Select City Highpoints

On May 11, 2017 · 7 Comments

I’m not much of a highpointer, and a begrudging one at best, although I maintain a kinship with those who follow this pursuit. I like the concept of highpointing more than the actual climbing of summits. That’s why I find myself occasionally visiting sites like peakbagger.com and examining things like its Peak Lists. I admit, I lifted many of the ideas for today’s article from its Selected World City High Points, and I’d do it again. City highpoints never got much attention. They fell way down on the pecking order behind national, state and county highpoints. I decided to give a few city highpoints the attention they deserved. I ordered my list from lame to grand.

Unnamed


City of Toronto Highpoint
Toronto, Ontario Highpoint
via Google Maps 3D, 2017

Toronto didn’t appear on that peakbagger list. Nonetheless I felt I should take a look anyway. The Canadian city with its largest population certainly deserved some attention. A great city in a great nation undoubtedly marked its highest elevation with a spectacular monument. Well, no, not really. Toronto’s maximum elevation of 212 meters (696 feet) barely rose above the surrounding terrain. Trip reports described an underwhelming experience, essentially walking onto a field (map) directly across the road from York University. I did notice that a regular Twelve Mile Circle reader posted one of the trip reports so that was a nice bonus.

The generally flat field covered a large reservoir of underground oil tanks. It seemed odd, as I considered it, that sports fields would be built atop oil tanks, although I supposed it must have been safe or they wouldn’t have done it. The fields served as home base for the Toronto Azzurri Soccer Club, with the specific highpoint found on what they called the West Fields. I can never remember where people call the sport Soccer and where they call it Football. Apparently Canada went with the soccer variation, or at least one club in Toronto did. I’m sure the Canadian 12MC audience will correct me if I’m wrong.

I doubted that any kids kicking soccer balls across a field atop oil tanks appreciated their exalted location upon Toronto’s summit.


Chancery Lane at High Holborn


City (High Holborn, 22m)
City (High Holborn, 22m) Junction with Chancery Lane. Photo by diamond geezer on Flickr (cc)

Peakbagger suggested a highpoint for London, England although I disagreed. It focused on Greater London and I’ll get to that in a moment. I wanted the actual City of London, a very tiny area of barely more than a square mile. The possibility of an exciting highpoint within such a small urban footprint seemed remote. It met my paltry expectations and nothing more. The actual spot registered maybe a notch better than Toronto only because it fell within a fairly busy, seemingly dynamic area. The highpoint could be discerned on the eastern side of Chancery Lane near its junction with High Holborn (map). It registered a measly elevation of 22 m (72 ft).

People who "climbed" to the summit recorded some interesting trip reports. One person said, "I’d walked across this pavement summit several times whilst working in London, without realising it was a high point." Another offered a recommendation to future climbers, "Suggest you do this one from Chancery Lane tube station, then at least you walk slightly uphill to it." Everyone seemed rather unimpressed.

Westerham Heights appeared as the highpoint on the Peakbagger list (map), at 245 metres (804 ft). However, that applied to Greater London, comprised of all 32 London boroughs plus the City of London. It wasn’t much more spectacular either, at 245 m (804 ft), "A rather unpleasant high point opposite Westerham Heights Farm; on a blind bend, the verge of a fast dangerous road, the A233."


Mount Lukens


Mount Lukens, view from Beaudry Loop
Mount Lukens, view from Beaudry Loop. Photo by Vahe Martirosyan on Flickr (cc)

A similar situation appeared in Los Angeles, California although the highpoint was much more prominent. I didn’t want the Los Angeles county highpoint, Mount San Antonio (aka Mount Baldy) at an impressive 3,068 m (10,064 ft). I wanted the city highpoint. The summit of Mount Lukens (map) reached 1,547 m (5,074 feet). While it didn’t reach quite the same stature as Mount Baldy, it still hit a pretty good altitude. At least it was a real mountain, too. It sounded amazing.

Mount Lukens stands majestically above the Crescenta Valley as the western most peak of the San Gabriel Mountains front range… It’s western flank drops over 3,000 feet affording terrific views of the San Fernando Valley to the southwest and the Verdugo Mountains and the Los Angeles Basin to the south. On exceptional days both the south and west facing beaches can be seen.

That made Los Angeles the city with the highest elevation of the 50 largest cities in the United States.


Montmartre


Montmartre
Montmartre. Photo by heroesbed on Flickr (cc)

However, Montmartre, the highest point of elevation in Paris, France, impressed me the most (map). A highpoint should look like this. It actually fell outside of the city limits until 1860 when it was annexed to become part of the 18th arrondissement. While the summit climbed only 130 m (430 ft), French authorities took full advantage of the situation. What does one do with such a prominent peak? Stick a basilica atop it and make it look even taller! The Basilica of Sacré-Cœur, dedicated to the sacred heart of Jesus, underwent construction on Montmartre between 1875 and 1914. What a lovely setting. No wonder artists such as Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet spent time on Montmartre.

