more aligned to what happened on the other side of the Atlantic.

Even so, its numbering climbed only as high as 14 as far as I could tell (map). Also, city planners didn’t like numbers as numerals so they spelled them out. People lived on Fourteenth Street not 14th Street.

Fire

On September 24, 2017 · 3 Comments

It seemed like wildfires burned all across the American West this summer, each one worse than the other. A fire in Montana burned so long and so intensely that many nearby towns experience perpetual nightfall for days. Amazingly, the fires of 2017 stripped an area as big as the state of Maryland. For the European audience, that equated to an area about the size of Belgium or Albania. All reduced to ashes.

Twelve Mile Circle featured a number of natural disasters previously (e.g., hurricanes, floods) so why not fire? I considered pinpointing the largest fires in recorded history. However I wanted something I could mark distinctly on my index map. Maybe I could shift my attention to famous city fires instead.

First I had to get this out of my system:



You know you wanted to see it. Or maybe that was just me. Fortunately it lasts only eight seconds.


Great Fire of London


The Monument
The Monument. Photo by Gabrielle Ludlow on Flickr (cc)

The Great Fire of London in 1666 may be the most well-known. It began in the bakery of Thomas Farriner/Farynor late at night. First it spread west and then north as winds shifted. Nearly all of the original medieval part of the city went up in flames. Firefighting techniques barely existed at the time and couldn’t contain it. The main defense involved fire breaks, literally removing anything combustible before flames arrived. However, officials didn’t move quickly enough to create breaks so the fire spread far-and-wide. Reputedly very few people died even though the fire covered a sizable portion of central London. That might have been because the city government didn’t keep good records of the poor and destitute. They may have simply been incinerated. The true death toll will never be known.

Anyone who studied English History of this time period probably remembered hearing about the fire in the diary of Samuel Pepys.

So I made myself ready presently, and walked to the Tower, and there got up upon one of the high places, Sir J. Robinson’s little son going up with me; and there I did see the houses at that end of the bridge all on fire, and an infinite great fire on this and the other side the end of the bridge…

The fire left an indelible impression. Five years later the city commissioned construction of a large Doric column near the site where the fire began on Pudding Lane. Christopher Wren designed the monument while he did the same for the reconstruction of St. Paul’s Cathedral. The column rose 62 metres (202 feet) upon completion and it still stands. Visitors can climb to the top of the Great Fire of London Monument for panoramic views of the city. (map)


Great Chicago Fire


Impact vs Chicago Fire
Impact vs Chicago Fire. Photo by abdallahh on Flickr (cc)

The most famous fire in the United States might be the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. According to popular legend — disproved long ago — the fire began when Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lamp. The disaster did indeed start near the O’Leary family’s barn on an alley behind DeKoven Street (map). However, nobody knew the true cause. The story of a clumsy cow sold a lot of newspapers so it stuck.

The fire created utter devastation in downtown Chicago, consuming more than three square miles of densely-populated neighborhoods. By the end, more than a hundred thousand people lost their homes and three hundred people lost their lives. The city’s business district laid in ruins. It might have been worse except for rain on the third day. The fire finally began to burn out as it approached more sparsely-settled areas farther away from the downtown core.

As in London, the people of Chicago created a lasting memorial near the site where the fire began. The Chicago remembrance took a much more practical turn. The city constructed a training facility for the Chicago Fire Academy on the site. Firefighters now learn how to combat blazes at the place where the city’s most horrific conflagration began.

Memories of the disaster remained strong even more than a century later. The local Major League Soccer team named itself the Chicago Fire.


Great Fire of Meireki


Meireki fire
Meireki fire via Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain

I’d never heard of the Great Fire of Meireki before I started researching this article although it certainly deserved a mention. Meireki referred to the Japanese imperial era when the fire took place, specifically its third year, 1657. That put it just a few years before the Great Fire of London. This one also brought a capital to its knees, the city of Edo, now known as Tokyo. Its legendary origin put the Chicago story to shame. Supposedly the blaze began when a priest attempted to burn a cursed kimono. Actually, nobody knew how it started although the spot traced to somewhere within the Hongo district (map).

Edo suffered through an extended drought leading up to the fire, leaving buildings tinderbox dry. Wooden homes clustered tightly along narrow streets became the perfect fuel. High winds that day fanned flames widely throughout the city. Up to seventy percent of the Edo burned before the fire finally subsided. Perhaps a hundred thousand people died.

Even More Spooky

On September 17, 2017 · Comments Off on Even More Spooky

It served me right for trying to guess what might please the Twelve Mile Circle audience. Longtime readers know that I’ve never been able to do that in the past even after all these years of trying. I probably should have waited until closer to Halloween. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this series — the exact locations of events even more than the stories themselves — and I still had a few spooky places on my mind. Bear with me one more time and then we’ll return to our regular content.

