Public Street

On April 16, 2013 · 16 Comments

I run into various oddities as I prepare 12MC articles so I catalog them and pack them away for future exploration. This happened recently as I compiled International Capitals in the USA. I poked around a promising area in Brooksville, Florida and found something completely unexpected. A street called Public Street.



View Larger Map

This struck me as absurd. Wouldn’t just about any street clearly marked with an identifying name, lacking a No Trespassing warning or a chain across its width, generally be considered a public street? Doesn’t naming a public street "Public Street" feel completely redundant? That logic led me to proclaim that Public Street was the lamest, laziest street name on the planet.

Except that there are OTHER Public Streets and variations on that same theme! And how did I respond?



View Public Streets in a larger map

… by creating a map of every Public Street, Road, Avenue, Way, Lane, Circle, or Highway that I could find. I think there are 36 separate instances on the map, give-or-take. I don’t think the list is exhaustive by any means. Google Maps makes it very difficult to find streets with the same name. There isn’t any feasibility ability to query data comprehensively. I could only type in "Public St." and other variations into the search bar to see what Google recommended as autofill options.



Old Public Road Leads to… Public Road

The autofill algorithm appeared to favor locations closer to the geographic starting point of the search. Thus, I repeated searches in various places spread throughout the country, hoping to tease out additional examples. I noticed heavy concentrations in Illinois and New Jersey. However I doubt that those clusters represent true concentrations, and may more accurately reflect the peculiarities of Google’s autofill.



They Call This Clever?!?

I had several favorites:

  • Brooksville, Florida – the aforementioned Brooksville also had an Easy Street nearby. Originality, apparently wasn’t their strong suit. (map)
  • Evansville, IL – Public Street had a public library so I think I should cut them a little slack (map)
  • Winslow, IN – Public Street intersected with E. North Street (map). I’ve mentioned other instances like this on 12MC before. How can it be both east and north at the same time? Usually it’s because the street was named after someone with the surname North but it still amuses me.
  • Wheeling, WV – The city deserves accolades for being uninspired for multiple generations because Public Road adjoins a different street named Old Public Road. (map)
  • Epping, NH – Public Circle isn’t a circle, and in fact I’m not even sure it’s a road (map)
  • Bellmore, NY – Public Highway by no means resembles a highway (map)
  • Clever, MO – If people in Clever are so clever, then why couldn’t they come up with something more original than Public Avenue? (map). I also noticed Mop Rd. and Old Wire Rd., so it’s not helping them make their case for cleverness.

  • Completely Unrelated

    I don’t use a GPS blindly as a crutch. I have a good sense of direction, a general idea of where I’m heading before I ever get into a car, and I keep paper backup maps available just in case. Still, it’s nice to have a GPS calling out turns and street directions at appropriate times.

    My old trusty Garmin Nuvi GPS that I’ve used on many of the roadtrips featured on 12MC finally wore out the other day. I wondered what I would find to replace it. In desperation, and to help me get to a work-related meeting in a distant suburb yesterday, I decided to try Google Navigation on my Android phone. Wow. That worked great: nice turn-by-turn instructions, no annoying "recalculating" in a snooty voice; and a familiar set of maps. It looks like I found my replacement — wish I’d tried it a lot earlier although I didn’t really have much of a reason until the Nuvi died.

    On April 16, 2013 · 16 Comments

    16 Responses to “Public Street”

    1. Pfly says:

      Old Wire Road is pretty famous, in a small way at least,
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Wire_Road
      but I noted some other “clever” street names in Clever, like Little Ave, Hill Rd, Drive St. …Drive Street??

    2. Peter says:

      You’ve got me sufficiently curious about Public Highway in Bellmore that I might just have to scope it out one of these days. For the next week and a half I’ll be working at a site that’s not too far away, so I might as well take advantage of the opportunity.

      I’m going to hazard a guess and say that Public Highway actually has a different name, but for some reason the official Town of Hempstead maps (upon which Google Maps relied) show it as “Public Highway,” perhaps following a relatively recent conversion to a public thoroughfare from a private road.

    3. Ken Saldi says:

      You missed South Public Road in Lafayette, CO. It has a T intersection with Baseline Road which is the 40th Parallel. I used to live about 3 blocks from that intersection.

    4. David Overton says:

      I have another contender for “laziest street name”: No Name Street
      http://www.flickr.com/photos/electropod/3279945904/

    5. Oh, forgot to mention a couple of other features in my haste: you can speak your address into the phone; and it puts a Street View image on the screen when you arrive at your destination. Both are nice touches.

    6. Bob says:

      I searched around and found quite a few lazy, redundant, and contradicting streets with names such as Street Drive (http://goo.gl/maps/ieTiL), Drive Road (http://goo.gl/maps/I7A9H), Street Avenue (http://goo.gl/maps/0zEuV), and Avenue Lane (http://goo.gl/maps/sXoJB). There’s also Road Road (http://goo.gl/maps/Zq2Tu) and Street Street (http://goo.gl/maps/n3kuD).

