We’ve all seen lists created from Google’s unusual auto-search recommendations. I noticed a few entertaining results while I was looking for Streets Named After… well, I forget what I was searching for exactly because I was so enthralled by the false positives. Some were mundane. I expected streets named after celebrities, trees, birds, presidents and such, and of course all of those were suggested. Others seemed downright odd. I’m not sure what Google thinks of me due to the wide array of subject matter I pour into its maw as I research articles for Twelve Mile Circle. Maybe my results were atypical although I have no way of knowing that for certain. It might be interesting to run this same experiment again in a different physical location or several months from now and see if anything changed.
Streets Named After Harry Potter
Muggle Lane, Missoula, Montana, USA
I’m guessing lots of people searched for streets named after Harry Potter and that’s why it came up as one of the top suggestions. I can’t recall focusing an inordinate amount of attention on Harry Potter in 12MC so I don’t think my search habits resulted in the hit. It led me to a BuzzFeed article, There’s A City In Montana With A Neighborhood Full Of Harry Potter-Themed Street Names. Sure enough someone could live at the intersection of Muggle Lane and Potter Park Loop in Missoula, Montana if one found that notion appealing.
Streets Named After Obama
Obama and the Pope: a mural in Arusha, Tanzania by Roman Boed, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
It somehow seemed more natural to have streets named after Barack Obama and indeed I found quite a nice list. The most far-flung instance occurred in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. President Obama visited several African nations including Tanzania in July 2013 to meet with business leaders and "demonstrate the U.S. interest in trade and investment." As a result the government of Tanzania renamed one of its primary streets, the road leading to its State House no less, as Barack Obama Drive. Imagine changing Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House to Jakaya Kikwete Drive!
The name change was reflected accurately in Google Maps. It was still listed by its previous name, Ocean Road, in OpenStreet Map at the time of publication (November 2014).
Streets Named After Packers
Trip to Green Bay by Santiago Bilinkis
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)
On the other hand, I had no clue why Google thought I’d want to search for streets named after Packers, as in the Green Bay Packers of American Football fame. It did lead to a Wall Street Journal article, "More Legends Than Streets: Green Bay Is Running Out of Roads to Name After Packer Legends." That seemed to be quite a conundrum in a "first world problem" sort of way. Green Bay wasn’t a large place. Barely a hundred thousand people lived there, making it the smallest U.S. city with a National Football League team. There were only a handful of suitably grand streets for residents to name for their gridiron stars.
Green Bay football quarterback legend Brett Favre garnered only a short block. Granted it was practically next door to Lambeau Field and it led directly to the eponymous Brett Favre’s Steakhouse (3.5 stars on Yelp) so that counted for something. The name of the street? Brett Favre Pass. That created a certain poetic sense because Favre currently holds the record for most career passing yards in the National Football League (71,838).
Streets Named After Rizal
Rizal Monument by Benson Kua, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Streets named after Rizal was a fascinating suggestion. José Rizal was a 19th Century nationalist and intellectual in the Philippines who sought a peaceful end to Spanish colonial rule. In return, Spain sentenced him to death and executed him by firing squad in 1896. He became a Filipino national hero and he was widely regarded as an early powerful force in the independence movement. His body now rests in the Rizal Monument in Manilla, complete with an honor guard offering symbolic protection around the clock.
I believe this came up because his 150th birthday celebration happened a couple of years ago. One site offered A José Rizal @150 Tribute and included a list places named for him. I expected numerous honors and commemorations in the Philippines. It was a little more unusual to see a park in Seattle, Washington (map). Apparently Seattle had a large, active Filipino community. Also there was a José-Rizal-Straße in Wilhelmsfeld, Germany (map). It turned out Rizal had lived nearby while he attended medical training in Heidelberg.
Streets Named After Lord of the Rings
Laan van Tolkien, Geldrop, The Netherlands
If Harry Potter can have streets, so can Lord of the Rings. A housing development in Geldrop, The Netherlands borrowed that theme. I noticed that many of the streets seemed to have been constructed on Woonerf design principles. I’ve been wanting to use my newfound favorite word Woonerf again in context, and there was my chance.
Streets Named After Countries in Glasgow
India Street, Glasgow, Scotland
Apparently there are fourteen streets named after countries in Glasgow, Scotland. I’m not sure why anyone would want or need to know that, and none of the streets seemed all that remarkable. Nonetheless, it came up on the list and who am I to judge?
