Body Parts

On October 5, 2017 · 2 Comments

The more I thought about it, apparently body parts influenced an awful lot of geographic names. It seemed natural though. People liked to name things after familiar objects. What could be more familiar than the flesh right there in front of them? From head to feet and practically everywhere in between, I found spots on the map that shared those names. I focused on a small sample of some of the more interesting references.

Foot


A Portage to Freedom
A Portage to Freedom via TradingCardsNPS on Flickr (cc)

The name that began this latest search appeared in Pennsylvania. Imagine living in a place called Foot of Ten (map). Within this unincorporated village stood the Foot of Ten Independent Baptist Church. Its website solved the mystery.

The Pennsylvania Legislature authorized construction of a canal between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in 1826. This would do more than simply connect two cities, it would open a trade route between the eastern seaboard and the frontier. Pittsburgh offered direct access to the Ohio and Mississippi River watersheds. However, builders faced a problem, the Eastern Continental Divide atop the Allegheny Mountains. Tunnels or locks would not be feasible on such a massive scale.

Instead, the builders borrowed an idea from England, the use of inclined planes. I mentioned such structures in Tunnels, Bridges, Lifts and Inclines a few years ago. Here the solution became the Allegheny Portage Railroad. Barges loaded onto rail cars and went through a series of ten inclined planes; five uphill and five downhill. Then they resumed their canal ride on the other side. Pulleys and ropes helped move loaded rail cars between inclines, up and over the ridge. They named each incline numerically, from one to ten. A little village sprouted at the foot of Incline Ten. Not being terribly original, the village became Foot of Ten.


Knee


Wounded Knee South Dakota
Wounded Knee South Dakota. Photo by Adam Singer on Flickr (cc)

Wounded Knee leapt immediately to mind as I considered noteworthy examples. Wounded Knee Creek flowed into the White River in southwestern South Dakota (map). The name originated exactly as I thought. Rival groups of Native Americans clashed at that spot somewhere in the long forgotten past and one of the men suffered a wound to his knee. Thus, Wounded Knee. Those events happened well before Wounded Knee entered the lexicon for an entirely different reason.

Historians used to call an infamous 1890 incident the "Battle of Wounded Knee." More contemporary interpretations labeled it the "Wounded Knee Massacre." The exact sequence of events will likely never be known. By one account it began when U.S. Cavalry soldiers attempted to disarm members of the Lakota tribe at their encampment. One member of the tribe, being deaf, did not understand the soldiers’ intent. A struggle for his rifle and a possible accidental discharge began a shooting spree on both sides. The soldiers didn’t stop firing until 150 Lakota, including unarmed women and children, lay dead upon the frozen ground.


Backbone


Devils Backbone - Outpost
Devils Backbone – Outpost. My own Photo.

In Virginia, the small Devils Backbone brewery grew quickly, eventually large enough to be purchased by Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2016. I’ve been to both their original brewpub location in Roseland and their "Outpost" production brewery outside of Lexington during my beer wanderings. Naturally I wondered about the unusual name. Did it come from the geography of the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains?


JeffFryDetail
Fry-Jefferson map” of Virginia (1751) via Wikimedia Commons, in the Public Domain

Actually, the name did indeed and it tied to a rather notable colonial-era accomplishment. The brewery’s website explained further.

On September 25, 1746, eight years before the French and Indian War, a party of forty set out from Bear Fence Mountain in the Blue Ridge on one of the most legendary land surveys in American history… Their task was to carve and measure a straight line, eighty-miles long through the wilderness, connecting the sources of the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers. This line was known as "The Fairfax Line."

I visited the northwestern terminus of that line at the Fairfax Stone last year.

The Geographic Names Information System listed several different Devils Backbones just in Virginia alone. Looking at the Fry-Jefferson Map of 1751, the one inspiring the brewery seemed to be the ridge on the western flank of the Shenandoah Valley (map). The survey line crossed what they called "The North Ridge alias the Devil’s Back Bone." not too far west of current Mount Jackson, the town with the awesome water tower.


Finger


Cayuga Lake
Cayuga Lake. My own photo.

So many interesting places existed throughout the world that I generally don’t travel to the same place more than once. I’ve made an exception for the Finger Lakes of New York. I’ve explored the region twice and I’d love to get there a third time. It’s that beautiful. These lakes earned their name for their appearance, like fingers pressed upon the earth.



Glaciation, as one might expect, created these lakes. Glaciers during the most recent ice age pushed down through north-south valleys. Their southward flow accentuated these valleys and left deep, broad troughs behind. They also pushed debris to their farthest extremes. When the glaciers retreated, those large debris moraines became natural dams. Water filled the troughs, and behold, the Finger Lakes appeared. Creeks and rivers left hanging after ice retreated created amazing waterfalls like Taughannock Falls, Watkins Glen and Buttermilk Falls.


So Many More

I could go on-and-on although it’s probably time to stop. Heads, teeth, mouths, elbows and lots of other body parts appeared across the landscape. I so wanted to add Liverpool. Unfortunately, Liverpool was not named for the liver. It came from the Old English word "lifer," meaning "thick, clotted water." Yuk. Even a liver sounded more attractive.

