I guess the recent Ghost Signs got me thinking about the way things used to be in an earlier age. My memory circled back to a time when professional baseball didn’t exist in Washington, DC and we used to travel to Baltimore to see the Orioles play. This happened a lot when I was a kid, long before the Orioles occupied the beautiful, iconic Camden Yards that so many other ball clubs copied. The Orioles took the field on a much less beautiful and nowhere nearly as iconic Memorial Stadium before that. I even think we saw the Baltimore Colts play (American) football a couple times there too. The Colts left Baltimore in 1983 just to show how far back my mind wandered. What happened to Memorial Stadium after its replacement, I wondered.
Memorial Stadium; Baltimore, Maryland, USA
I drilled into a satellite image and discovered that the old stadium still existed. Well, not really. The city tore it down in 2001. However many fragments remained, spread throughout Baltimore. Its basic shape also remained. A new residential neighborhood occupied much of the land originally part of the Memorial Stadium property. It included a ring-road that approximated the circumference of the stadium itself. Inside that asphalt oval, an open field covered the spot where professional sports teams once played. It offered configurations for baseball, football and soccer.
That made me consider other stadiums wiped from the earth. In many cases new stadiums simply covered the exact footprint occupied by their predecessors. In other instances not a single sign remained at all. However, I enjoyed the ones like Baltimore the most, where people kept their memories alive. Those stadiums continued to exist in an odd ethereal way. The roar of the crowd now silenced, the crack of the bat or the kick of the ball no longer felt, but the stories remained in the landscape.
Some quick searching found several more examples.
Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium; Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Hank Aaron 715th Home Run Monument. Photo by Wally Gobetz on Flickr (cc)
Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium hosted both the Atlanta Braves of baseball and the Atlanta Falcons of (American) football at various times before a controlled implosion finally took it down in 1997. The brand-new Turner Field rose on an adjacent parcel, and the spot once occupied by Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium became part of its parking lots. The old footprint occupied a large section of the Green Lot (it looked awesome on satellite view). Even more of a bonus, the spot where Hank Aaron hit his historic 715th Home Run continued to be commemorated. Aaron accomplished that feat in 1974, surpassing the lifetime record of Babe Ruth, when Aaron hit a ball over an outfield fence and into the Braves’ bullpen. The memorial in the parking lot replicated the fence and the bullpen at the exact spot where it happened.
I realized that marker made little sense to much of 12MC’s international audience. Just understand that a really great sporting event happened there and its preservation was a nice touch.
Yankee Stadium; The Bronx, New York, USA
Once a ballpark, now just a park. Photo by Benjamin Kabak on Flickr (cc)
The New York Yankees baseball team played at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx from 1923 until 2008 (map). The team left for a new Yankee Stadium on an adjacent lot. Then the city demolished the old stadium and created Heritage Field on the same footprint. As the New York Times described it,
… nearly every inch, from the pavement stones underfoot to the three natural grass ball fields, has been elaborately designed to pay homage to the Yankees and their celebrated former home. Even the sod is the same that the Yankees, professional baseball’s biggest spender, chose for their new stadium… Even the old diamond and outfield have been saved, delineated with five-foot-wide swaths of blue polymer fiber stitched into the sod by a Desso Grassmaster machine that had to be shipped over from the Netherlands.
Now amateur and high school baseball clubs from all over the city stand where some of the greatest professionals once played.
Milwaukee County Stadium; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Helfaer Field. Photo by Rough Tough, Real Stuff on Flickr (cc)
Combine the idea of a parking lot and a small ball field on an original footprint, and that became the fate of Milwaukee County Stadium. Miller Park replaced it in 2000 on an adjacent parcel. Although large surface parking lots grew completely around Miller Park, the former spot of Milwaukee County Stadium became a baseball field. It took the name Helfaer Field with room for 500 spectators in its bleacher seats. People can rent it for "softball, youth baseball, kickball, tailgates, meetings and much more." It looked pretty good on Satellite view sitting there, surrounded by parking lots.