Typhoid Mary


Riverside Hospital
Riverside Hospital. Photo by reivax on Flickr (cc)

One doesn’t hear much about Typhoid Fever in the Western world anymore. This bacterial infection causes fever, headaches, body pains, weakness and rashes in its most virulent form. It might take weeks or months to fully recover. Sometimes it even kills. Typhoid practically disappeared when society started focusing on cleanliness and once antibiotics became the norm.

Some people appeared asymptomatic. They carried and spread typhoid without suffering any ill effects. That condition befell Mary Mallon, and Irish immigrant who lived in and around New York City. She cooked for several wealthy families and she didn’t believe in washing her hands before handling food. Good cooks found easy employment so she simply left each family after they contracted the disease and the cycle repeated. Outbreaks followed her several times as she switched to different families between 1900 and 1907. Authorities finally tracked her down and quarantined her at Riverside Hospital on North Brother Island (map). The hospital sat within eyesight of New York City, safely separated from the general population by the East River. Newspapers dubbed her "Typhoid Mary" and the name stuck.

Mary disavowed all responsibility and refused to be tested. Even so, the hospital released her after three years, stipulating that she must never work as a cook again. She kept that promise for a few years. Then she changed her name to Mary Brown and started cooking once again. The previous pattern of typhoid infections followed her. Once again authorities tracked her down and quarantined her, this time for life. Mary remained at Riverside Hospital from 1915 to 1938 until she died at a ripe old age… of pneumonia.


The Headless Horseman


A Ride in the Hollow
A Ride in the Hollow. Photo by Jessie Hodge on Flickr (cc)

The Headless Horseman starred in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," a short story published by Washington Irving in 1820. In this fictional account, the schoolmaster Ichabod Crane and his nemesis Abraham "Brom Bones" Van Brunt both sought the favor of the same young woman, Katrina Van Tassel. She dashed Ichabod’s hopes one evening at a party at her home.

Crane left dejected, riding on horseback through spooky woods thought to be haunted by a headless horseman. According to the legend, a Hessian soldier fighting in the American Revolution lost his head to a cannonball and he wanted it back. The spectral figure chased Crane through the eerie forest, as Crane raced towards a bridge at the Old Dutch Burying Grounds that supposedly marked safety. The ghost threw his decapitated head towards a terrified Crane. The next day they found his horse and a splattered pumpkin, but Crane was never seen again. The story implied that Brom Bones played on Crane’s superstitions and orchestrated the whole thing to get rid of him.

Of course, Washington Irving created the story as a fictional work. However he used a real setting. Sleepy Hollow existed as did legends of a headless spirit wandering there. Irving lived nearby so he set the story in a familiar place. The area came to be known as North Tarrytown. It fell on hard times long afterwards as the 20th Century wound down and a local General Motors factory closed. That’s when the village voted to change its name back to Sleepy Hollow to hopefully draw more tourists and help the local economy. They also erected a sculpture of the Headless Horseman chasing Ichabod Crane near the spot where the bridge stood in the story (map).


Jack the Ripper


Ten Bells, Spitalfields, E1
Ten Bells, Spitalfields, E1. Photo by Ewan Munro (cc)

Jack the Ripper terrorized Whitechapel in the East End of London for three months of 1888. The serial killer victimized prostitutes in slums, cutting throats, slicing abdomens and removing organs from bodies. As in the case of Typhoid Mary, an overly-competitive press in search of lurid headlines seized upon the story and sensationalized it to the point of frenzy. Numerous deaths were attributed to the killer, and dozens of theories spun from the imaginations of armchair detectives during the next century and beyond. Nonetheless, only five murders could be attributed to Jack the Ripper with any degree of certainty. These became known as the "canonical five" in the parlance of those who studied such things.

Much of Jack the Ripper’s London went the way of the wrecking ball a long time ago. However, a pub called The Ten Bells included a tenuous connection to two victims of the canonical five, Annie Chapman and Mary Jane Kelly. It still exists (map). Annie may have patronized the pub on the morning of her murder; and Mary Jane supposedly attracted clients on the street outside its doors.


Mothman


Mothman
Mothman. Photo by jmnecrikt on Flickr (cc)

A strange creature tormented residents near Point Pleasant, West Virginia in 1966 and 1967. It flew low over the treetops, a devilish figure with outstretched wings they dubbed Mothman. Allegedly it followed cars, killed farm animals and generally harassed and scared locals in a rural area outside of town near an old TNT plant. Then, on December 15, 1967, the Silver Bridge over the Ohio River that connecting Point Pleasant to Ohio collapsed. It happened during the evening when many people were returning home from work. Forty six people died. Witnesses claimed Mothman sightings that same evening and many locals blamed the creature for the tragedy. Some also claimed an appearance of a mysterious Man in Black soon thereafter, and speculated Mothman might be an alien connected to UFO sightings.

Encounters seemed to curtail although the old stories became the basis of a book called the The Mothman Prophecies in 1975 and a film of the same name in 2002. Point Pleasant loves its Mothman too. Entrepreneurs there erected a statue (map), opened a museum and started an annual Mothman Festival. Someday, as I finish my county counting efforts in West Virginia, I will stop there and see if I can spot Mothman myself.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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