California Tangential

Article research doesn’t always go as smoothly or as cleanly as one might imagine. I fall headlong into rabbit holes, sometimes finding inspiration for future articles that continue the cycle. Rarely, however, do I find the sheer volume of factual oddities I encountered while investigating places "Outside of California." I supposed it was enough to create a nice entry for the ongoing series of Odds and Ends that appear sporadically on Twelve Mile Circle, however I decided to call it California Tangential to honor its source instead.

Hooray for Hollywood

California was notable for so many things although perhaps best known for Hollywood, at least from a worldwide cultural perspective. Appropriately, the California locality in southern Maryland referenced in the previous article practically abutted another settlement named Hollywood. Only 6.3 miles (10 kilometers) separated Hollywood from California. This happy juxtaposition was completely coincidental:

It was named in 1867, when a storeowner at Thompson’s General Store near the Uniontown section of Hollywood required a name for the post office inside the store. The storeowner was inspired by the gigantic holly tree planted in front of the store and named the post office Hollywood.

The Hollywood in Maryland (map) predated it’s California cousin by more than twenty years as well as the movie industry’s establishment on the west coast by nearly half a century. Still, it put a smile on my face to imagine the possibility of a Patuxent River Walk of Fame.

Coney Island

Coney Island 003
Coney Island 003 by Jeremy Thompson on Flickr (cc)

I found another bait-and-switch at the California neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio. It seemed strange that they select a name from the west coast. A later entrepreneur drew his inspiration from the opposite coast in an attempt to recreate New York’s Coney Island.

In time for the opening on June 21, 1886, the name was officially changed to "Ohio Grove, The Coney Island of the West" in an effort to link the park with the famous New York destination. Fortunate enough to be on a riverfront location, riverboat soon became the most popular method of transportation for park visitors. In 1887, "Ohio Grove" was completely dropped from the name as the park became known simply as "Coney Island."

The attraction still exists. However, just as California, Ohio fell short of its original namesake, so too did its Coney Island (map).


Jackass Flat, Victoria, Australia

I’m too easily amused. I smirked when I spied Jackass Flat adjacent to California Gully in Victoria, Australia. Jackass Flat simply sounded silly because I lacked decorum and maturity. At least people elsewhere had the good sense to change their Jackass to something slightly more sensible. Pity the 224 people who lived in Jackass Flat. Still it could have been a lot worse as I was reminded by an 1860 book I uncovered, Two Years in Victoria

In our walk through the diggings, we could not help noting the names of places and signs as indications of the character of mind of the people who give such names — Jackass Flat, Donkey Gully, Dead horse Gully, Sheepshead Gully, Tinpot Gully, Job’s Gully, Poverty Gully, and Piccaninny Gullies without end. These however are not quite so bad as Murderer’s Flat and Chokem Gully.

I agreed that Murderer’s Flat would have been dreadful. Chokem Gully had a nice ring to it though, ignoring what it actually referenced.

California and Chicago Flip-Flop

California Renovated (Your New Blue)
California Renovated (Your New Blue) by cta web on Flickr (cc)

I found a California Avenue in Chicago. Actually I’d known about the California station (map) on the Chicago Transit Authority’s Blue Line for many years because I’d passed it many times taking the train from O’Hare International Airport. I didn’t realize that the station was named for a street until now, though. Conversely there was a Chicago (actually several of them) in California. The most well known may have been Port Chicago, on Suisun Bay northeast of San Francisco (map). It was the site of the horrific "Port Chicago Disaster"

Port Chicago… was developed into a munitions facility when the Naval Ammunition Depot at Mare Island, California, could not fully supply the war effort. By the summer of 1944, expansion of the Port Chicago facility allowed for loading two ships at once around the clock. The Navy units assigned to the dangerous loading operations were generally segregated African-American units…. Approximately 320 workers were on or near the pier when, at 10:18 p.m., a series of massive explosions over several seconds destroyed everything and everyone in the vicinity.

These events exposed racial inequalities in the U.S. Navy although reforms took many more years. Port Chicago also no longer exists. The government declared eminent domain in 1968 and tore it down to create a safety buffer zone.

Back to the United Kingdom

I’d forgotten about an English California featured previously on 12MC in Wrong Side of the Atlantic. Then another California appeared in Ipswich (map) courtesy of a comment posted by reader Mark. He also provided a document link with much more information about the Ipswich California. That led me to examine the Gazetteer of British Place Names for more California locations. It included several; five in England and one in Scotland. I was surprised by the prevalence.

