That Other Warsaw

On December 28, 2014 · 1 Comments

In the recent Not the City article I focused on Richmond among other places, not the city of course rather the county, and noticed that its local government was centered in a village called Warsaw (map). That seemed like an exceptionally odd choice. There wasn’t a large Polish diaspora on Virginia’s Northern Neck as best as I could tell. Why name a town after the capital of Poland in a place without any discernible Polish influence? I did discover the reason soon enough. Warsaw’s original name was Richmond Courthouse which must have been terribly confusing as the much larger city located elsewhere in Virginia with the same name continued to grow. Residents changed the name to Warsaw in 1831 in allegiance to events of the Polish–Russian War of 1830–1831.

I’d learned in Can’t Get Enough of Kossuth that citizens of the United States often associated personally with the struggles for freedom and democracy happening beyond its borders. These clashes mirrored some of the underpinnings of the American Revolution and resonated emotionally with many citizens of the early United States. This sense of solidarity even translated to the naming of towns. Warsaw was another example. While GNIS listed 51 Warsaw place names in the U.S., and while many of those were likely settled by Polish immigrants, a handful received their names in the same period as the Polish–Russian War and were likely named for it.



This video provided a basic overview of the November Uprising and the Battle of Warsaw. Accompanying text is in English and most of the imagery requires no direct translation so 12MC readers should be fine after getting past the early part spoken in Polish. I guess it’s Polish. I couldn’t tell what language it was even though I’ve been to Poland and should know better (even went to Hel and Back). It’s definitely from somewhere "over there" though. No matter, you’re all bright people and you’ll figure it out.

For those who don’t want to sit through nine minutes of video, let me see if I can provide a very brief synopsis. A portion of Poland under Russian control gained a modicum of independence after the Napoleonic Wars. The Czar granted its Polish province authority to establish its own constitution and congress, allowing it to run its own courts, form its own army and establish its own treasury. Russian control remained mostly hands-off at the start and then began to gradually tighten, becoming increasingly autocratic. Frustrations reached a tipping point in November 1830 when the Polish army broke into rebellion, and support spread to the rest of population. This uprising soon broke into an actual war involving large armies. Decisively, Russian forces assaulted and crushed resistance at the Battle of Warsaw in September 1831. Things went badly for the Polish people afterwards.


Fryderyk Chopin monument
Fryderyk Chopin monument by Bartosz MORĄG, on Flickr (cc)

Thousands of Polish elites fled Poland and spread throughout Europe. This included many of its citizens with education, money or special talents. One example was the composer Frédéric Chopin (Fryderyk Chopin) who fled to France. Poland never forgot its cultural heritage however. Today, Warsaw’s Royal Baths Park (Łazienki Park) includes the Chopin Statue (map) which was cast in 1926, destroyed by Germans in World War II and re-cast in 1958 using the original mold. I’m not sure how I got down that tangent although I found it interesting. Let’s get back to places in the United States named Warsaw that were likely named for the uprising and the ensuing war.


Kentucky


Welcome to Warsaw
Welcome to Warsaw by J. Stephen Conn, on Flickr (cc)

Kentucky’s Warsaw (map) was named as such in 1831. Originally it had been named Fredericksburg. However Kentucky already had a Fredericksburg so this newer one was changed to Warsaw to avoid confusion. Events from Poland were still fresh in the news at that time.


Missouri


Warsaw Shrine Club
Warsaw Shrine Club by Patrick Hoesly, on Flickr (cc)

In Missouri, a brand new town was platted in 1837 and it became Warsaw (map). I didn’t find conclusive evidence to tie its name back to the Polish–Russian War although the year of establishment made it plausible. Rather, it had been attributed to honoring Tadeusz Kościuszko, a hero of the American Revolution who was from Poland. He was best known for constructing American defensive fortifications including West Point.


