Counting West Virginia, Day 2 (Progress)

On October 20, 2016 · 0 Comments

The rain that began the previous afternoon continued all night. It lifted, however, just as we began the first full day of our adventure. I probably would have headed to Pittsburgh’s two famous funiculars, the Duquesne Incline and the Monongahela Incline had I been alone. However I had my older son with me so I made a concession. He loved zoos and I wanted him to enjoy the trip too.

Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium

Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium

I can take-or-leave zoos although I admitted that the one in Pittsburgh was better than many we’ve seen. We arrived just as the gates opened at 9:00 am, the very first people admitted for the day. We toured the grounds mostly by ourselves that first hour. Many of the animals got their first meal right around opening so we managed to see most of them awake and active. The zoo also featured an aquarium, one of the few in the nation including both attractions in the same park. Naturally we saw every single exhibit in excruciating detail. I never complained as I kept up my best Good Dad behavior. I knew I’d bore him later with some of my geo-geek sites. We finally ran out of animals after about four hours.

My son felt happy to add another zoo map to his growing collection.

Onward to the Panhandle

Now I could focus on the real meat of the adventure, heading towards West Virginia’s northern panhandle to capture some new counties. I’d planned a short, simple drive for the day since I knew the zoo visit would consume a big chunk of it. First we hit Brooke County as we entered West Virginia on US Route 22. Then the highway took a slight northern jog near downtown Weirton, just nicking Hancock County before crossing back into Brooke and shooting across the Ohio River into Jefferson County, Ohio. I snagged three new counties in about five minutes. My elapsed time in Hancock lasted less than thirty seconds. It still counted!

I’ve been thinking about reader Brad Keller’s comment on my recent Northern Panhandle of West Virginia article. He said he’d heard that Weirton (map) might be the "the only city in the US that touched both the Eastern and Western border of their state." Reader January First-of-May offered Juneau, Alaska as another possibility, an option that I also considered. The Cairo, Illinois suggestion, however, hadn’t come to my mind and I thought it might be legitimate. I also thought of Laughlin, Nevada (map) bordering on California and Arizona. If I wanted to cheat I might also suggest the city of Washington in the District of Columbia. The boundaries were made coterminous in 1871, so by definition Washington touched all of the District’s borders.

Wheeling Our Car Down to Wheeling

Wheeling West Virginia Suspension Bridge
Wheeling Suspension Bridge
via Google Street View, October 2015

We remained on the Ohio side of the river on Route 7 — part of the Ohio River Scenic Byway — until to just outside of Wheeling. We crossed back into West Virginia, choosing to drive over the historic Wheeling Suspension Bridge (map) rather than using the standard Interstate Highway crossing. It was the largest suspension bridge in the world when constructed in 1849. Obviously the original designers didn’t envision vehicles heavier than horse-drawn wagons when they built it. That meant tight traffic controls in modern times: no trucks, buses or trailers. Cars needed to maintain 50 foot intervals. Traffic lights at either end restricted the number of cars on each pass. We crossed without any trouble in our little sedan.


West Virginia Independence Hall

The day went so well that we had time stop at West Virginia Independence Hall (map), a place that I mentioned previously. This time I could use one of my own photos in the article. Visitors guided themselves through the building although the docent offered a suggestion: start in the basement, take the elevator to the third floor and work back down to the first. That sounded fine so we started in the basement with an introductory video recounting how West Virginia became a state in 1863. I knew the story already so I spent more time paying attention to the actors than the events portrayed. The video must have been filmed in the late 1970’s because the hairy, bearded men all looked like the Bee Gees circa Saturday Night Fever. The women all sported poofy manes of that same era. The production values reminded me of a vintage episode of Little House on the Prairie. What was it about again?

The rest of the tour unfolded much more routinely. The third floor recreated the original courtroom where leaders of the day discussed their break from Virginia. The second floor contained an exhibit of various Civil War battle flags, and the first floor held all of their permanent exhibits. The restoration faithfully replicated every detail. Despite its historical significance, the building was allowed to fall into total disrepair in the Twentieth Century. It became a decayed hulk by the 1960’s. The restoration took decades, finally completed only a few years ago.

Stay tuned for more adventures in this series.

