Quad County Towns

On May 5, 2013 · 10 Comments

I mentioned Braselton, Georgia a few months ago in an article called "Bought the Town." In that case the person who bought the town was the actress Kim Basinger who later sold her interest for a stunning financial loss. More interestingly, I noted, the town boundaries included a county quadripoint. Braselton sprawled across Barrow, Gwinnett, Hall and Jackson Counties. The quadripoint itself fell within a creek.

View Quad County Towns in a larger map

I’ve done a couple of things since that cursory observation. First, I converted the static image from the earlier article into an interactive Google Map. Bear in mind that it’s a pain to draw town and county boundaries on this media so consider all lines approximations designed to prove a point. You’ll see all kinds of anomalies if you drill in. Town boundaries were particularly difficult to render exactly due to the haphazard nature of their annexation histories.

Second, I attempted to find additional examples of towns with boundaries that crossed into four distinct counties. I found only three legitimate instances, including Braselton.

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

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I’ve probably been to the Dells at least a half-dozen times over the years. It’s completely tourist-cheezy which I suppose one could view favorably or not so much depending on one’s tolerance for such things. Much of the Dells is over-the-top kitschy although the Ducks are always a good time. I also happened to be nearby in June 2008 right after a huge flood devastated the area. I wrote about Lake Delton’s destruction after the dam blew. The entire 267 acre lake dumped into the Wisconsin River right at the beginning of the tourist season, leaving behind mud, fish and tree stumps.

Nonetheless, until my recent Internet sleuthing, I had no idea that Wisconsin Dells crossed into Adams, Columbia, Juneau and Sauk Counties. The most intensive development fell within Columbia. However, land within the other counties contributed rather significantly too.

The quadripoint fell within the middle of the Wisconsin River.

High Point, North Carolina

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High Point, North Carolina was the third example although possibly less remarkable than the other two. Certainly, it’s territory included acreage in Davidson, Forsyth, Guilford and Randolph Counties. However, the vast preponderance of High Point fell within the southwestern corner of Guilford. Land within the other three counties ranged from minor to inconsequential. It was obvious that High Point began as a Guilford County construct and sprawled only recently into the others.

Town annexations in North Carolina became rather contentious in recent years. Organized efforts such as Stop NC Annexation sprang up in opposition. The state’s law authorized forced annexations of unincorporated areas, with acquired residents suddenly hit with municipal taxes and utility hook-up charges against their will. North Carolina changed its laws in 2012 to allow people living in such areas to block annexation attempts with a majority vote.

Walkerton, Indiana

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Walkerton, Indiana was a near-miss even though the town itself claimed, "Walkerton is uniquely located where four counties meet." No, Walkerton’s town boundaries remained within a single county, St. Joseph. Also it wouldn’t be "uniquely located" even if borders happened to cross all four because, as noted, there are at least three other instances of such.

What I will concede to Walkerton — and I still find it fascinating — is that the town fell within a little knob of St. Joseph. It’s surrounded on three sides by La Porte, Marshall and Starke Counties. One will hit another county almost immediately after leaving Walkerton heading south, east or west. Walkerton needs to grow just a little bit more to join the other quad county towns.

Postville, Iowa

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Postville, Iowa also fell just short of the mark. It straddled the Allamakee and Clayton County lines. The quadripoint formed along with Fayette and Winneshiek Counties can be found less than a mile from town. Postville holds promise if it can grow towards the west.

I’ll include one final honorable mention, the unincorporated Citrus Ridge community (also known as the Four Corners census-designated place) in Florida. It included the quadripoint of Lake, Orange, Osceola and Polk Counties (map). However Citrus Ridge is not a town even though more than 25,000 people lived there during the last census. Citrus Ridge simply needs to incorporate. It has more than enough residents to function as a town and it would make a welcome addition to the quad county list.

It was very difficult to find examples of quad county towns. I know there are more out there. Feel free to mention your discoveries in the comments.

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.

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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.

