Simply Boring

On July 9, 2017 · Comments Off on Simply Boring

Speaking of boring places, the phenomenon didn’t confine itself exclusively to Oregon. Sure, the largest Boring town existed just outside of Portland. However, because Boring was also a surname, it spread to other locations as one might expect. Residents tended to have the same sense of humor about living in Boring places everywhere. The same bad puns, the same entertainingly-named public institutions and businesses, the same frequently-photographed road signs formed a common bond. The repetition became, well, boring. Fortunately the stories found just below the surface offered better entertainment.

Boring, Maryland


This church is BORING
This church is BORING. Photo by Payton Chung on Flickr (cc)

What Maryland’s Boring lacked in population it gained in recognition through the U.S. Postal Service (map). Boring, Maryland 21020 didn’t have the same cachet as Beverly Hills 90210, although it still existed as a physical place. Other than that, the hamlet consisted primarily of a few homes along the intersection of Old Hanover and Pleasant Grove Roads. The Boring Post Office along with a Boring Fire Hall and a Boring Methodist Church also offered popular photo opportunities to outsiders passing through.

The Washington Post featured a Boring article back in 1984.

The origin of its name is somewhat less boring than the name itself. The town originally was called Fairview, but according to folks hereabouts, when the post office was established in 1880, postal authorities ordered the town renamed, apparently to avoid confusion with all the other Fairviews in the United States. "So it was named by the townspeople after the first postmaster here, David J. Boring, in 1880," explained Cullison, himself a postmaster of Boring from 1950 to 1976.

It served as yet another example of a town changing its name because of the railroads, a common condition in the late 19th Century. We’ve seen that happen many times on Twelve Mile Circle although the results were not usually so Boring.


Boring, Tennessee



Boring, Tennessee

I found very little information about Boring, Tennessee. It registered a level of boring so extreme that nobody bothered to publicize it. Actually, I shouldn’t say that. I’m sure people who lived there liked it just fine. It didn’t even make the list of Top 10 most boring places in Tennessee. That honor went to Forest Hills near Nashville. I don’t know why. Maybe Boring’s placement at the end of a runway at Tri-Cities Airport made the difference. Jet traffic wouldn’t be boring; more annoying than anything, really.

The author of Tennessee Place-names pretty much phoned it in when explaining Boring.

Boring Sullivan County. The only individual with the Boring surname who could be placed in this locality was Elizabeth Boring, in 1870. She was 46 years of age at the time. Possibly she, or her family, gave this place its name.

Way to go out on a limb.


King Boring Park and Field


dearborn, mi
dearborn, mi. Photo by Heather Phillips on Flickr (cc)

Honestly I didn’t expect to find anything on King Boring Park. I spotted the name and fell in love with it. What could be better than King Boring? Truly, the King of Boring (let’s pause and savor that for a moment).

A Yelp page, yes a Yelp page of all things, offered an explanation. The great-grandson of King Boring — King Boring was an actual person — provided a fairly complete biography. I assumed a level of accuracy. Who would make up something about an obscure ball field (map) in Dearborn, Michigan? It could be fake. Who knows? Let’s assume it’s real and move along.

Apparently Mr. Boring earned the nickname King as a child after he beat-up a bully. Later he legally changed his actual name to King Boring. He owned a basketball team called the Detroit Gems and later sold it. The new owners moved the team to Minneapolis and changed the name to the Lakers. That team eventually became the Los Angeles Lakers. Right, those Lakers. Boring also coached a Single-A baseball team in Dearborn and participated in lots of other local sports-related stuff. He died in 1996.

I found some corroborating evidence. The Gems played only a single season, posting a 4-40 record before King Boring and his partner sold the team in 1947. Oof! He later lamented that he should have retained a percentage instead of selling it outright.


Boring Homestead, South Australia


Wog Palace Road
Boring Homestead
via Google Maps

Why should the United States get all the boring places? I turned to the Gazetteer of Australian Place Names and found the Boring Homestead in South Australia (map). It sat about 550 kilometres (340 miles) due north of Adelaide. I wouldn’t expect to find any additional information about a single homestead, and I didn’t. However, I noticed the name of the road — a dirt track really — that led to the structure. Google called it Wog Palace Road, which seemed really odd. It seemed even stranger when I checked its etymology. I found an enlightening entry in Global English Slang: Methodologies and Perspectives.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s in Australia wog came to be used to describe migrants of southern European origin, especially those from Italy or Greece. Later, the usage expanded to include migrants of Middle Eastern origin…a wog mansion or wog palace is a large and vulgar house, often using southern European architectural features such as elaborate columns.

The word wog didn’t mean anything to me. However, and apparently, it could be considered offensive in Australia and perhaps even more so in the UK. For that, I apologize in advance, especially to 12MC’s Australian and UK audience. I didn’t mean to be insensitive. A wog palace would be like a McMansion in the United States with an added twist of racial spite thrown in for good measure.

I took an actual screen print of the homestead and street name which I’ve reproduced above. That’s because I expected it will be changed or removed someday. I wondered if that was really its name or if a vandal placed it there as digital graffiti, expecting nobody to find it.