Island Became Mainland

Twelve Mile Circle is always up for a good challenge. Loyal reader Greg laid-down the gauntlet yesterday in the friendliest way possible of course, on Largest Artificial Islands: "A more common phenomenon, surely, must be islands joined to a mainland by landfill. So what about the opposite of this post, the largest former islands?" I became completely fixated, naturally. The original article I planned for this evening will just have to wait a couple of days while I focus my energy on this all-important question.

I established some ground rules. First, I assumed any landfill joining an island to the mainland would have to be man-made to keep it within the spirit of the previous article. Otherwise 12MC’s article on tombolos could be a nice starting point, or maybe I’d flag the ephemeral islands of the now dessicated Aral Sea. Second I assumed that "former island" meant that the original landmass still existed albeit as part of a larger landmass. If one took "largest former island" too literally, one might consider islands that had sunk below the surface of the sea.(¹) and I didn’t want to deal with that. Third, I discarded bridges, causeways and tunnels. The island had to be substantially integrated within surrounding terrain, not attached solely to it by a dirt trail, a ribbon of asphalt or a set of tracks. Otherwise I’d point to the Chunnel, make Great Britain part of Continental Europe and call it a day.

This challenge proved much more difficul than I imagined. I had trouble crafting effective search queries that eliminated false positives and faux connections, particularly those pesky bridges and causeways. I found that variations on "land reclamation" were the most powerful queries although they created so many results that it was difficult to separate legitimate island wheat from the greater preponderance of mainland chaff. Given that, one should not be surprised by examples I found in areas with significant land reclamation projects.

I also couldn’t determine a "largest" former island because sites tended to focus less on the before situation and more on the after. Whining aside, here was what I found:

The Netherlands

I discovered a wonderful before and after map of land reclamation in the Netherlands. The image didn’t have a Creative Commons license so you’ll need to open the link to view it if you’re curious. Flevopolder, mentioned in my previous article, is still an island so it shouldn’t be considered again. Nonetheless, notice that there were numerous islands in earlier days that became part of the mainland over the centuries.

Various Former Colonial Outposts in Asia

Jurong Island
Jurong Island by micamonkey, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau all experienced significant land reclamation efforts. Some even focused on growing island sizes, islands joining other islands, and so forth. The reason was simple. They were highly confined territories bursting at the seams with people, so they had to grow up and out.

View Larger Map

Singapore’s Jurong Island served as a case study. It remains an island so that could be a drawback. However Jurong had a much more interesting backstory, "formed from the amalgamation of seven small islands into a world-class chemicals hub… home to more than 94 leading petroleum, petrochemical, specialty chemical and supporting companies."

That’s right it used to be seven island, all joined together: "From the 9.91 km² land area of the original seven islets, as of completion of the land reclamation on September 25, 2009 Jurong Island currently has a total land area of 30 km²."


China went overboard with island absorption during its recent economic boom to the point where it may need to take it down a notch, as reported in China Daily: "Connecting uninhabited islands to mainland by reclaiming land must be strictly restricted. The islands must be protected, and they should be prevented from disappearing, says … the [State Oceanic Administration of China’s] official website."

View Larger Map

I did some digging and found an example. Bingzhou Island became Bingzhou Peninsula connected to Xiamen’s Tong’an District on northwestern Dongzui Bay. Referencing a photo caption in Wikimedia Commons, reclamation continues to take place on the western side of Bingzhou in the proximity of the Tong’an Bridge. That was as of 25 February 2012 according to the caption. Apparently maps available online haven’t yet caught-up to geographic reality because Bingzhou continued to be represented as an island.

The United States

Coney Island at night
Coney Island at night by lusterbr, on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

I had to find an example from the United States of course, and I discovered a good one. Coney Island, anyone?

View Larger Map

Doesn’t it seem odd that Coney Island is called Coney Island, even though it’s not an island? That’s because it used to be an island. Technically, I guess, it remains an island albeit part of the much larger landmass known as Long Island. Nonetheless Coney Island was once an actual standalone island and today it is not. The old name continues to be applied to its approximate original territory, an historic artifact of a previoius geographic configuration.

I don’t think I scored particularly well attempting to find the largest island attached to the mainland artificially, although maybe this was a start. People claim that Wikipedia has an article on everything. Apparently it does not. Maybe this exercise will serve as inspiration to one of 12MC’s several Wikipedians.

Thanks for the challenge, Greg!

(¹)SKIP THIS FOOTNOTE IF YOU’RE EASILY OFFENDED. It’s too bad I ignored sunken islands because I found one called Slut’s Bush near Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I thought this had to be a joke entry, however, the article provided links to a couple of much older sources including Cape Cod History. Now I’m almost afraid of the search engine hits I’ll have to endure.