Indiana


Warsaw Public Library ~ Historic Building ~ Kosciusko County
Warsaw Public Library ~ Historic Building ~ Kosciusko County by Onasill ~ Bill Badzo, on Flickr (cc)

Indiana followed a similar pattern and its Warsaw (map) was established in 1836 at the same time its home county was formed, Kosciusko County. It’s now the "Orthopedic Capital of the World."

The Warsaw, Indiana-based orthopedic cluster is unique in the business world. Its rise to global prominence started serendipitously when Revra DePuy began his company in Warsaw in 1895. It was assured when DePuy employee and area native J.O. Zimmer launched his own company in 1927

That same source attributed Warsaw with $11 billion in orthopedic sales, one third of the orthopedics sales in the world, and employing 45% of the Kosciusko County workforce.


Ohio



Warsaw, Ohio, USA

I didn’t find much about Warsaw, Ohio. It was a tiny place with only about seven hundred residents. Its website said merely, "Our Village of Warsaw was laid out in 1834 and was named after the Polish capital, a country then endeavoring to secure her independence. The village is among the youngest in Coshocton County." The time period seemed just about right and the town history implied a connection.

Not the City

On December 24, 2014 · 8 Comments

I examined a stack of family files online and I learned that a distant relative lived in Houston, Texas. That wasn’t completely unexpected because I’ve traced numerous family members back through there. However the records didn’t make sense as I read through them. Geographic identifiers seemed unfamiliar and out of place. I slowly realized that they referenced Houston County, not the City of Houston. Wouldn’t it make sense for Houston, the city, to actually reside within Houston County? Yes it would although that wasn’t the case. The City of Houston fell more than a hundred miles away in Harris County.

There were a handful of other instances where counties and major cities that shared their names in the same state failed to overlap. I examined the top 100 cities by population in the United States and found six occurrences, Houston included. The cities had more inhabitants than the same-named counties in every example, usually considerably larger and sometimes ridiculously larger. Invariably the counties were prefaced by "not to be confused with…" when described by sources, such as in "Houston County, not to be confused with Houston."

I attempted to rank the six examples based on two factors, the percentage difference in their respective populations and the physical distance that separated them. Then I focused my attention on the counties because they were so much more obscure than the cities. Each one had at least a single bit of interesting trivia.

Wichita County, Kansas


Grain Elevator
Grain Elevator by Eric Crowley, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Wichita County (map) had a population of 0.5% of the City of Wichita, and was located 262 miles (422 kilometres) away. That was by far the biggest difference in population and distance. Wichita won.

Kansas was notably violent in the Nineteenth Century along a lawless frontier. Fights often broke out in the western counties as they were being drawn, settled, and placed within a governance structure. Money could be made or lost based on a location where a county seat might or might not be established. The dispute in Wichita County was called the "Bloodiest of Them All." A history written as part of a Depression-era project of the Works Progress Administration, Kansas, a Guide to the Sunflower State, described the situation:

With the organization of Wichita County in 1886, the two towns became bitter rivals for the county seat. As usual, both factions resorted to extralegal measures. Gunmen were imported "to preserve order." From Dodge City the Coronado partisans brought a former sheriff while Leoti sent to wild and wooly Wallace for a crew of "fun-loving" cowboys who terrorized all law-abiding citizens… On the eve of the county seat election Coulter and six or seven other young men from Leoti loaded a case of beer into a rig and drove over to the rival town… A burst of gunfire precipitated a pitched battle in the town’s main street.

Perhaps that’s one reason why Wichita County still prohibits the sale of alcohol by the drink even though Kansas amended its Constitution to allow that about thirty years ago.


Houston County, Texas


Houston County -- First County Created Under Republic of Texas, June 12th 1837
Houston County — First County Created Under Republic of Texas, June 12th 1837 by bk1bennett, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Houston came in second place in my analysis so let’s go ahead and talk about it. Houston County (map) had a population of 1% of the City of Houston, and was located 116 miles (187 kilometres) away.