An Arm and a Leg

On May 7, 2017 · 2 Comments

I stumbled upon Joe Batt’s Arm again. I first became acquainted with Joe Batt and his arm when Twelve Mile Circle investigated Mundane First Name Places about a year ago. The settlement grew along an inlet, colloquially called an arm, that formed a part of its name. It still amused me all these months later when I came across it once again. However, I couldn’t repeat what I’d reported before so I decided to find additional appendages.

Arm


The pub with no beer
The pub with no beer. Photo by Jules Hawk on Flickr (cc)

Towns featuring Arms appeared all along Canada’s North Atlantic coastline, although particularly in Newfoundland and Labrador. Joe Batt’s Arm fell within that category, of course. Sporadic instances of Arms could be seen in other parts of the world although not nearly enough to create a trend except in Australia. There, another concentration of Arms appeared on the eastern edge of New South Wales and Queensland so I decided to concentrate my efforts there. I could have selected any number of Australian locations, however I focused on Taylors Arm for a particular reason. It featured The Pub with No Beer. Paradoxically, the Pub with No Beer (map) not only served beer, it even brewed its own beer.

The Sydney Morning Herald explained the odd designation.

The history of The Pub With No Beer dates back to 1943, when farmer Dan Sheahan went to the Day Dawn Hotel in Ingham, north of Queensland, only to find American soldiers had drunk the pub dry of beer. With a glass of wine in hand instead, he penned A Pub Without Beer. Country singer Gordon Parsons adapted the song to A Pub With No Beer, basing it on his own local at Taylors Arm, then called the Cosmopolitan Hotel. When his friend Slim Dusty recorded the song in 1957, it became an Australian chart-topper.



It’s lonesome away, from your kindred and all
By the campfire at night, where the wild dingoes call
But there’s nothing so lonesome, so morbid or drear
Than to stand in a bar, of a pub with no beer

Slim Dusty, Australia’s "Father of Country Music" passed away in 2003 although the Pub with No Beer continued to live on in Taylors Arm.


Leg


DWÓR W ŁĘGU TARNOWSKIM, fot. M. Klag (MIK, 2009)
DWÓR W ŁĘGU TARNOWSKIM. Photo by mik Krakow on Flickr (cc)

Done with Arms, I switched to Legs. However Legs didn’t appear nearly as frequently as Arms. I found only a single nation with lots of Legs. Poland contained several villages simply called Łęg. It also had several instances of Łęg combined with other identifiers (e.g., Łęg Ręczyński, Łęg Starościński, Brzozowo Łęg). I tried to find what Łęg meant, even turning to Polish-English dictionaries. I figured it must be a noun although I couldn’t determine if it represented some sort of geographic feature or something completely unrelated. Also it appeared to be pronounced something like "wenk" not leg. Still, Łęg looked close enough to Leg so I went with it.

I found only one Łęg photograph with a creative commons license, a place called Łęg Tarnowski (map). That prompted me to turn to the Polish version of Wikipedia for more information. Polish differed from English so completely that I couldn’t even find cognates. Nonetheless, assuming the accuracy of Google Translate, it seemed the town along the Dunajec River dated back to the 16th Century.


Hand


Fingerpost at B2102/Warren Lane, Cross-in-Hand
Fingerpost at B2102/Warren Lane, Cross-in-Hand. Photo by Matt Davis on Flickr (cc)

Thank goodness for England. I didn’t think I would find a decent Hand or Foot. England provided both.

Hand came in the form of Cross in Hand (map). You know, the village just down the road from Blackboys and Uckfield? Cross in Hand seemed to be quite the Christian name. What religious source, I wondered, led to such an explicit reference? I found a number of references although they all seemed to begin with the infamous "legend says" qualifier. With that in mind, and with the proper asterisk in place, I decided to repeat the supposed explanation. There was a general belief that Crusaders met there as they began their journey to the Holy Land during the Middle Ages. There didn’t seem to be much of a compelling reason to meet at that particular spot although maybe it seemed more conducive a few centuries ago.

In fairness, I did find a Hand in the United States too. It came in the form of Hand County, South Dakota (map). As explained,

Hand County was created in 1873 and organized in 1888. It was named for George W. Hand, a native of Akron, Ohio, and a Civil War Veteran. He came to Yankton in 1865. In 1860 he was appointed United States Attorney for Dakota Territory, serving until 1869. From 1874 to 1883, he was Register of the Yankton Land Office and Secretary of Dakota Territory.

That occurrence seemed considerably less dramatic than the legend of Cross in Hand. Just about anybody, it seemed, could get a South Dakota county named for them in the late Nineteenth Century.


Foot


Luddendenfoot
Luddendenfoot. Photo by Tim Green on Flickr (cc)

I also found a foot, specifically Luddenden Foot (map). Sometimes this appeared without the space between the two as in Luddendenfoot. To understand Luddenden Foot, one must first understand Luddenden.

The name means Ludd valley, or valley of the loud stream and refers to the Luddenden Brook. An alternative meaning refers to the Celtic water god Lud, who gave his name to many water-related features. This was a Brythonic area, speaking a form of primitive Welsh, until perhaps the 9th century as a relict of the kingdom of Elmet.

