Cigarette Hill

On July 16, 2017 · 1 Comments

I focused attention on unusual street names awhile ago. That theme played itself out over time so I left it behind for the most part. However, every once in awhile, I came across something interesting enough to mention on Twelve Mile Circle. This time it appeared in Texas. What was it about Texas? Once I found a subdivision with streets named after South Park characters. This time I found something stuck in an even earlier period of time, probably the 1940’s or 1950’s. Cigarettes had a positive image back then. Sometimes advertisers even promoted alleged health benefits (e.g., "More Doctors Smoke Camels than Any Other Brand"). In that context, perhaps, a subdivision with streets named for cigarette brands might have seemed like a good idea.

Cigarette Hill



Cigarette Hill; Dallas, Texas

Imagine the possibilities. One could live on Pall Mall Avenue, Camel Court, or Kool Avenue. Lucky Street seemed to be a stand-in for Lucky Strike. Maybe Durham referenced Bull Durham tobacco. I also spotted a Fatima Avenue. I’d never heard of Fatima cigarettes although they used to be quite popular. Liggett & Myers launched the brand in 1913 to capitalize on the popularity of Turkish tobacco. Fatima faded as the century progressed. It disappeared completely by the 1980’s.

The neighborhood earned a name, Cigarette Hill.


Hard Times on Cigarette Hill



Cigarette Hill stuck in a time warp just like the vintage cigarette brands of its street names. Its residents lived in poverty with a median household income of less than $15,000 in 2014. It also became a highly segregated neighborhood with an overwhelmingly (88.6%) African American population.

Ripple Road also traversed Cigarette Hill. Perhaps it existed as a coincidence or perhaps not. Ripple was an old type of a particularly nasty, cheap fortified wine. The television character Fred Sanford (played by Redd Foxx) considered Ripple his favorite drink. It gained "a reputation as a drink for alcoholics and the destitute."

By 2008, the City of Dallas recognized that Cigarette Hill and the larger Lancaster Corridor needed help. The local NBC television station reported on the situation that led to a Community Revitalization Plan.

…the neighborhood in the middle of the City of Dallas seems like a piece of old rural Texas. Residents complain the neighborhood has been overlooked for decades with no sidewalks, no storm sewers, few streetlights, and overgrown roads to name just a few problems… The Cigarette Hill area is very close to other Southern Dallas neighborhoods that have proper lighting, wider streets and complete sidewalks.

Still, it held a lot of promise. Cigarette Hill had ready access to employment centers and a Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) rail station. It also offered scenic views from its elevated position. Revitalization efforts still continue.


Cigarettes in Sterling Heights



Sterling Heights, Michigan

I found another cigarette subdivision in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Residents there could choose from Camel, Pall Mall, Parliament, Winston, Newport and Viceroy Drives. Ironically, it also included a Tarry drive (which by one definition meant "covered with tar"). I supposed a street surrounded by cigarettes would eventually become tarry as a result. Unfortunately I couldn’t find anything else about this neighborhood beyond its themed street names. It seemed from Google Street View that the houses probably dated from the 1950’s or 1960’s based on their architecture.


Pall Mall


Pall Mall
Pall Mall Circa 1900. Reproduced by Leonard Bentley on Flickr (cc)

I found myself with a little extra room left in this article. Maybe I should take a look at one of those old-timey cigarette brands. What inspired the naming of Pall Mall I wondered?

The mystery solved itself pretty quickly. Pall Mall is a street in London, England (map). It connected St. James’s Street to Trafalgar Square, running past St. James’s Square. The 18th Century brought a lot of wealthy people to Pall Mall who lived in ornate mansions there. It also became known for art galleries and auctioneers. It didn’t take a lot of effort to see why a cigarette brand would emulate its name. Obviously it wanted to trade on the high-class status of London’s Pall Mall, a good bit removed from its later namesake on Cigarette Hill.

Reaching back farther, the street got its name from a lawn game. Pall mall — the game — grew in popularity during 16th Century. Later it evolved into croquet. The street ran along an area that once hosted a popular pall mall field. First came the game, then came the street, then came the cigarette brand, and finally the cigarette-themed neighborhoods.