Presidential Layers

On September 8, 2016 · 2 Comments

Twelve Mile Circle discovered quite the layering of Presidential place names recently, completely by accident. I tried to find a better example during the larger part of an afternoon and never came close. Someone from the audience should feel free to post a comment with better results.

Washington State

Washington State Capitol
Washington State Capitol. Photo by dannymac15_1999 on Flickr (cc)

George Washington as the first President of the United States certainly deserved places named for him in abundance. He probably didn’t need Washington Ditch although I couldn’t fault those responsible for digging a path through a swamp for seizing the opportunity. New York City served as the US capital at George Washington’s inauguration in 1789 and it moved to Philadelphia the following year. In 1791, Washington appointed a commission to establish a new capital city in accordance with the Residence Act. The Commissioners came up with a new name for the city… Washington. I mentioned that because a really important place — namely the capital city of the United States — honored George Washington from the very earliest days of the nation.

Settlers moving to the Pacific Northwest north of the Columbia River wished to split from the previously-established Oregon Territory in 1853. They wanted to call their news state Columbia. Oregon Territory’s nonvoting representative in Congress took their case to the floor of the House of Representatives. Then things took a strange twist.

Upon the completion of Lane’s speech, a new issue was injected into the proceedings. Suddenly the question was not whether the new territory should be created, but what name it should be called. Representative Richard Stanton of Kentucky rose and moved that the bill be amended by striking the word "Columbia" wherever it occurred and substituting "Washington." The House then voted favorably on the motion.

Despite legends to the contrary, the change was actually just one of those things that happened on a whim. They weren’t trying to prevent confusion with the District of Columbia. Congress simply wanted to honor George Washington even more. Thus the US ended up with a Washington State (map) not a Columbia State.

Lincoln County

Lincoln County Courthouse (Davenport, Washington)
Lincoln County Courthouse (Davenport, Washington). Photo by cmh2315fl on Flickr (cc)

Washington State eventually subdivided into 39 counties. Several of them honored presidents other than Washington: Adams; Garfield; Grant; Lincoln; Jefferson and Pierce. Lincoln County (map) appeared in 1883, one of many places named for Abraham Lincoln in the US in the decades immediately following his assassination. The western states settled quickly during that era. Only Native Americans lived in what became Lincoln County a decade earlier.

"Wild Goose Bill" (Samuel Wilbur Condit) might have justly claimed the honor of being the first actual white settler of Lincoln County as he claims his advent into this country as a settler where the town of Wilbur now stands in 1875. Wilbur, named for its founder in 1887, was incorporated in 1889. While out hunting Mr. Condit once mistook a settler’s poultry and shot a fat gander. Ever after he was known as "Wild Goose Bill". Before he platted and named Wilbur, his trading place was known as "Goosetown".

I liked that some guy accidentally shot a neighbor’s goose and they stuck him with a lifelong nickname. People on the frontier could be cruel.

Lincoln (community)

Lincoln, Washington

Within Lincoln County I found a community of Lincoln. Sure, I’d prefer another president instead of the repetitious Lincoln. That didn’t happen. Lincoln County honored no presidents other than Lincoln although the notion of a President Fishtrap intrigued me. So I took what I could get. Nothing much distinguished the community of Lincoln beyond an RV Park/Campground and a post office with its own ZIP code (99147). It’s possible to send mail to people living in Lincoln, WA 99147.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Lake

Actually one thing distinguished the tiny community of Lincoln. It stood on the banks of Franklin Delano Roosevelt Lake.

Lake Roosevelt formed as a result of the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River (map). Construction began in 1933 at the beginning of the Roosevelt Administration and it took nine years to build. Its massive reservoir stretched 150 miles (240 kilometres), and the dam produces more electricity than any other facility in the United States even today. The President didn’t name the lake after himself, though. That happened after he died. I don’t know if this was the first place named for Roosevelt after his death although it had to be somewhere near the top of the list. Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes selected the name only five days after Roosevelt died.

The spectacular presidential layering to beat in this silly competition: Roosevelt Lake, with the community of Lincoln on its shores, in the county of Lincoln in the state of Washington.