All that talk of bowling greens in the previous article increased my curiosity about the sport of bowls (or lawn bowls) in general. It’s similar to a family of Continental lawn bowling games including Bocce and Pétanque and it spread wherever the British Empire extended. I’m not sure why I didn’t discover Bowls a couple of years ago when I tracked down Sports Facilities I Never Imagined because it would have fit in perfectly with that theme.
The Hong Kong Lawn Bowls Association provided a good concise explanation of the sport.
The game of Bowls is played on a 34 to 40M square of closely cut grass called the green. The green is divided into playing areas called rinks. The green is surrounded by a small ditch to catch bowls which leave the green, and a bank upon which markers indicate the corners and centrelines of each rink. Players deliver their bowls alternately from a mat at one end of the rink, towards a small white ball called the jack at the other end. The bowls are shaped so that they do not run in a straight line, but take a curved path towards the jack… the objective of the game is to get one or more bowls closer to the jack than those of the opposition – one point is scored for each counting bowl.
The World Bowls Board oversees the sport, setting laws and regulations for "55 member National Authorities in 51 Member Nations." The Board governs Bowls from its location in Rutland Square, Edinburgh, Scotland. I drilled-in to the address using satellite view and noticed a verdant lawn at the square. I thought that would be a wonderfully appropriate spot for a bowling green. Apparently the managers of the World Bowls Board thought the same because…
World Bowls Headquarters, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
via Google Street View, March 2010
… someone had to erect a "No Ball Games" sign in the square. That was amusing. Imagine those hellions at the World Bowls Board running amok on Rutland Square during their lunchtime, with unsanctioned pickup matches, unruly ball rolling and bothering the pigeons and such. I bet they still sneak-in matches when the authorities look the other way.
Bowls is a significant sport in several nations, and World Bowls is justifiably proud that Bowls is "a core sport in the Commonwealth Games." At the upcoming 2014 Games in Glasgow,
Athletes will compete for eight Gold medals across the men’s and women’s singles, pairs, triples and fours, beginning with a round robin format before knockout finals determine the medal winners. Set in one of Glasgow’s most famous parks, the Lawn Bowls competition will take place at the picturesque Kelvingrove Lawn Bowls Centre, adjacent to the renowned Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.
Kelvingrove Lawn Bowls Centre, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
The Kelvingrove Lawn Bowls Centre has six, count them SIX, bowling greens, with at least five of them upgraded to international standard.
The Oldest Bowling Green
Southampton (Old) Bowling Green, Southampton, England, UK
via Google Street View, June 2012
The oldest surviving bowling green is believed to be the Southampton (Old) Bowling Green in England. This green has been in continuous use since 1299. I guess I’ll have to take that on faith because "everybody" in the sport said it was true and the history page on the club’s website was down. Nonetheless I was more fortunate with I drilled down to Lower Canal Walk in Southampton using Google Street View. There I observed and captured an image of club members in action. It may not be possible for me to confirm that anyone played at Southampton in 1299, however Google proved that matches took place in June 2012.
Bowls in the United States
Bowls certainly had devoted fans in the United States even if it didn’t have quite the same recognition as found in the UK. Bowls USA governs the sport across an extensive list of Divisions and Clubs.
Leisure World, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA
I found the club closest to my residence. It turned out to be located at Leisure World of Maryland, "a private, age-restricted community." I guess I’ll have to defer my dreams of Bowls glory awhile longer. That seemed to be a recurring theme in the United States. Twelve clubs existed in Florida while none existed in huge swaths of the Midwest. Bowls seemed to skew towards an older demographic.
Most Isolated Green?
Murray Barracks Bowling Green, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
I examined the list of international member countries recognized by World Bowls to locate the most isolated bowling green. I probably could have selected any one of several South Pacific islands. Instead I chose to focus on Papua New Guinea for no particular reason other than it seemed improbable. Instead, I discovered that Bowls was apparently quite popular and worthy of television coverage.
Port Moresby has an international standard bowling green at Murray Barracks, the headquarters of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force.
It was like one of those mystery shopping contests where someone enters a store and suddenly confetti and balloons rain from the ceiling when the one-millionth customer crosses the threshold, and wins a big prize. Except it was four thousand. And I couldn’t provide anything valuable. Congratulations to "Peter" for posting Twelve Mile Circle’s 4000th comment from an actual human(¹).