Luddenden Foot was situated adjacent to and downhill from Luddenden. In other words, it grew at the foot of Luddenden. I guess that made it the town at the foot of the town in the valley of the loud stream, at least by one interpretation. I loved that name.

Directional Surname Frequency

On April 20, 2017 · 9 Comments

I spotted South Street in Manly, Iowa as I wrote Even More Manly Places. Ordinarily that wouldn’t generate much attention. For some reason I found it entertaining to see a South with an east and a west. One could go to East South or West South, although apparently nowhere southeast or southwest. Ditto for North Street, and a similar situation for East Street. Oddly, Manly didn’t seem to have a West Street. I’ve run into similar situations like this in plenty of other places and I always smile. I don’t know why I fixated on it more than usual this time.



I’m sure the street names all came from their geographic alignment throughout town. However, each of those could be surnames too, theoretically although not likely. I went completely down a tangent and started thinking about that possibility anyway, way too much.


Frequency

Fortunately the United States Census Bureau published a file that offered hours, well minutes, of entertainment. Doesn’t everybody love leafing through a table of Frequently Occurring Surnames from the 2010 Census? Then I checked the etymology of directional surnames. They all seemed to relate to ancestors who lived in a particular direction away from a larger town or region. People named West lived to the west. You get the picture.

Frequency variations definitely existed.

  • West seemed particularly popular. It ranked as the 125th most frequent surname in the U.S., with nearly two hundred thousand instances. Variations trailed from there. Westerman ranked 6,620, Westman ranked 11,257 and Western ranked 11,395.
  • Next in popularity, and much farther down the list came North. It ranked 1,766th, with about twenty thousand people. Northern ranked 8,981.
  • East followed in 2,843rd place with about twelve thousand people. However the variation Eastman actually scored higher, ranking 2,162. Easterly trailed with a rank of 12,593
  • South fell at the back of the pack at 3,231, and eleven thousand people. Southern ranked 4,587 and Southward ranked at 23,120. Southward presented a bit of an anomaly. Every other directional surname aligned almost exactly with people who identified as white. By contrast, about a third of the people named Southward identified as African-American.

Then I hoped to find a place for each direction, named for an actual person with that surname rather than its geographic position. I already discussed the wonderful North, South Carolina in North AND South so I set north aside. I didn’t find a South anywhere, although that didn’t surprise me given the frequency of the surname. That left West and East.


More West


Czech Stop, West, TX
Czech Stop, West, TX. Photo by Angie Six on Flickr (cc)

I created a little game around the West surname a few years ago. That reflected its overall popularity. This time I searched for an actual West and I found it in Texas. The name could be confusing. West, Texas (the city) was not the same at West Texas (the region). In fact West, along Interstate 35 between Dallas/Ft. Worth and Waco, probably fell a little bit to the east of the West Texas region by most interpretations. Everyone seemed to have a different definition of West Texas. That didn’t help.

According to the City of West,

The Katy Railroad was laid between Hillsboro and Waco in the fall of 1881. The path of the railroad cut through land owned by Thomas West. Czech immigrants came to the area purchasing the rich lands to farm and start a fresh life in the new world. They also opened businesses sharing their European culture. By the 1890’s the Czech businesses flourished in West.

That legacy of Czech immigration still existed in West. Businesses such as the Czech Stop and Little Czech Bakery (map) combined both cultures and offered kolaches and barbecue. Kolaches, I learned, were a type of fruit pastry brought to the area by those immigrants. Residents also emphasized their cultural heritage each Labor Day with a Czech polka festival called Westfest.


Easton


Easton Neston east side 21 July 1985
Easton Neston east side on Wikimedia Commons (cc)

I couldn’t find a town of East, however I remembered a town on Maryland’s eastern shore called Easton. Unfortunately the name derived from its position east of St. Michaels. Oh well.

Other Eastons existed. Maybe that offered hope. I pulled a few threads on the history of Easton, Pennsylvania (map) and I found an intriguing if convoluted story. Thomas Penn, son of William Penn who founded Pennsylvania, married Juliana Fermor in 1751. The next year a growing town in Pennsylvania needed a name so Penn suggested Easton. Fermor grew up on an estate owned by her father, the 1st Earl of Pomfret, called Easton Neston in Northampton, England (map). The newly established town in Pennsylvania became Easton, in the newly established county of Northampton. That worked out nicely. Problem solved.

However it created another mystery in my mind. Easton Neston seemed to be a rather unusual name for an estate. Actually, it simply borrowed the name from a local church parish, which in turn borrowed the name from a town that existed there for more than a millennium. The town faded away over time although the parish remained, as did the estate. The only reference to its etymology seemed unreliable although I’ll still provide it: "Easton Neston in Northamptonshire gets its name from Old English Eadstanestun ‘settlement of Eadstan’, a personal name composed of the elements ead ‘prosperity’, ‘riches’ + stan ‘stone’."

It sounded good enough to me.

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