Memorial Stadium; University of Minnesota, USA
McNamara Memorial on Wikimedia Commons (cc)
The Golden Gophers of the University of Minnesota played (American) football at Memorial Stadium in Minneapolis from 1924 to 1981. The stadium became totally obliterated. An alumni center filled its former spot (map). However one vital feature remained, its entry arch, inside of the alumni center. People could still walk through the old entryway, although its passage no longer led to a gridiron. Instead it opened into a large room called the Heritage Gallery, "a multimedia museum … [that] honors the accomplishments of University of Minnesota alumni, faculty, students and staff."
Waverley Park; Mulgrave, Victoria, Australia
I found faded stadium footprints outside of the United States too. A prime example existed in Australia. Waverley Park in Mulgrave, Victoria once hosted up to seventy thousand Australian rules football fans. Concentric ring roads circled the demolished stadium, part of a masterplanned community, with a grassy centerpiece remaining at the spot of the original stadium now serving as a practice facility,
Today, as Hawthorn football players train on the oval, the sound of boots striking balls evokes memories of a sporting past. For some, the ‘Hawks’ are simply part of the scenery, for others they bring new meaning to ‘backyard footy’, with star players running junior clinics for tomorrow’s footy legends. Residents of Oval Front Homes have box seats, cheering on from their balconies during practice matches and training.
The original stadium no longer existed although a grandstand at one end still held room for a couple of thousand spectators.
Cathkin Park; Glasgow, Scotland, UK
Cathkin Park. Photo by Tom Brogan on Flickr (cc)
I found a particularly early example in Scotland, a football (soccer) stadium called Cathkin Park in Glasgow. Professional football there dated back to 1884 when the Queen’s Park club called it home. Third Lanark took over in 1903 and remained there for more than sixty years until the team folded.
Sadly there are no fond memories for Third Lanark fans of that era. They were shattered to witness the Cathkin gates being closed for the final time on 30th June 1967.
Much of the stadium was removed as it fell into disrepair (map). However, terraces ringing three sides of the stadium remained in place, as did the old field. The area became a public park and a home field to various amateur and student teams.
There was a town in Maryland I spotted named California. I’d known about it for awhile. It always seemed odd to have a town in one state named for another, especially one located an entire continent away. I figured there was a connection and further speculated that it had its roots in the California Gold Rush that captured the imagination of the nation in 1849 and thereafter.
First I needed to examine the etymology of California to understand if the name might have arisen independently. However, nobody was completely sure what influenced the original California name. Most sources tended to speculate that it derived from a romantic novel published in Spain in the early Sixteenth Century, "Las Sergas de Esplandián." The book described a fictional island found east of Asia. Early Spanish explorers, mistaking Mexico’s Baja Peninsula for an island, noticed a similarity and applied California both to the peninsula and to lands farther north. The theory seemed plausible although plenty of other ideas existed too.
The name spread throughout parts of the New World. However, I was interested specifically in places named because of the Gold Rush influence. Therefore I declined to examine places named California in Central and South America. Those would have likely traced back to the Spanish colonial era. I stuck to English-speaking areas.
Patuxent River by N8ure Lover on Flickr (cc)
I didn’t resolve the mystery in Maryland completely. Indeed, the California (map) in St. Mary’s County was named for the west coast state of the same name. However I never discovered what year that happened. I also learned that this once sleepy hamlet had been growing rapidly in recent years due to its proximity to adjacent Naval Air Station Patuxent River while also becoming popular with commuters to Washington, DC. It experienced an explosive 25% population growth in the previous decade, now approaching twelve thousand residents. That recent surge probably made it the largest U.S. California outside of the state of California.
This same general area made an appearance in Twelve Mile Circle about three years ago in Three Notches for an entirely different reason.