Boring, Dull and Bland

On July 6, 2017 · 3 Comments

Boring, Dull and Bland didn’t describe Twelve Mile Circle or my social life although maybe observers would disagree. It referenced a unique relationship between three very special communities. A Scottish bicyclist took a scenic ride through Clackamas County, Oregon just outside of Portland. She passed through the unincorporated community of Boring and thought it should be twinned with Dull in her native land. The two communities agreed and formed "A Pair for the Ages" in 2012. Not wanting to be left behind, Bland Shire in Australia petitioned to join the arrangement. The triad created a "League of Extraordinary Communities" in 2014.

This would have been wonderful for 12MC’s Better Sister Cities list. Too bad I wrote it before the trio got together. Nonetheless, they should still get some credit for their creativity and marketing savvy.


Boring, Oregon, USA


Boring Oregon
Boring Oregon. Photo by Jeff Hitchcock on Flickr (cc)

More people lived in Boring (map) than the other two, with a population approaching eight thousand. The Boring part came from its namesake, William Boring, a Civil War veteran who moved there in the 1870’s. Residents took a lighthearted approach to their settlement’s name. They proclaimed it to be "the most existing place to see" and "an exiting place to call home." One local business called itself The Not So Boring Bar and Grill. They were already predisposed to use their name creatively when Dull came calling.

According to the Boring Community Planning Organization, a 2013 Oregon law legitimized the relationship with Dull. It said "every August 9th will be Boring & Dull Day." I couldn’t determine why August 9 seemed particularly suitable although they chose it so it must have had some special meaning. Boring & Dull Day offered a chance to "join your Boring neighbors" at Boring Station Trailhead Park for an evening of music and ice cream. Feel free to stop by if you’re in the area. Mark your calendar. You won’t be bored.


Dull, Perth and Kinross, Scotland


Dull, Perth and Kinross, Scotland
Dull, Perth and Kinross, Scotland
via Google Street View, August 2016

Dull barely existed (map), a few houses scattered along an unnamed single-track lane. Maybe eighty people lived there. Nobody knew for certain how Dull got its name either. It might have derived from Gaelic or Pictish for meadow or field. The Dull and Boring Facebook Page included an old article recounting the aftermath of the death of St. Adamnan in 704:

… as he lay dying in his cell at Milton Eonan he told his men to place his body upon a stretcher whose poles were to be held in place by loops made of whithies or duls. They were to bury him where the first dul broke. This happened on the hill near his monastery, and there they buried him and called the place Dull

Regardless of origin, the name went way back into the Middle Ages. Dull covered a much larger territory back then, with a monastery and a parish, becoming just a fragment of its former self in recent centuries. Dull hoped that tourists would visit their hamlet once it paired with Boring. Indeed, sightseers started arriving to photograph a sign noting the special relationship.


Bland Shire, New South Wales, Australia


Globe Hotel, West Wyalong
Globe Hotel, West Wyalong. Photo by Matt on Flickr (cc)

Bland (map), a shire in New South Wales, learned of Boring and Dull through media reports. The mayor reached-out to the two. Later the Bland Shire Council in West Wyalong endorsed the partnership. However, it wasn’t completely without controversy. Some of the six thousand residents felt it disrespected the Bland name. The namesake, William Bland, came to Australia after a murder conviction. He killed a man in Bombay, India in a pistol feud in 1813. That hardly seemed bland so maybe those doubters had a point.

Boring, Dull and Bland. What a great combination. I can hardly wait to see what other places will join the League of Extraordinary Communities. One of the several Polish villages called Łazy, perhaps? Maybe Quiet Dell, West Virginia? How about Sleepy Eye, Minnesota?

Recent NIMBY

On May 28, 2017 · 4 Comments

The topic became my white whale. I came close to conquering it when I wrote Nimby Lane in 2015. Even then I joked about my problem, my seeming inability to write an article about the NIMBY phenomenon even after several attempts. NIMBY stood for "not in my back yard." In that earlier article we established that the acronym even appeared outside of the United States. Subsequent research also showed that it seemed to be transitioning from an all-caps NIMBY to a lowercase nimby. I think I’ll make that adjustment too.

