Short Distance Namesakes

Something has been bothering me since I mentioned the town of Washington, Virginia recently in Flip-Flopping. It claims to be the oldest town named for George Washington, platted by none other than George Washington himself in 1749. I noted that it’s often called Little Washington to differentiate it from nearby Washington, DC which dates to 1791. "Little" Washington is only 68.7 miles (111 kilometres) from "Big" Washington according to Google Maps. Was this the closest distance between two towns that share the same name?

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Washington to Washington

It was not, by the way, but I’ll get to that later.

I began by establishing some ground rules.

  1. The names had to arise independently although they could originate from a common source. Both Washingtons were named for George Washington. Clearly the city of Washington was not named for the little village in rural Virginia, though.
  2. They could not be part of the same basic metropolitan area. Kansas City (Missouri/Kansas), St. Louis – East St. Louis (Missouri/Illinois), Niagara Falls (New York/Ontario) and similar occurrences were specifically excluded. See how I crossed an international boundary on that last one? Right. The two Congos fell into this same category and I tossed that possibility from consideration too (plus, they’re countries not towns).
  3. They both had to be "meaningful" places. That was subjective. I defined it to mean that they both had to appear as labeled places on Google Maps. In the event of an approximate tie I would consider it better if each town was large enough to have a government and a web presence. Washington, Virginia is the seat of government for Rappahannock County in addition to being a town in its own right, for example.
  4. Google Maps would also serve as the final arbiter of distance using simple queries such as "Washington, VA to Washington, DC." No lat/long coordinates or street addresses could be used to shorten distances.

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Greenville to Greenville

I began by consulting Wikipedia’s list of the most common U.S. place names and I figured I’d start with those found in Rhode Island. None of those towns would be very far from a state border by definition. The same would hold true, relatively speaking, for neighboring Connecticut and Massachusetts. That winnowed the list down to Greenville, Riverside, Kingston and Newport for Rhode Island. I didn’t get any cross-border cooperation, though. Nonetheless and to my surprise, Greenville, Rhode Island to Greenville, New Hampshire — crossing through the entire width of Massachusetts — scored very well at 79.6 miles (128 km).

I also uncovered an odd Google Maps glitch, and I’m not sure if it was specific to me or whether it will be repaired before someone else attempts it. I tried to route from "Greenville, NH to Greenville, VT" and it calculated a 0.4 mile path to Panda Wok. I wonder how much Panda Wok paid Google for that nifty little trick?

Then I started getting a weird sense of déjà vu, like maybe I’d already published this article before. That possibility dawned on me as I examined other common town names on the list, particularly Franklin. I worry about the day that it will happen, and believe me it will happen someday. I now have several hundred articles under my belt and it’s hard to keep them all straight. Today is not that day. I searched my archives and found that two Franklins appeared in The Jeffersons and Beyond in a different context with a distance of 102 miles (164 km) between them.

While I was at it I also observed Washington, Maryland on the list and compared it to Washington, DC. It did almost as well as Washington, VA, at 69.7 miles (112 km); only a mile farther! (map). Mostly though, the list was a bust.

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Lens to Lens

Then I transitioned to the desperation method. That involved looking near state and provincial borders for similar towns, and failing that, moving on to national boundaries. Languages tend to slop across European borders so maybe I could find something there. I spotted Lens in northern France and focused on it only because it was a short name. Could there be a Lens in Belgium. Yes, and the distance between them was 66.5 miles (107 km).

I found the best answer of the day completely by luck.

Now I turn the challenge over to the wise and all-knowing 12MC audience. I think there has to be better occurrences, probably numerous ones, that meet the four basic criteria.

28 Replies to “Short Distance Namesakes”

  1. In NJ we have 2 Washington Townships and one Washington. One of the Washington Townships is about 11 miles from Washington, NJ. There is also a Washington’s Crossing (I believe both in NJ and PA).

  2. How about Laredo, TX and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico? Though considering the “Nuevo” added to the Mexican city, and the fact that you might be able to consider them part of the same metropolitan area because they touch, it may not count.

      1. Yeah, I had the Calders in mind, but left them off since they’re derived from the same place – it’s the original estate name?