    7. Bill Harris says:

      My favorite “lazy street ” name is a major secondary road in the Philadelphia suburbs: Street Road.

      http://goo.gl/maps/JDhCk

      • dwberry says:

        I live on the Street Road west of Philadelphia (State Route 926). When we bought our house, the stream that passes through a corner of our lot was referenced in our deed as “Stream Creek.”

        Actually, Street Road has an interesting history: it was developed as one of William Penn’s wilderness roads back in the 1700’s, ostensibly to connect Quaker meeting houses from Philadelphia out to various western Quaker settlements.

        Even though “Street” is a relatively common surname in the Philadelphia area, I don’t think, and cannot confirm, that this road is named after anyone. So, indeed, it seems that this early historical road has a truly generic, unoriginal name.

    8. Matt says:

      Directional street names (North Street, South Street, etc.) in many communities were boundaries of sorts when the towns were built. North Street would’ve been at or near the northern edge of town at the time. Therefore, a street running east-west. So, East North Street and West North Street.

      I use Google Navigation on my Android as well. No need for a dedicated GPS device; it works great.

    9. David Kozina says:

      Now, if only you could find a “John Quincy” living on one of them!

    10. Matthew says:

      Here’s another No Name road in the Florida Keys: http://prullmw.xanga.com/photos/fa228228890494

    11. hipsterdoofus says:

      In Oklahoma county we have hogback road and triple X road

    12. Greg says:

      Boston’s Back Bay, which is unfortunately in the news recently for all the wrong reasons, has an extensive system of public alleys, which are called Public Alley #(whatever). It appears that way both on maps and on the street signs.

    13. Peter says:

      Earlier today I moseyed on down to take a look at Bellmore’s “Public Highway.” There actually is a street sign with that moniker, so contrary to my prior belief I believe Public Highway really is its official name.

      While I’m guessing a bit here, I have what I believe is a fairly likely explanation for the unusual name. Public Highway runs east from Bellmore Avenue for about 150 feet, then gradually turns south for about the same distance and dead-ends at the gate for what seems to be an old boatyard. There is one house on the street, an older structure right before the gate. A narrow residential street, North Road, intersects with Public Highway just east of Bellmore Avenue. As North Road is one-way northbound all cars exiting the street must turn onto Public Highway.

      What’s noteworthy about Public Highway, okay beside its name, is that it’s wide, looks new, and has perpendicular parking spots on its north and east sides. People parked in those spots have a nice view of Bellmore Canal (actually an inlet of the Great South Bay) and a nearby marina.

      Okay, after all this chatter, here’s my theory: what is now called Public Highway was, until quite recently, a long private driveway serving the aforementioned house and the old boatyard. North Road did not connect to it and carried two-way traffic, though after driving on it all I can say it must’ve been a *very* tight squeeze. Not long ago, for reasons I don’t know, the Town of Hempstead made the driveway a public street, widened it considerably, added the perpendicular parking, and lengthened North Road to intersect with it.

      Why the strange name? What might be a clue is that when you look at Public Highway from Bellmore Avenue it doesn’t look like a roadway at all. Given its width and the nonstandard parking arrangement it looks like a private parking lot for Villa d’Acqua, an Italian restaurant (3.5 stars on Yelp) located on the corner with Bellmore Avenue. So it could be that calling the roadway Public Highway, complete with sign, is a way of making it clear that yes, this a public highway, and you can drive and park on it.

      • Thank you Peter. And dear readers, this is a primary reason why I enjoy writing 12MC. I posted a few amusing street names to the Intertubes a few days ago that created a mini-adventure for someone living hundreds of miles away, who then visited the site in the real world and reported the results back to us. Made my day. 🙂

    14. Gary says:

      One of my favorites is here in downtown Orlando, Florida. The street is called South Street (it is on the very southern edge of downtown), and it runs east-west. Since the street crosses the middle of downtown, it is seperated into East South Street and West South Street. Orlando City Hall is just to the south (oddly enough) of South Street, and the street that City Hall is on is the dividing line between east and west.

      Interestingly, the old city hall was blown up and used as the opening scene for the movie Lethal Weapon 3. I copied and pasted below what I found in the wikipedia article about the demolition of the building:

      Demolition scene

      In the film’s first scene, Riggs accidentally sets off a bomb that destroys the ICSI Building. The ICSI Building is actually the former City Hall building of Orlando, Florida. The entire scene was filmed in Downtown Orlando, at the intersection of Orange Avenue and South Street. From August to October 1991, the production crew fitted the old Orlando City Hall building featured in the opening scene with carefully placed explosives to create the visual effect of a bomb explosion. Bill Frederick, the mayor of Orlando, Florida, was the policeman who sarcastically claps and said “Bravo!” to Murtaugh and Riggs after the explosion. Warner Bros. decided to use the demolition of the building in the film, and as a result paid for the demolition.

      The building was demolished so that it would collapse slightly forward (toward Orange Avenue), minimizing the chances of it damaging the new City Hall building, built directly behind it. The space was cleared out and became a plaza for the new City Hall, with a fountain and a monument.

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