What the Cove?

On February 23, 2017 · 7 Comments

What does someone call a short street with only a single outlet to a larger street? I wondered because I found different terms that varied geographically. There seemed to be a cultural dimension to it as well. Certain suffixes seemed to be more prevalent in the United Kingdom and others in the United States, with Canada displaying elements of both. I’ve fixated on such suffixes before, notably in What the Drung and What the Stravenue. This time I focused on the humble cul-de-sac.

Cul-de-sac


Sprawling Subdivison in New Jersey
Sprawling Subdivison in New Jersey. Photo by Kaizer Rangwala on Flickr (cc)

Cul-de-sacs didn’t get much respect in recent years. They became a favored symbol of unbridled construction and suburban sprawl. All those dead end streets allowed developers to stuff more homes onto lots at the expense of traffic efficiency. I couldn’t do anything about that — some things were way beyond the abilities of Twelve Mile Circle — although I could examine some etymology. From the Online Etymology Dictionary:

1738, as an anatomical term, from French cul-de-sac, literally "bottom of a sack," from Latin culus "bottom, backside, fundament." …Application to streets and alleys is from 1800.

I guess it made sense. The cluster of homes at the end of a road resembled the bottom of a sack. Cars going into the sac could only exit the same way. No other choices existed. Actually I didn’t intend to beat up on the Cul-de-sac (or any generic dead-end street) as a design element. The point today was to examine the designation of such roads, specifically the suffixes appended to them.


Close



Wheat Sheaf Cl., Isle of Dogs, London

I got started on this unfortunate idea when I examined the Isle of Dogs in the recent Random Islands article. I noticed a street with an odd suffix; Wheat Sheaf Close. Nearby I soon spotted Inglewood Close, Severnake Close and Epping Close. Was this a common thing, I wondered? Were little dead-end streets in the United Kingdom sometimes referred to as Closes? It seemed to be the case as I checked various random corners of the British Isles. Twelve Mile Circle’s loyal UK readers should be able to confirm its usage and frequency if that’s the case.

They existed in Canada too. Canada Post included Close as an acceptable suffix. However it did not offer an abbreviation for it. The UK specified "Cl." In London’s Isle of Dogs someone could write a letter to Wheat Sheaf Cl and that would be acceptable. Head to Medicine Hat, Alberta, on the other hand, and the address should include the entire word, as in Smith Close SE. New Zealand also used the abbreviated form in its address system although I couldn’t find any real-world examples. I couldn’t find any information about Australia, though. Any Closes in Australia, dear readers? Conversely, the United States Postal Service didn’t even include Close amongst its recognized suffixes.

Nonetheless the suffix made perfect sense. The roads indeed closed at one end.


Cove



Coves in Memphis, Tennessee

The US Postal Service did include something more unusual however, the suffix Cove. It referred to the same thing, a short road with a dead-end or a cul-de-sac. I suspected the usage must have been sporadic, geographically confined, or both. I’d never personally seen a street with a Cove suffix. Even so, the USPS reserved the abbreviation "CV", so it obviously existed with at least some level of frequency. Wikipedia referenced the suffix and singled-out Memphis, Tennessee. Naturally I needed to find a Cove in Memphis. I plugged common street names into a map randomly until Ash Cove appeared, as did several others nearby. I didn’t know why Wikipedia singled-out Memphis though. Other coves appeared in in Arkansas, Mississippi and Arizona before I got tired of looking for more.

I wish this suffix got greater use. I liked the image it evoked.


Lulworth cove
Lulworth cove. Photo by Alex on Flickr (cc)

A cul-de-sac resembled a perfectly formed cove, like Lulworth Cove (map) along the coast of Dorset, England. A cove offered refuge and safety, a nice analogy for a quiet suburban home away from traffic.


Court


Just What Is This Street Sign Trying To Convey?
Just What Is This Street Sign Trying To Convey?
Photo by raider3_anime on Flickr (cc)

I was most familiar with the use of Court as a suffix. I wondered if that sounded weird in other places, like Close and Cove sounded to me. Actually Court seemed so normal to me that I never even considered other possibilities until I stumbled upon Close. That, of course, made me wonder why someone chose Court as a suffix for a street with a cul-de-sac or a dead end. The etymology supported it, though. It derived from Old French via Latin, for an "enclosed yard." Over time it came to applied to various enclosures, e.g., royalty (king’s court), government entities (court of law), or sports (tennis, basketball, etc.). A street closed at one end, using the same logic, could also be a Court.

I enjoyed the photo I found to represent the concept. Aspirations Court featured a Dead End marker — where aspirations went to die, perhaps? What were the sign makers in Modesto, California (map) thinking?

Counting West Virginia, Day 4 (Oddities)

On October 27, 2016 · Comments Off on Counting West Virginia, Day 4 (Oddities)

Every trip seemed to end too quickly. We soon hit the final leg of our northern West Virginia odyssey and headed home. Two uncaptured counties remained on the itinerary, Taylor and Tucker. They formed doughnut holes on my map and they needed to be removed. Oh, how I hated those little white splotches. That completely irrational itch directed my motivation during the waning hours.