California University of PA by Jon Dawson on Flickr (cc)
The California in Pennsylvania (map) sparked similar déjà vu. I knew I’d encountered the place previously. Sure enough, the university located in town — California University of Pennsylvania — appeared in a 12MC article called Résumé Bait and Switch a couple of years ago. I’d even speculated on the potential Gold Rush nature of its name. The conjecture was well founded since the borough of California confirmed it:
California Borough is a community of approximately 5200 people that covers nearly 13 square miles of land. California was founded in 1849 and incorporated as a Borough in 1853. It is named after the state of California because the town’s founding coincided with the California Gold Rush of 1849. Naming the town after the state was meant to symbolize our town’s future growth and prosperity.
That seemed pretty definitive.
California, Missouri 65618 by Jimmy Emerson, DVM on Flickr (cc)
The third largest non-California California seemed to be a town so named in Missouri (map). It also had the distinction of being the seat of local government for Moniteau County. This California was named for its west coast cousin although I’d have to call it a near-miss on the Gold Rush connection. It actually predated the Gold Rush by a couple of years.
California, county seat of Moniteau county, …was first called Boonsborough but by act January 25, 1847, changed to California. The new country on the Pacific Coast was just then attracting attention and the overland railroad was being agitated and during this agitation the name was given for the state of California
The name change may have had something to do with a Post Office issue; the original name already having been applied to another Missouri town.
California, Cincinnati, Ohio
California, Ohio by Henryr10 on Flickr (cc)
Most of the other towns of California were nothing more than flyspecks. There was one former town however, now a neighborhood within Cincinnati, that seemed to have some significance (map). The village claimed a Gold Rush derivation, albeit indirectly.
In the year of the Gold Rush, three friends… shook off the desire to become gold miners and decided instead to make money in an "easier" way. Their idea was to lay off a town that would become one of the greatest industrial cities along the Ohio River… Unfortunately, their dreams were never fully realized and California was to remain a small rivertown until it was later annexed by Cincinnati in 1909.
California eventually packed a lot of activities within its tiny neighborhood boundaries including a golf course, a nature preserve and an amusement park. It was also the city of Cincinnati’s southernmost point.
Bendigo Miners' statue by Tim Gillin on Flickr (cc)
I did discover a couple of California place names in English-speaking countries outside of the United States with potential Gold Rush connections. The larger was California Gulley (map), a suburb near Bendigo in Victoria, Australia. Bindigo was noted for its goldfield.
People came from across the world to seek their fortune in Bendigo in the mid to late 1800’s. Alluvial gold was discovered along the banks of the Bendigo Creek in 1851 and resulted in a major gold rush… In Christmas 1851 there were 800 people on the field and by the following June, 20,000 diggers had arrived in the alluvial field. Alluvial gold production was dominant in the first ten years of the field to 1860 and is estimated to account for up to four million ounces or almost one fifth of the total gold won from the Bendigo goldfield.
It didn’t seem surprising that an area on the outskirts of Bendigo came to be known as California Gully given the timing of the Bendigo Gold Rush, just a couple of years after the similar rush in the United States.
There was also a California in England, an area within Derby (map) in Derbyshire. The etymology was unclear although speculation existed that it may have had ties somehow to the California Gold Rush.
My search showed that many California place names did seem draw their influence from the state of California in the United States. Connections to the Gold Rush often existed, although not ubiquitously.
Several months ago, right after I returned from my Dust Bowl trip and tallied my new County Counts, I noticed that one of them, Lincoln County, Colorado was sort-of shaped like the letter L. That led to Shaped Like it Sounds, a brief collection of States, Counties and Towns that mirrored the first letter of their names geographically.
That concept suddenly jumped to the next level when I noticed this amazing specimen of a road in a suburb of the Melbourne, Australia metropolitan area.