Bizarre Broomfield Borders

On April 2, 2017 · 8 Comments

Recently Twelve Mile Circle focused a couple of articles on the boundaries of Virginia’s independent cities. That led loyal reader Scott Surgent to comment on an equally strange situation in Broomfield County, Colorado. I certainly knew about Broomfield because of its status as one of the newest and smallest of U.S. counties. It didn’t exist until 2001 and it covered only 34 square miles (88 square kilometres). I’d even featured it on 12MC before, such as when county counter extraordinaire Fritz Keppler recalled his visit to Broomfield on the first day of its existence. However, I’d never examined its borders before.


U.S. 36 En Route to Boulder, Broomfield, Colorado
U.S. 36 En Route to Boulder, Broomfield, Colorado
Photo by Ken Lund on Flickr (cc)

Take a look at Broomfield on Mob Rule or Google or even the county’s official street map. The borders seemed nothing if not bizarre. Narrow tendrils extended along roadways or tethered nearly-detached rural acreage. Broomfield included a couple of enclaves of neighboring counties within its body. It also owned a narrow exclave along a major roadway, barely wider than the lanes of traffic itself.

I wondered how this happened. Next I drilled down a little closer into Broomfield’s multiple geo-oddities.


Broomfield as a Municipality

Broomfield’s origin explained its shape. It did not begin as a county, nobody originally envisioned it as a county, and it probably never would have become a county except for its unusual growth near four other counties. The county’s history page said that Broomfield began as a little village around the turn of the last century in the southeastern corner of Boulder County. Construction of the Boulder Turnpike in 1950 offered opportunities for growth. Then the Turnpike Land Company purchased acreage nearby and created a master planned community. Development led to further development and Broomfield continued to expand. It incorporated as a municipality in 1961.

A local publication, the Broomfield Enterprise, commented on the community’s success on the occasion of its 50th anniversary in 2011. Everything stemmed from bold actions. Broomfield didn’t compete with counties that surrounded it; rather Broomfield competed with nearby municipalities. Both offensive and defensive annexations occurred. Broomfield skillfully grabbed land in favorable locations and blocked other municipalities from doing the same. This led to a crazy patchwork of boundaries typical of many municipalities in the United States.


Broomfield as a County

However, the municipality of Broomfield started to encounter a number of issues as it expanded. Once confined to Boulder County, it eventually flowed into Weld, Adams and Jefferson Counties, too. That meant it had to deal with four different governments, each with its own set of regulations, adjudication, taxation, services and schools. Governance in a quad county town became tedious and difficult.

Fortunately Colorado offered precedence. The state amended its constitution in 1902 to form the consolidated City and County of Denver. Could such a device also work for Broomfield? In 1998, the municipality reviewed the possibility: "Formation of a Broomfield City & County — Is it Feasible?" (pdf). The study concluded favorably. However, implementation required a state constitutional amendment. It also needed to survive a referendum by the citizens of Broomfield. Those steps happened and the municipality of Broomfield became the City and County of Broomfield on November 15, 2001.

Nonetheless, the amendment — Article 20, Sections 10-13 — placed limits on expansion. If froze Broomfield’s existing municipal borders until it could become a county. Afterwards, Broomfield could expand only after approval of a seven-member panel that included voting representatives from the four counties that surrounded it. That effectively cemented the weirdness of Broomfield’s final municipal boundaries into its county boundaries.

Let’s take a look, shall we?


Broomfield Border Overview


Broomfield
Borders of Broomfield County

I had a hard time following some of the borders so I drew them out by hand with a wider line. I marked some of the peculiarities with letters. Hopefully that will make it easier to follow along when I show close-up images, below. I started at the top and proceeded clockwise.


(A) Weld County Enclave


Weld in Broomfield
Weld County Enclave within Broomfield

There didn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason for the tiny enclave of Weld County embedded within Broomfield. All I could figure was that maybe the owners of that land didn’t want to belong to Broomfield. In Colorado, local residents needed to vote affirmatively to join a municipality. Somehow this little pocket escaped Broomfield’s clutches as it expanded.


(B) Broomfield’s Eastern Tendril


Eastern Tendril
The Eastern Tendril

The little patch of Broomfield south of W. 152nd Ave. almost qualified as an exclave. I took an optimistic look, hoping it might be true. However, the width of Huron Road extended as a tendril connecting what appeared to be nothing more than an empty field, to the rest of the county. Who knew what future use Broomfield intended for this space? Regardless, Broomfield grabbed it.


(C) Broomfield’s Southwestern Tendril


Southwestern Tendril
The Southwestern Tendril

I thought I might have spotted a boundary cross. Upon closer inspection, however, I dispelled that possibility. Broomfield stuck a narrow corridor between Boulder and Jefferson along W. 120th Ave.