Venice of Whatever

On September 4, 2016 · 4 Comments

I kept running into places that compared themselves to Venice as I uncovered canal superlatives. Literally dozens of places described themselves that way. It made things easy for Twelve Mile Circle too. I could select whatever examples I wanted today because I couldn’t possibly cover them all. That seemed like an excellent opportunity to create some push-pins in lower density areas of the 12MC Complete Index Map. Right, India?

Gondolas, Venice
Gondolas, Venice. Photo by Kevin Gibbons on Flickr (cc)

Realizing all these claimants existed, of course only one true Venice prevailed amongst the poseurs, the deservedly famous one in Italy (map). It seemed like an odd location for a city, scattered along a string of islands in a marshy lagoon at the mouth of a couple of rivers. The founders selected this unlikely site intentionally. The marsh offered refuge to Christians fleeing southward away from Germanic tribes as the Roman Empire crumbled. Their city grew over the centuries. Eventually it became an important economic hub and a naval power. Venice only had so much land however, and an overabundance of water, leading to the beautiful canals that visitors treasure today.

Kashmiri Venice

India - Dal lake, Srinagar, Kashmir
India – Dal lake, Srinagar, Kashmir. Photo by travel photography on Flickr (cc)

I decided to completely side-step the ongoing geopolitical situation of the Kashmir conflict. The focus remained on a city with an alleged resemblance to Venice contained within its larger borders. Srinagar (map) came under Indian control and that seemed alright for my purposes. The city claimed to be a "Kashmiri Venice" or even more boldly the "Venice of the East." At least a dozen other places also proclaimed themselves to be the true Venice of the East. I didn’t know how to rank them although I felt secure that Srinagar should be considered at least the Kashmiri Venice. That felt safe.

Srinagar fell within the Jammu and Kashmir state at the very northern tip of India. Jammu and Kashmir itself included an interesting geo-oddity. It had both a summer and a winter capital. Srinagar served as the capital during the warmer months and then it jumped to Jammu for the winter. I couldn’t figure why or how that worked. It seemed strange to move the capital nearly 300 kilometres (180 miles) twice a year. And I’ve complained about moving the hands of a clock twice a year. That little tangent had nothing to do with canals in Srinagar so I supposed I need to get back on track.

The Jhelum River ran through Srinagar on its way to the Indus River. A series of canals, both current and historical, prevented flooding and regulated water levels. They also connected two large bodies of water, Dal Lake and Anchar Lake, as well as several smaller ones. The city became known for its majestic waterside Mughal architecture, its wonderful parks and its iconic houseboats. All of those conditions underlied its claim.

Venice of the Netherlands

Giethoorn in the Overijssel province of the Netherlands also featured a network of interlaced canals and an abundance of water.

It is so peaceful, so different and has such simple beauty that it hardly seems real – gently gliding along small canals past old but pretty thatched-roof farmhouses… Giethoorn is at the centre of Overijssel’s canal system. Indeed, the little village is so dependent on its waterways, many of the houses cannot be reached by road. When the postman delivers the mail he travels by punt.

Giethoorn made some pretty bold claims too. Some called Giethoorn (map) the "Venice of the Netherlands" and others extended it even farther to "Venice of the North." I think the fine folks in Amsterdam might question either claim although that hardly seemed to stop little Giethoorn from drawing its line in the sand.

It looked like something out of a fairy tale. Were there any trolls under those bridges?

Venice of America

Venice? In America?
Venice? In America?. Photo by Landon on Flickr (cc)

Florida featured an entire city of Venice although nobody called it the "Venice of America," or even the "Venice of Florida." It got its name in the 1880’s and even the city itself admitted that a couple of early settlers simply picked the name. Venice didn’t have any more or any fewer canals than other coastal cities in Florida. A completely different Florida location claimed to be the Venice of America; Fort Lauderdale (map). The city featured "65 miles of interconnected canals" spanned by 52 separate bridges. Cruises and water taxis delighted many tourists who flocked there.

A Special Note

The nation of Venezuela might be the most significant Venetian namesake. Most sources agreed that Amerigo Vespucci, navigator for the Alonso de Ojeda expedition of 1499 bestowed the name. Supposedly he noticed stilt houses built upon Lake Maracaibo that reminded him of the Italian City so he named it Veneziola ("Little Venice"). This became Venezuela when filtered through Spanish. Amerigo fared even better however, with a little corner of the world known as America named in his honor.

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