This also set a course for an amazing array of roadside attractions and geo-oddities. They clustered near a spot where West Virginia met the southwestern corner of Maryland’s westernmost county. That would be the "Middle of Nowhere" in layman’s terms.


Smallest Church?


Our Lady of the Pines

Our Lady of the Pines Catholic Church sat just south of Silver Lake, West Virginia (map). Who could possibly pass up an opportunity to see the "Smallest Church in 48 States?" Lots of people probably, although not me and not on this day. I’ve always been a sucker for oddball attractions.

It definitely fit the definition of small, measuring only 12 by 24 feet (3.6 X 7.3 metres). The interior made room for about a dozen parishioners plus an officiant. It even featured a complete Stations of the Cross with each station separated by barely a few inches. The caretakers deserved credit for creating an inspirational space on such a tiny scale.

I wondered about the 48 states. A plaque on an exterior wall provided a possible explanation: Mr. and Mrs. P. L. Milkint dedicated Our Lady of the Pines to the memory of their parents in 1958. That predated statehood for Alaska and Hawaii so maybe they never updated their claim when the number of states changed. Did it hold water? Not even close. Many houses of worship made similar boasts and several existed within smaller footprints. Nonetheless, it was a very small church in a gorgeous setting along our direct path and certainly deserved a stop.


Smallest Mailing Office?


Smallest Mailing Office

Besides, Our Lady of Pines features a bonus attraction. Just behind it stood the "World’s Smallest Mailing Office." I went inside. It featured a service window and a number of personal mailboxes, a mail slot and everything else one would expected in a post office all stuffed into a compact space (photo). However, it didn’t register as the smallest postal facility even in the United States. That honor fell to Ochopee, Florida as described in an earlier Twelve Mile Circle article, Going Postal.

I think Mr. and Mrs. P. L. Milkint simply liked to build miniature structures. I could appreciate that. People might not stop if the sign simply said "smallish church and post office."


Maryland Highpoint


Hoye-Crest, Maryland Highpoint

Less than a mile farther south on US Route 219, the highway shoulder widened where a sign marked a trailhead. We were in West Virginia, however the trail lead to the Maryland highpoint at Hoye-Crest, 3,360 feet (1,020 m). Oddly, the greatest elevation in Maryland could be approached best from a neighboring state. The path followed old logging roads across private property to the top of Backbone Mountain, then followed the ridge into Maryland to the highpoint (map). It wasn’t particularly arduous, rising about 700 vertical feet (215 m) over the mile-long trek. I prefer drive-up highpoints because I’m lazy and even so I didn’t have any trouble with this one.

Backbone Mountain hid a couple of additional features worth noting. The Eastern Continental Divide ran directly along the ridge. A glass of water poured there would flow either towards the Youghiogheny River and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico or towards the North Branch of the Potomac River and eventually into the Atlantic Ocean. Also the border between West Virginia and Maryland bisected the ridge so we visited Border Marker No. 3 along the trail (photo).

I still didn’t count myself as an official Highpointer although I’ve managed to visit a few of the easier ones. The list at this point included Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and the District of Columbia.


Fairfax Stone


The Fairfax Stone

Just a few miles farther south down the road appeared the entrance to Fairfax Stone State Park. King Charles II bestowed a substantial land grant reaching out to here in 1649. He defined a western boundary running from the headwaters of the Potomac River to the headwaters of the Rappahannock River in what was then the colony of Virginia. Nobody bothered to survey the line for another century because of its extreme isolation. Eventually ownership passed to Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax, who decided to mark his domain in 1746. He commissioned Peter Jefferson, father of future president Thomas Jefferson, to set a line between those points.

Jefferson’s marker on the North Branch of the Potomac came to be known as the Fairfax Stone, the source of the Potomac watershed. Later, others determined that the South Branch was actually the true source of the river although boundaries were already set by then. The Fairfax Stone remained (and still remains) the key marker. The state of West Virginia called it "as near as anything to being a cornerstone of the entire state."

The Fairfax Stone also figured prominently in a US Supreme Court case, Maryland v. West Virginia 217 U.S. 1 (1910). It defined the longitudinal separation between the states. Ironically the stone — actually a replacement because vandals destroyed the original — no longer touched Maryland. The North Branch took a brief western jog at the stone. Maryland began about a mile farther north after the court decision, where the river curved back to the east and crossed the appropriate line of longitude (map). It still marked the Grant, Preston, Tucker County tripoint in West Virginia, though.


A Growing Appreciation

Before I started counting counties in earnest I’d only been to the outskirts of West Virginia along with a couple of whitewater rafting trips. Since then I’ve completed four specific trips nibbling away at places I’d not yet visited. I’ve come to enjoy the state’s mountainous terrain, hidden corners and gracious people. More than anything, these trips allowed me to look past hillbilly stereotypes to appreciate the state on its own merits. That’s what traveling is all about. I do plan to continue returning to West Virginia even after I finish the final swatch and capture its remaining counties.


Articles in the Counting West Virginia Series:

  1. Let’s Begin
  2. Progress
  3. The U
  4. Oddities

See Also: The Complete Photo Album on Flickr

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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