  3. O’Fallon, Missouri and O’Fallon Illinois are less than 50 miles away from each other but they are both considered part of the St. Louis Metropolitan area. Does that still count?

    1. Just to give it an official entry, O’Fallon, Missouri and O’Fallon, Illinois are 48.8 Miles apart per Google Maps. Both cities were named for railroad executive Colonel John O’Fallon (whom is also the nephew of William Clark). While they share a name and are both technically suburbs of St. Louis (which may cause disqualification by your rules), the names are somewhat coincidental. The Missouri one was named by a friend of O’Fallon while the Illinois one was named after his railroad put a depot there. Because of this, I believe they should qualify.

  4. Holland has a lot of towns called Beek. Beek means stream or run, so it’s not surprising that there are a few of those around in the watery lowlands.

    There is technically only one (city of) Beek left because of during the last decade or two, the national government in the Netherlands has merged many villages together. It is hard to compare to US equivalents, but many of those merged cities work as unincorporated counties in the US. They have a new name (often some merger of the important localities), and the former villages remain as “suburbs” of the larger “city”. Much like Springfield is a city in the county of Fairfax in VA with its own county representative. The villages keep their official borders on the map, and entry signs.

    But, let’s start with the international one.

    Beek, BE to Beek, NL: 145 km,+be+to+beek,+nl&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&sa=N&tab=wl

    Then the many Dutch Beeken:

    Beek (Ubbergen), NL to Beek, NL: 128 km,+The+Netherlands+to+Beek,+NL&saddr=Beek+(Ubbergen),+The+Netherlands&daddr=Beek,+NL&hl=en&sll=51.750839,5.636673&sspn=0.289912,0.662613&geocode=FdXaFgMdOHdaACmbxyFvnQnHRzE5stBxVCrieQ%3BFVUuCQMdQIBYACkL7-Hf3MDARzHCt1pRGNxRvw&t=m&z=9

    Example city sign:,+The+Netherlands&hl=en&ll=51.832875,5.925246&spn=0.001137,0.002588&sll=51.829572,5.943346&sspn=0.036176,0.082827&hnear=Beek,+Ubbergen,+Gelderland,+The+Netherlands&t=m&z=19&layer=c&cbll=51.832875,5.925246&panoid=BOfTD-Nr-oWtAKuoTpR1Tw&cbp=12,173.84,,0,0.84

    Beek (Montferland), NL to Beek, NL: 102km,+The+Netherlands+to+Beek,+NL&saddr=Beek+(Montferland),+The+Netherlands&daddr=Beek,+NL&hl=en&sll=51.511734,5.666199&sspn=0.072861,0.165653&geocode=Fd8LGAMd6nJeACmNLq4dNpzHRzFvCO8zm7C9dw%3BFVZVEgMdJvlVAClNiMvx6SHHRzEwXxpJc92KSw&t=m&z=10

    Beek (en Donk), NL to Beek, NL: 79km,+nl&daddr=Beek,+NL&hl=en&sll=51.511734,5.666199&sspn=0.072861,0.165653&geocode=FVZVEgMdJvlVAClNiMvx6SHHRzEwXxpJc92KSw%3BFVUuCQMdQIBYACkL7-Hf3MDARzHCt1pRGNxRvw&mra=ls&t=m&z=9

    Beek (Ubbergen) to Beek (Venray), NL: 47km,+The+Netherlands+to+Beek,+Venray,+The+Netherlands&saddr=Beek-Ubbergen,+The+Netherlands&daddr=Beek,+Venray,+The+Netherlands&hl=en&ll=51.681922,5.914764&spn=0.580709,1.325226&sll=51.832875,5.925246&sspn=0.001137,0.002588&geocode=FdXaFgMdOHdaACmbxyFvnQnHRzE5stBxVCrieQ%3BFY1gEgMdE69aACnr2Ld-YRXHRzG6ChBGuO40Xw&oq=Beek-Ubbergen,+The+Netherlands+to+beek+venray&doflg=ptk&t=m&z=10