I’m glad it was Peter because he’s been a longtime reader and commentator on Twelve Mile Circle. I thought about doing something similar for a different big round number awhile ago and lost interest after it was some random one-time visitor with a particularly bland observation. Peter deserved better treatment, though. I offered to research an article featuring the geo-oddities of a town of his choice.
Medford, New York, USA
Peter kindly suggested two options, Waterbury, Connecticut and Medford, New York. I set aside Waterbury. I could never serve Connecticut-style (Connecticutiana?) weirdness like the fine writing of Steve over at Connecticut Museum Quest. I’d probably want to talk about the Waterbury Button Museum(²) or Holy Land USA, and of course Steve already covered those way beyond my skills.
Thus, 12MC moved on to Medford. I could have talked about a lot of things:
- The oddly oval street with the awesome topiary
- The rare sight of an actual street cleaner in action
- The street named for a cheezy newspaper cartoon character that I didn’t realize still existed but does
- The confounding connection to Virginia, or maybe that’s just because I’m sensitive to all things Virginia (e.g., Mt. Vernon Ave., Richmond Ave., Virginia Dr., Blue Ridge Golf Club). There was a veritable confederacy of Virginia place names in Medford!
- The 12’9" low clearance bridge (however, do not stare at the billboard. That would be rude)
- The partial alphabetical-order street grid in one section of town where every other street followed the pattern (ACORN, rhode island, BEECHNUT, newport, CHESTNUT, new london, DEVON…)
- The salvage company with its own railroad connection
- Carvel Ice Cream? Cookie Puss®.(³)
Indeed, any of those threads may have been worth pursing. Once again I uncovered supporting evidence of a hypothesis that extended way back to the very earliest days of 12MC, that geo-oddities exist everywhere. I found sufficient material right there for probably a half-dozen articles. I sidestepped all of that. In fact, it led me to an earlier time and another continent.
Horseblock Rd., Medford, New York, USA
What in the world was a horseblock other than the name of a major road through Medford? Obviously it bore some significance, perhaps extending back before the village coalesced around a Long Island Railroad station in the mid-19th Century.
Horseblock by Andrew Skudder on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license
A horseblock, put simply, was "a step or block of stone, wood, etc., for getting on or off a horse or in or out of a vehicle." They were once quite common. Practically every church, hotel, shop or public square catering to polite society would have offered such a horseblock as a matter of modesty or convenience. Imagine a woman in a long, flowing dress attempting to maintain some dignity as she climbed into a carriage, or an elderly gentleman no longer quite as nimble as he once was, wishing to ride horseback. Only barbaric establishments would have lacked a simple horseblock.
Few horseblocks remain outside of equestrian centers except as quaint, nostalgic reminders of centuries past. Wellington’s horse block in London serves as one such example (map and above). The Duke of Wellington, as described on the plaque attached to the block, "desired" this specific convenience at this spot in 1830 and so it exists in perpetuity. It serves members of the United Services Club, a social group of high-ranking military officers that no longer exists. Even today the parking space in front of this horseblock, and its companion horseblock on the other side of the road, must remain clear in case Wellington’s ghost shows up on spectral horseback and he needs to dismount.
Duddingston Kirk Horseblock, Edinburgh, Scotland
via Google Street View, August 2012
I found a brief list of horseblocks, as well as a couple of alternate names for them such as mounting blocks, or as in Scotland loupin’-on-stanes (stones to be leapt upon?). Speaking of Scotland, notice this wonderful example of a horseblock in front of Duddingston Kirk on Old Church Lane, Duddingston Village, Edinburgh (map). It’s not exactly a stairway to heaven, more like a stairway to nowhere.
Sorry, Peter, I never discovered the specific horseblock that influenced the naming of Horseblock Road in Medford. It might be lost to history or it may be waiting for someone to post it on the Intertubes. It was likely more memorable as a local landmark a hundred or more years ago when people actually needed horseblocks.
(¹) But Tom, you say, clearly that’s comment 5743, to which I reply, yes, and now you understand the dimensions of comment spam. Those extra 1743 were the particularly persistent ones that made it through two levels of filters and had to be deleted manually from the moderation queue. The filters probably blocked many hundreds of times that amount.
(²) I would never suggest that anyone go over to CTMQ’s button page and ask Steve to appraise a button. That would be mean.
(³) I think the Washington, DC area may have been at Carvel’s far, far, far southern extreme. We’d get those awful homemade advertisements only on the televisions stations that weren’t part of the big-3 networks, the ones that required extra jiggling on the rabbit ears just to catch a staticky signal with reruns of Gilligan’s Island