The ever-useful Handbook of Texas became indispensable once again. It noted that Houston was the first county created in the brand-new Republic of Texas in 1837. Sam Houston, President of Texas, signed the order. He won the war so he could name anything after himself, and he did. The City of Houston was founded in the same year, obviously also named for Sam Houston. The city did better, about a hundred times better at least by population.


Austin County, Texas


Old Austin County Jail, Bellville, Texas 0130101401BW
Old Austin County Jail, Bellville, Texas by Patrick Feller, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Texas had too few heroes from the Revolution for its very large geographic footprint, it seemed, and only so many names to share. I found a similar situation for Stephen F. Austin. Austin County (map) had a population of 3% of the City of Austin, and was located 114 miles (183 kilometres) away. The area that became the County of Austin played an important role during the years immediately prior to Texas forming into a republic in 1836. Although Washington-on-the-Brazos became the initial capital of an independent Texas upon the establishment of its constitution (as 12MC described in One Star Many Centers), San Felipe had served that same purpose as the provisional capital immediately prior to and during the revolution. San Felipe (map) was the focal point of the original Stephen F. Austin colony and it was located in what later became Austin County.


Lincoln County, Nebraska


Golden Spike Tower and Visitors Center, North Platte, Nebraska
Golden Spike Tower and Visitors Center, North Platte, Nebraska by David Becker, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Lincoln County (map) had a population of 13% of the City of Lincoln, and was located 226 miles (364 kilometres) away. It had a fairly sizable town — North Platte — so that pushed it farther down on the list. North Platte was noted for the world’s largest rail yard at Bailey Yard. Lincoln County displayed a justifiable sense of pride in its monstrous rail yard and erected the Golden Spike Tower, "an eight-story building which overlooks the expansive railroad staging area" (map). This must be nirvana for rail fans.


Boise County, Idaho


Horseshoe Bend Idaho
Horseshoe Bend Idaho by Richard Bauer, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Boise County (map) had a population of 3% of the City of Boise, and was located 27 miles (43 kilometres) away. The downfall of Boise County in my calculations was that it practically abutted the City of Boise, pushing it way down on the list. Boise county had two major towns, Idaho City and Horseshoe Bend. I used the term "major" loosely as neither had more than a few hundred residents. Nonetheless the fine citizens of Horseshoe Bend, being the larger of the two, attempted to grab the county seat of government by wrestling it away from Idaho City. They made at least two recent attempts, in 1974 and in 2004. However, unlike their counterparts in Kansas a century ago, their weapon of choice was a petition for referendum rather than a gang of drunken cowboys with guns. Their attempts failed. They might have had been more successful with drunken cowboys.


Richmond County, Virginia


Richmond County Courthouses
Richmond County Courthouses by Jimmy Emerson, DVM, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Richmond County (map) had a population of 4% of the City of Richmond, and was located 52 miles (84 kilometres) away. Interestingly, the two Richmond places in Virginia represented different things. Richmond County, formed in 1692, derived its name from Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond. The City of Richmond, founded in 1737, was named for the town of Richmond in the southwestern part of London, England. I’m sure if I tried hard enough I could probably connect those two Richmonds together somewhere back in English history. I took a basic glance and followed threads back from both directions and grew tired of the task. Someone with more patience than I should feel free to give it a go.


Ringers

I’ll mention two other possibilities that I discovered and discounted: Baltimore City vs. Baltimore County in Maryland and St. Louis City vs. St. Louis County in Missouri. Those were both instances where a city split from a county and became an independent entity. Those didn’t feel like the same situation presented elsewhere.

Reversible

On November 5, 2014 · 3 Comments

It dawned on me recently, as I drove around the Washington, DC area, that there seemed to be an inordinate number of reversible road lanes that switched directions on regular schedules. The occurrence that got me thinking about this was a one-block section of Washington Boulevard (map) on the western edge of Arlington’s Clarendon neighborhood


Reversible Road Lane
Washington Blvd., Arlington, Virginia, USA
via Google Street View, July 2014

I’ve driven through that slot a number of times and I never gave it much of a second thought. It seemed rather self-explanatory. Overhead lights with green arrows and red x’s denoted lanes that could be traversed depending on prevailing morning or evening traffic patterns. It made sense even if it lasted for such a short distance. It was the only three lane segment with four lanes radiating from either end. It saved on construction costs.