    Beek (Ubbergen), NL to Beek (Montferland) NL: 44km,+The+Netherlands+to+Beek,+Montferland,+NL&saddr=Beek-Ubbergen,+The+Netherlands&daddr=Beek,+Montferland,+NL&hl=en&sll=51.38173,5.970055&sspn=1.169102,2.650452&geocode=FdXaFgMdOHdaACmbxyFvnQnHRzE5stBxVCrieQ%3BFd8LGAMd6nJeACmNLq4dNpzHRzFvCO8zm7C9dw&oq=Beek+(Ubbergen),+The+Netherlands+to+Beek+(Mon,+NL&t=m&z=11

    Beek (Asten), NL to Beek (Venray), NL: 28km,+The+Netherlands+to+Beek,+Venray,+The+Netherlands&saddr=Beek+asten,+The+Netherlands&daddr=Beek,+Venray,+The+Netherlands&hl=en&sll=51.68054,5.91457&sspn=0.580731,1.325226&geocode=FbFZEAMdZblXACEfHjQk3RRe3Sl3ofufzzrHRzEfHjQk3RRe3Q%3BFY1gEgMdE69aACnr2Ld-YRXHRzG6ChBGuO40Xw&t=m&z=12

  5. While it doesn’t count under your rules because the former is not an actual municipality, honorable mention should go to Inwood, NY (Manhattan) –> Inwood, NY (Nassau County), as it’s possible to cover the 31-mile distance on a single subway line, with about a 5-minute walk at one end.

  6. There was a relatively funny case, when Russian Wikipedia tried to get an official naming convention for geographic places, that someone found two different villages of the same name in the Ukraine that have been part of the same lowest-level subdivision (i.e. the level just above village) since as long as could be determined. Led to serious problems as to what to name the articles so that they’re still different 🙂 (ended up as “larger” and “smaller” – 86 and 18 inhabitants respectively).
    Just made a route between them on Google Maps (long/lat of course – what else I would disambiguate them by?) and it came down to 28.4 km even with the incredibly circuitous path:

    Fun fact: there’s a village of Moskva in Tver Oblast (I’ve visited it in 2005). Unfortunately, it apparently doesn’t appear on Google Maps (nor does it have an article in Russian Wikipedia, other than a link on the disambiguation page). Then again, it’s not really that close to the large city either (easily well over 100 miles).

  7. Just discovered that the Dutch village of Putte is not only Dutch but also Belgian (it lies within the municipality of Kapellen). So the distance is even slightly shorter: Putte (municipality), Belgium to Putte (Kapellen), Belgium – distance: 58.3 km/36.2 mi or 50.9 km/31.6 mi (shorter route).

  8. That Greenville VT is kind of odd, so, I looked into it: Google maps actually looks for:
    greenville, near Vermont. So it looks “near Vermont” and then greenville, and picks from a bunch of “places”. Panda Wok is the one with the most reviews, the other ones are the police dept, church, selectmens office, etc.

  9. I know it won’t count for this competition, but upon searching for examples that did qualify, I came across the case of Union City, Indiana and Ohio. There’s a very interesting story (see link below) about how a border dispute between the towns due to a colonial era surveying error…,3430175. May be worth an article of its own if more info can be gathered on it.

  10. I found 38.9 miles for Union Township, NJ (in Hunterdon County) to Union Township, NJ (in Union County). New Jersey is also home to five Washington Townships (one each in Bergen, Burlington, Gloucester, Morris and Warren Counties). The Washingtons in Morris and Warren counties are only 12.5 miles apart. To add to the confusion, Warren County is also home to a Washington Borough (completely surrounded by Washington Township). Google has Washington Borough in Warren County is only 11.5 miles from Washington Township in Morris County.

  11. The one that immediately springs to mind is two places called Cymer (which means “the confluence” in Welsh) in the South Wales Valleys. Cymer (Afan) to Cymer (Rhondda) is only 16.1 miles:

    But Wales seems to be particularly good at duplicate placenames: too many saints, too many descriptions of geographical features. I’m sure Cymer and Cymer can be easily bested. In fact, here’s a better one already — Broughton, Flintshire, and Broughton, Wrexham, just 10 miles apart (and presumably the subject of substantial confusion, as the former is a relatively significant place with an aircraft factory):

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