Y St., Ashburton, Victoria, Australia
Behold the occurrence of Ashburton’s Y Street in the City of Boroondara, on the eastern side of Melbourne. This one was rather atypical of a Y Street since it was actually shaped like the letter Y (you may need to drill in to see the actual labeling, or consult a different map). I couldn’t find any other single-letter streets nearby so it didn’t appear to be part of a larger grid. Someone consciously labeled this Y street due purely to its shape. It seemed rather odd. How would someone create a set of logical street addresses for a road that split like this?
Imaging giving someone directions: "OK, drive up Y Street to the Y-intersection. Now, bear left onto the left branch of Y Street; be careful not to take the right branch of Y Street. Yes, they are all the same Y Street…"
What About Other Letters of the Alphabet?
The highly unusual nature of Y Street became more apparent as I searched in vain for additional instances. I was certain there had to be others — it seemed too tempting to not spawn similar thoughts elsewhere — although I couldn’t find anything. Hundreds of towns with perfectly square or rectangular alphabetical grids jammed the results of major online search engines to the point of uselessness. Try to find an actual S-shaped S Street, or a circular O Street, or a crescent C Street. Post them in the comments if you find anything. I gave up.
Ewe Road, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, USA
I found much better luck when I converted my attempts from a single letter to a phonetic spelling. For example, convert the letter U to Ewe or You and one could easily discern several horseshoe-styled streets, paths or driveways that met the criteria. Some of them may have been designated intentionally. Others required greater imagination to appreciate and may reflect a Rorschach interpretation of my overly wishful thinking.
Nonetheless, I discovered a few possibilities after more time spent hunting than I’d care to admit.
- (C): See Road, Valley Head, WV (map) – Turn the orientation on the map so that East points upward and a large C-shaped crescent appears
- (L): Ell Road, Hillsdale, NJ (map) – A definite and most assuredly intentional L. There were several other Ell roads/streets although the one in Hillsdale was probably the best. Ell was the most common Letter-Shape road.
- (O): O Circle, Adel, IA (map) – Oh! I so wanted to believe it was an O. It formed a circuit albeit more rectangular than circular when combined with N Avenue and 250th Street. "Circle" in this corner of Iowa appeared to represent any street with a 90° bend that didn’t change names. I don’t know why.
- (S): Ess Road, Kansas City, MO (map) – Ess Road had a couple of legitimate S curves.
- (U): Ewe Road, Mechanicsburg, PA – I featured that one in the image above.
- (U): You Road, Kane, PA (map) – Someone with a driveway had a good sense of humor
- (U): You Way, Parrottsville, TN (map) – A definite U although I’m kinda wondering more about the name Parrottsville(¹) than the shape of the road.
- (Y): Why Lane, McVeytown, PA (map) – It forms a Y intersection when combined with adjacent River Road; nowhere near as good as the Australian example though.
Additionally if anyone want to take a logical leap and say that snakes represent S, then there are hundreds of Snake Streets and such with multiple twists and curves.
What Were They Thinking?
O Circle, Omaha, Nebraska
I spotted three distinct segments of O Circle in Omaha, Nebraska and they all appeared ramrod straight except for their terminations at bulbous cul-de-sacs. What a completely lost opportunity. I did notice a dog about to relieve itself on a fire hydrant quite stereotypically, and that should count for something at least until the Street View car drives through the neighborhood again.
My disappointment with C Street in Crescent City, California was also palpable. With a name like Crescent City, shouldn’t it have a crescent-shaped street and wouldn’t C Street be the perfect candidate? Nope. It was simply one among many perpendicular and parallel lines (map) on a much larger grid.
Ditto for See Crescent in Avenell Heights, Queensland, Australia (map) which was neither a C nor a Crescent. A pox on the person who named that one deceptively.
By preemption, I’ll also note that any straight-line I street might be said to resemble its namesake, as would any L street if we considered the lowercase, or a T street that terminates in a T intersection. None of those were worth pursuing.
(¹) Mysetery solved: "Parrottsville was settled in 1769 by John Parrott, an American Revolutionary War Soldier." It had nothing to do with Jimmy Buffett.