The variety of different types of reversible lanes also surprised me as I started ticking-off some nearby examples.


Overhead Lights


Stupid Young Driver on Cell Phone in Closed Lane on Chesapeake Bay Bridge!
Stupid Young Driver on Cell Phone in Closed Lane on Chesapeake Bay Bridge! by William Johns, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge (map) connecting Maryland’s eastern shore to the rest of the state provided yet another example of overhead lights signaling traffic flow. The bridge accommodated prevailing traffic to and from Atlantic Ocean resorts especially during the summertime. More lanes opened towards the beach on Fridays and pointed back towards home on Sundays, almost like the ebb and flow of tides.

Overhead lights exposed an inherit problem: people needed to understand that lanes could reverse and they also needed to know what the symbols meant. "Stupid Young Driver on Cell Phone" had obvious difficulties with one or both of those concepts.


Just a Sign


'Signs' -- Chain Bridge (VA) January 2014
'Signs' — Chain Bridge (VA) January 2014 by Ron Cogswell, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Chain Bridge (map) had three lanes stretching across the Potomac River between Arlington and Washington, with the middle lane reversible. Only a single sign told motorists about the unusual situation (Street View). Presumably daily commuters traveling over the bridge during critical hours would already understand the situation. Woe to the poor visitor who happened to cross the bridge at an inopportune time and not see the sign.


A Machine Does All the Work


Lane Mover
Roosevelt Bridge, Washington, DC, USA
via Google Street View, August 2014

Another Potomac River bridge between Arlington and Washington, the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge (map) offered a better solution. The reversible section had a concrete barrier to keep drivers from making a mistake. An odd little machine moved the barrier twice a day to accommodate commuters. This unusual arrangement was created by Lindsay Transportation Solutions.

The moveable barrier system enables the DOT to quickly reconfigure traffic lanes and directional capacity on the bridge in less than 15 minutes (the bridge is just under one mile in length). The Barrier Transfer Machine (BTM) safely transfers the barrier one or two traffic lanes at speeds from seven to ten miles per hour. A magnetic tape grooved into the pavement guides the BTM and ensures precise placement of the barrier wall.

That seemed a lot safer than signs or overhead lights.


Completely Reversible with a Sign


IMG_4012
IMG_4012 by bankbryan, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Some of our local roads were completely reversible. The Rock Creek Parkway (map) — actually called the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway in official terms, which I didn’t know until a few minutes ago — operated with two lanes in both directions most of the time. However in the morning all four lanes headed towards Washington and all four lanes returned traffic to the suburbs in the evening. Monday through Friday. Except Federal holidays. Make an error reading a sign (Street View) and find oneself heading towards the wrong way on a four-lane highway.

I would stay away from here on Columbus Day. Federal government employees are about the only people who get the day off. Imagine everyone else forgetting about that quirk and thinking it was a normal Monday commute. Yikes!


Completely Reversible and Safer


Interstate 395 - Virginia
Interstate 395 – Virginia by Doug Kerr, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A stretch of Interstate 95 and Interstate 395 (map) from Northern Virginia into the District featured two High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes that switched directions for the morning and evening commutes, sandwiched between and completely separate from the regular highway lanes. These are being converted into High Occupancy/Toll (HOT) lanes although the concept will remain largely the same.

These seemed considerably safer. Barrier arms blocked access to ramps that led to these special lanes so that cars traveling in the "wrong" direction couldn’t make a mistake. The arms raised when the lanes reversed and it was safe to travel that direction again.

There were several more reversible lanes in the area that I didn’t have space to mention. Also Wikipedia had an entire article devoted to reversible lanes in other parts of the world so I imagined they were rather prevalent. It was funny how I’ve grown so used to seeing them that I never considered how weird they seemed conceptually.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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