(D) Northwest Parkway Corridor


Northwest Parkway
The Confusing Northwest Parkway

I could only describe the Northwest Parkway Corridor as a complete mess. Clearly, Broomfield coveted the parkway as it grew. Maybe if it controlled the parkway it could control access to and from the parkway. Like a castle wall, it could keep other municipalities at bay. However, in the process, it created a confusing situation. It left a section of Boulder connected to its home county by two narrow corridors, along S. 104th St. and U.S. Route 287. It created a Broomfield exclave along the parkway and an adjoining exit ramp. It also created a Boulder enclave within Broomfield, separated from the rest of its home county solely by the width of W. Dillon Road.


(E) The Zigzag


Northwest Parkway
Zigzagging

The strangeness of one section of the border between Broomfield and Weld completely confounded me. First, I didn’t know how to describe it. Zigzag seemed to fit, except it formed rectangular lines rather than triangular. Second, why? What purpose would it serve for Broomfield to erect that figurative wall so close to its own border? It didn’t even seem to include anything consequential. Maybe it had something to do with the golf course immediately to the west. I don’t know.

Visiting the Library

On March 8, 2012 · 5 Comments

I attended a work-related meeting this morning. It was pretty typical, nothing special, and probably like a thousand other meetings you or I have ever experienced in our lifetimes. This one ended a bit differently though. It took place at an office deep within the Madison Building of the Library of Congress and our host offered us a tour after the meeting concluded. I jumped on that opportunity as quickly as I could, quite happy to trade my lunch hour for something entirely more fascinating. I’ve seen just about every major site in Washington, DC but somehow I’d never been to the famous Library of Congress. It’s one of those places that had fallen though the cracks of my experiences even though I’ve walked past it hundreds of times.

We entered a pedestrian tunnel beneath Independence Avenue (didn’t realize they had underground tunnels connecting the building but apparently they have several) and we climbed a flight of stairs to the Great Hall in the Jefferson Building.



View Larger Map

The Thomas Jefferson Building is probably the most famous component of the Library of Congress complex. It was built in the Beaux-Arts style at the tail-end of the 19th Century with great attention paid to ornate flourishes. We received the same basic tour every visitor experiences, however we did get bumped to the front of the line as we entered each room so I guess we had some minor level of VIP status. I can tell we didn’t get the true VIP tour because we didn’t see anything remotely like National Treasure: Book of Secrets. Even the tunnel was pretty innocuous.

To all the junior high school students who had to stand aside as we passed, I offer my apologies. Life isn’t fair kids.


Great Hall of the Jefferson Building

This is the Great Hall. You can probably tell that my only camera was built into a crappy mobile phone. There were plenty of places where the library did not allow photographs though — they said flashes would damage priceless artifacts — but we were allowed to snap away in the Great Hall. So I did.

You will notice as you wander through my account that I also did not photograph any books, which seems a tad ironic given that this is one of the greatest libraries on the planet. Absolutely, I enjoyed the books. They had a Gutenberg Bible printed on vellum which is even more rare than most of the others which are printed on paper. Only a dozen vellum copies still exist. They also had Thomas Jefferson’s original library recreated to its original form, with replacement books for many of the volumes that had been destroyed in a fire long ago. However, I wasn’t allowed to capture images of any of those treasures nor of the main reading room. Thus I focused my brief time and dismal photographic talent on artistic oddities accenting ceilings and hallways.

That’s fine too. I like odd.


Classical Greek Baseball

The guide explained that many of the artists who decorated the Jefferson Building had been involved with the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. They needed new employment after everyone finished celebrating the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World. A major library in Washington became an attractive place to continue their craft and earn a living.

The artists also had a sense of humor. I like this one. Check out the classic Greek image, above. Notice that they’re playing baseball. The man on the far right holds a pennant; next to him a guy rests a bat over his shoulder; another has a glove; still another looks like he’s winding up to pitch. The Library explains, "At each end of the ceiling is a rectangular panel by Frederic C. Martin painted in a style depicting ancient games, but representing the modern sports of football (east end) and baseball (west end)."


First Electricity Washington

This statue has an interesting story to tell, too. The most visible feature, literally, is the torch in her hand. Why not just a regular statue? Why did someone create it as a giant lamp? We were told that it’s because the Jefferson Building was the first structure in Washington, DC that was wired for electricity as part of its construction. People came to the Great Hall at the turn of the last century simply to marvel at the light bulbs. An oversized statue-lamp embodied a wonderful combination of art and technology, a reflection of the United States’ image of itself at the time.


Unknown Famous People

You wouldn’t be able to see the detail on this photo even if I’d reprinted it for you in full size. Again, that’s due to the bad camera primarily. Ignore that. Just trust me when I tell you that each of the small rectangles contained the name of someone famous a century ago. The ceiling in this area was marked into sections denoting various professions. I think this one was medicine. There were dozens, maybe a hundred names in these little blocks stretching across a gallery of professions. I didn’t recognize more than a handful. These remarkable figures have largely faded into obscurity.

Alas, fame is fleeting but knowledge is forever.

Purpose
12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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