Penciling-In Reagan

On February 22, 2011 · 3 Comments

I discussed the erasure of Martin Van Buren from geographic features as his popularity waned during the Nineteenth Century. Interestingly the opposite phenomenon seems to be happening with a more modern historical figure, Ronald Reagan, whose stock continues to climb as the years progress. His February 6, 1911, birthday generated great publicity on its 100th anniversary, breathing new life into efforts to enshrine his name upon the landscape.

The Ronald Reagan Legacy Project (RRLP) has a bold mission to "honor the legacy of our 40th President through the naming of roads, schools, buildings, and other sites"… "with a memorial in every county in America." Feasible or not, and depending on how one defines a county, it would mean a minimum of 3,143 features named for Ronald Reagan.

The RRLP has identified 107 dedications in the United States as of the time I’ve posted this entry, which they’ve located conveniently on an interactive Google Map. Some of the markers seem to be considerably off from their true geographic locations but I still had a fine time clicking through them.

Let’s take a closer look at a small number of examples by type.

Airport



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As highlighted on their website, "The first project and arguably the most notable project the RRLP has participated in is the naming of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) in 1998." I remember this well from that time. The renaming took place over the objections of local government officials.

This is a geo-blog not a politics blog so I’m not going to take sides on this action. I will note that depending on one’s political bent that this could be interpreted as (1) a fitting memorial garnished with a delicious “in your face” to the People’s Republic of Arlington; or (2) a strong-armed tactic contrasting sharply with Reagan’s “New Federalism” ideal, which favored the devolution of power away from the Federal government. Either way I’m not particularly interested in sparking a debate so let’s any keep commentary respectful. That way I won’t have to delete anything from the moderation queue.


Road



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One of the more common remembrances appears to be the naming of roads in Reagan’s honor. This example highlights Ronald Reagan Boulevard, in Longwood, Florida. There are millions of roads so there are millions of opportunities to either change an existing name, or provide a designation for a new road. This method of honoring the former President probably has the smallest hassle factor.


School



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This one is a double-bonus. Not only does San Antonio, Texas, have a Ronald Reagan High School but it’s located on Ronald Regan Drive. Both were new construction to serve the needs of a burgeoning suburb. Not too surprisingly, the feeder school for Reagan H.S. is Bush Middle School [map]. However, there’s a twist. It’s named not for George H. W. Bush (Reagan’s Vice President) but for his wife, Barbara Bush.


Medical Center



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The University of California, Los Angeles has the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. All manner of celebrities have been treated here. I suppose it’s a particularly appropriate legacy for someone who gained fame as an actor before turning to politics.

There aren’t any towns or counties named for Reagan that I could find but I imagine it’s only a matter of time. There are plenty of places named for obscure 19th Century politicians that nobody seems to care about so maybe we’ve found an opportunity to replace them with more relevant figures from across the political spectrum.

On February 22, 2011 · 3 Comments

3 Responses to “Penciling-In Reagan”

  1. Steve says:

    I suppose it depends on the level of honorarium these Reagan people want. Here in CT, I can think of two.

    In Fairfield County at the Fairfield History Center, there stand the very desk that President Ronald Reagan signed the Chimon-Island Wildlife Refuge Bill in 1984! It has a shiny plaque and everything. (You can see it here.)

    In Litchfield County, there’s an even better one. At the estate of William F. Buckley (“The Elms”), there is a rock in the front yard. But not just any rock! This rock has a handsome plaque on it noting that one Ronald Reagan played touch football on that very lawn at some point in history. I’m sorry I don’t have a link (yet) for that one.

  2. Ariel says:

    I know George Washington University in Washington DC has the Ronald Reagan Institute of Emergency Medicine (http://www.gwemed.edu/reagan/reagan_institute.aspx). The name is especially appropriate as Reagan was brought to the emergency room at GW after he was shot by Hinckley. Also, there is a Reagan County in Texas, but it appears to be named for a fomer Confederate postmaster general and the first chairman of the Railroad Commission of Texas.

  3. Peter says:

    My candidate for the most ill-advised name change of recent years was New York’s decision to change the name of the Triboro Bridge to the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge. It was just plain wrong on many counts. Kennedy had no real connection to New York that would merit such an honor. Although he represented New York in the Senate, everyone understood it was a carpetbagger arrangement; Kennedy rented an apartment in Manhattan to serve as his legal residence for qualification purposes but made no pretense of actually living there. There’s also the question of why the city waited until four decades after Kennedy’s death to make the name change. Finally, the Triboro name was uniquely appropriate because it described what the bridge actually did, namely connect three boroughs.

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