It might be worth repeating the definition as listed in Dictionary.com. That could be helpful to readers who don’t speak English natively. It’s used to describe:

… opposition by local citizens to the locating in their neighborhood of a civic project, as a jail, garbage dump, or drug rehabilitation center, that, though needed by the larger community, is considered unsightly, dangerous, or likely to lead to decreased property values.

Anyway, the day finally arrived! Today I offer my nimby article at long last. The solution, once I discovered it, came easy. I simply typed nimby into Google and selected news. I chose examples only from the initial page of results as they appeared in front of me. Your results will vary.

I don’t mean to imply that any of these stories actually qualified as examples of nimby behavior. I’m not making value judgments. However, somebody though they did or the news articles never would have been published.


Falls Church, Virginia


Railroad Cottages
No to Railroad Cottages. My own photo.

Actually I noticed the first example in person before I ever saw it online. I spotted little placards stuck along the side of the Washington & Old Dominion trail as I biked through Falls Church a few days ago. They read, "No to Railroad Cottages." I didn’t give them another thought until my recent search results popped-up some commentary about them, Cottage Criticism is Just More NIMBY Opposition. I think Google fed it to me because of my geographic proximity.

The City of Falls Church provided more detail about the Railroad Cottages Project. Ten small standalone houses would cluster closely together around common open space and a social interaction building. It would cater to residents aged 55 years and older. The 1.3 acre triangular lot sat at the eastern end of Railroad Avenue, hugging the W&OD trail (map). Supporters cited it as an example of smart growth that also allowed city residents to downsize as they aged. Opponents worried about traffic, parking, density, noise, emergency response, displacement of flora and fauna, and diminished property values.

The lot also hid an interesting history. An African-American family purchased it just after the Civil War and retained ownership for the next 150 years. The man who sold the lot to developers was the great-great-great grandson of the person who first bought it for $75 in 1865.


Snow River, Kenai Peninsula, Alaska


Moose Pass
Moose Pass. My own photo.

Next I came across The NIMBY state on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. Twelve Mile Circle visited the area back in 2010 so I paid particular attention. Huge numbers of people traveled down to the Kenai each summer for salmon fishing. Fishermen needed guides, equipment, food and places to stay, so tourism dollars fueled a huge part of the local economy.

People got angry when they heard that the Chugach Electric Association wanted to consider damming the Snow River (map) near Moose Pass. As the article noted, "Dam is a four-letter word worse than the f-word in that community." This one would reach 300 feet high and 700 feet across, too. Chugach Electric hoped to figure out whether a dam might actually increase salmon along the Snow River. Theoretically a better controlled river could improve spawning channels. However, that question will always remain a mystery. The public outcry forced Chugach Electric to abandon its effort. Citizens felt the risk to the local economy was too great.


Rainford, St Helens, Merseyside, England


Rainford - farm in the snow
Rainford – farm in the snow. Photo by Ian McFegan on Flickr (cc)

One person at least proclaimed she was Proud to be a Nimby in Rainford, England (map). This came in response to social media statements made by a member of the St. Helens Council. The Councillor remarked, "As I say you are nimby’s," referring to members of the Rainford Action Group. The group opposed turning over some of the village’s green belt to developers to build more than a thousand homes. It cited loss of agricultural land and jobs, as well as "extra pressure on our roads, surgeries, dentists, drains, or schools." The battle raged on.


Devonport, Auckland, New Zealand


Aukland from Across the Bay
Auckland seen from Devonport. Photo by Jeremy Oakley on Flickr (cc)

The nimby phenomenon existed in New Zealand too. There I found Nimby wars: everyone’s a winner in Devonport, or are they? Ryman Healthcare wanted to build a retirement village on a vacant parcel in suburban Aukland, along the scenic Ngataringa Bay (map). Opponents didn’t so much care for the design aesthetics, and they also feared the impact on endangered plants. Plus they claimed it would cut the neighborhood in half. This situation seemed to have resulted in a happier ending than most. Ryman Healthcare agreed to a number of design changes that pleased most, although not all local residents.

Maybe I’ll run this experiment again in a few months and see how much the results change. Maybe I won’t.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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