Starting from Zero

On February 28, 2013 · 1 Comments

I used the Zero Milestone marker in Washington, DC as the center of my circle a few weeks ago in Odds and Ends 6. It occurred to me that maybe I’d not talked about the marker before. That seemed odd in itself as I include the marker on my DC tours for friends and family when they come to town. Forget the museums, we’re gonna see the Zero Milestone marker and the American Meridian Marker! Strangely enough, they don’t seem to mind or at least they don’t express any disappointment, or maybe they save their complaints for a time when I’m not within earshot.

Let’s focus a little love on the Zero Milestone marker.

Zero Milestone
SOURCE: Flickr by By theAVclub via Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) license

It’s so impressive because nobody pays much attention to it unless it’s pointed out to them, even though it’s front-and-center on the Ellipse with the Washington Monument in the distance and directly in front of the White House (map). It looks like just another bollard to the uninitiated eye in a land of concrete security barriers.

The ultimate source of information for this marker is the Federal Highway Administration’s Zero milestone page. The site contains more detail than one could ever imaging including a full set of vintage photographs and even a song. That’s right, the marker has it’s own song. "Welcome we this knightly host; in such grandeur of thought is freedoms spirit wrought; June Twenty Three marks history!" Catchy, huh? I hope Virginia Monro and Wilmuth Gary didn’t quit their day jobs after the dedication of the permanent milestone marker on June 4, 1923.

The placement was outgrowth of the Good Roads Movement. It was supposed to serve as the starting point for all road measurements in the United States like ancient Rome’s Milliarium Aureum, although it never quite caught-on like that. The marker is indeed used for local measurements closer to Washington, DC even today, just not for the entire U.S. Still, it has it’s own song, lame as it may be, and that should count for something. Does anyone read sheet music and want to take a stab at recording it? All kidding aside, I’d love to hear it.

Zero Mile Marker Route 1

Route 1 Zero Mile Marker
Zero at Zero

I also enjoyed my stop at Route 1′s Zero Mile Marker when I visited Key West a few years ago. It’s one of those obligatory Key West oddities that tourists feel compelled to pose against and snap a photo. Oftentimes, as far as I could tell, alcohol was involved. I was completely sober but I’m a geo-geek so that was my excuse. One can find the marker across from the Monroe County Courthouse (a place very difficult to reach for some Monroe County residents).

Route 1 stretches 2,369 miles (3,813 km) along the eastern coastline of the United States from Maine to Florida, generally following the fall line where the Atlantic coastal plain meets the Piedmont. My favorite section is the scenic Overseas Highway running 100 miles atop and amongst the Florida Keys although traffic can be miserable at peak times on holidays and weekends.

Honestly, it’s probably not any more impressive than any other zero mile or zero kilometre marker found elsewhere except that the number of the highway is 1 and Key West probably has better weather and wilder times than the others.

Ancient Days

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Zero Milestones aren’t a new concept that some silly modern road builder dreamed up one day. I mentioned the Milliarium Aureum — Latin for Golden Milestone — so I guess I should devote a few words to it. This was the point in ancient Rome referenced by the maxim "All Roads Lead to Rome." Caesar Augustus was responsible for designating the location and all lands near and far throughout his impressive empire were measured from that single point. Nobody is completely sure where it sat precisely although "many scholars think that it was located at the southeast corner of the podium of the Rostra Augusti on a symmetrical axis with the Umbilicus Urbis Romae." Maybe that’s helpful to 12MC readers who are familiar with Rome. It sounds like gibberish to me.

View Larger Map

The Byzantine Empire did the same thing a few centuries later with the Milion marker erected in Constantinople in the 4th Century. I wonder if our ancient geo-oddity forebears paraded their visiting friends and family past the Milion instead of showing them the temples?

There are so many other examples, ancient and modern, that I better stop now. There’s no sense replicating the list (although I will note for the record that it doesn’t contain the Center of the Universe marker). I’d enjoy hearing about 12MC reader visits to these or similar points, though.

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