Presidential Layers

On September 8, 2016 · 2 Comments

Twelve Mile Circle discovered quite the layering of Presidential place names recently, completely by accident. I tried to find a better example during the larger part of an afternoon and never came close. Someone from the audience should feel free to post a comment with better results.

Washington State

Washington State Capitol
Washington State Capitol. Photo by dannymac15_1999 on Flickr (cc)

George Washington as the first President of the United States certainly deserved places named for him in abundance. He probably didn’t need Washington Ditch although I couldn’t fault those responsible for digging a path through a swamp for seizing the opportunity. New York City served as the US capital at George Washington’s inauguration in 1789 and it moved to Philadelphia the following year. In 1791, Washington appointed a commission to establish a new capital city in accordance with the Residence Act. The Commissioners came up with a new name for the city… Washington. I mentioned that because a really important place — namely the capital city of the United States — honored George Washington from the very earliest days of the nation.

Settlers moving to the Pacific Northwest north of the Columbia River wished to split from the previously-established Oregon Territory in 1853. They wanted to call their news state Columbia. Oregon Territory’s nonvoting representative in Congress took their case to the floor of the House of Representatives. Then things took a strange twist.

Upon the completion of Lane’s speech, a new issue was injected into the proceedings. Suddenly the question was not whether the new territory should be created, but what name it should be called. Representative Richard Stanton of Kentucky rose and moved that the bill be amended by striking the word "Columbia" wherever it occurred and substituting "Washington." The House then voted favorably on the motion.

Despite legends to the contrary, the change was actually just one of those things that happened on a whim. They weren’t trying to prevent confusion with the District of Columbia. Congress simply wanted to honor George Washington even more. Thus the US ended up with a Washington State (map) not a Columbia State.

Lincoln County

Lincoln County Courthouse (Davenport, Washington)
Lincoln County Courthouse (Davenport, Washington). Photo by cmh2315fl on Flickr (cc)

Washington State eventually subdivided into 39 counties. Several of them honored presidents other than Washington: Adams; Garfield; Grant; Lincoln; Jefferson and Pierce. Lincoln County (map) appeared in 1883, one of many places named for Abraham Lincoln in the US in the decades immediately following his assassination. The western states settled quickly during that era. Only Native Americans lived in what became Lincoln County a decade earlier.

"Wild Goose Bill" (Samuel Wilbur Condit) might have justly claimed the honor of being the first actual white settler of Lincoln County as he claims his advent into this country as a settler where the town of Wilbur now stands in 1875. Wilbur, named for its founder in 1887, was incorporated in 1889. While out hunting Mr. Condit once mistook a settler’s poultry and shot a fat gander. Ever after he was known as "Wild Goose Bill". Before he platted and named Wilbur, his trading place was known as "Goosetown".

I liked that some guy accidentally shot a neighbor’s goose and they stuck him with a lifelong nickname. People on the frontier could be cruel.

Lincoln (community)

Lincoln, Washington

Within Lincoln County I found a community of Lincoln. Sure, I’d prefer another president instead of the repetitious Lincoln. That didn’t happen. Lincoln County honored no presidents other than Lincoln although the notion of a President Fishtrap intrigued me. So I took what I could get. Nothing much distinguished the community of Lincoln beyond an RV Park/Campground and a post office with its own ZIP code (99147). It’s possible to send mail to people living in Lincoln, WA 99147.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Lake

Actually one thing distinguished the tiny community of Lincoln. It stood on the banks of Franklin Delano Roosevelt Lake.

Lake Roosevelt formed as a result of the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River (map). Construction began in 1933 at the beginning of the Roosevelt Administration and it took nine years to build. Its massive reservoir stretched 150 miles (240 kilometres), and the dam produces more electricity than any other facility in the United States even today. The President didn’t name the lake after himself, though. That happened after he died. I don’t know if this was the first place named for Roosevelt after his death although it had to be somewhere near the top of the list. Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes selected the name only five days after Roosevelt died.

The spectacular presidential layering to beat in this silly competition: Roosevelt Lake, with the community of Lincoln on its shores, in the county of Lincoln in the state of Washington.

Odds and Ends 12

On March 23, 2016 · 10 Comments

It’s been quite awhile since I posted one of the recurring Odds and Ends articles. I had a bunch of small items to share, so why not? People seemed to like them. I considered that #12 must have been special because it was twelfth in line and Twelve Mile Circle liked to celebrate all things twelve, although honestly the number really had no greater significance. Readers who wish to see the previous eleven articles can always find them in the Complete Index.

Even Lower Clearance

Low Clearance
Tunnel Under C&O Canal. My own photo.

I discovered a number of roads with particularly Low Clearances several years ago. Later I had the privilege of visiting one of those sites in person while traveling through western Tennessee, a road with an overpass only eight feet (2.4 metres) of clearance. I went several miles out of my way to chronicle the site. Obviously I had an affinity for such things.

Little did I know that an even lower overpass lurked practically in my back yard and I’d passed within eyesight of it at least a hundred times. One of my regular bicycling routes through Washington, DC took me down the Capital Crescent trail sandwiched between the Potomac River and the historic Chesapeake & Ohio Canal heading northwest out of Georgetown. Recently I’d noticed a parking lot at Fletcher’s Boathouse. Then, for some inexplicable reason, I began to wonder how cars got into it. The lot didn’t seem to have an obvious outlet to a road. I spotted the exit a few days ago, perhaps because the trees didn’t have leaves yet, and saw an amazing sign out of the corner of my eye: "Tunnel Clearance 7 Ft" (2.1 metres). A tunnel beneath the C&O Canal let an access road connect to Canal Road (map). That’s how cars got into the parking lot. It felt tight even on a bicycle.

Comments on that earlier article implied even lower clearances (perhaps as low as 2 metres / 6.5 feet), nonetheless the Fletcher’s Boathouse tunnel was now the lowest automotive clearance I’ve seen in person.


Disputanta, Virginia

I noticed a small settlement southeast of Petersburg, Virginia, oddly named Disputanta (map). There had to be a story. What kind of dispute would lead to Disputanta? I prepared to give it the full 12MC treatment as I rolled up my sleeves and started searching. The story seemed tantalizingly good as it emerged. William Mahone built the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad. He and his wife Otelia supposedly rode along the newly-opened tracks, naming stations in succession. She had been reading Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe and suggested placenames based on the book. William agreed and a string of stations became Wakefield, Windsor, Waverly, and [Mc]Ivor. Then they ran out of worthy candidates and it led to a bit of a disagreement. They memorialized their tiff with Disputanta. The story probably wasn’t true although it sounded good.

Then I stumbled upon an article in the Virginia Pilot, What’s in a name? — Disputanta. I’d been beaten by about four years and I couldn’t add anything to it. I hate it when that happens.

Coded Places

312 Urban Wheat Ale
312 Urban Wheat Ale by Frank Gruber on Flickr (cc)

Has anyone been following the great comments on the recent article called Mike? I mentioned that Milwaukee’s IATA airport code, MKE, was used as a surrogate for the city name in certain circumstances. Readers Philip Newton, Rhodent and John Wood pointed out other examples – PDX (Portland, OR), LAX (Los Angeles, CA), RDU (Raleigh-Durham, NC), and OKC (Oklahoma City, OK).

That also got me thinking about different abbreviations and codes used in a comparable manner, including those that I’ve referenced on 12MC before. For example, Chicago’s 312 telephone area code was adopted by the Goose Island brewery for its 312 Urban Wheat, sparking similar land grabs by other breweries in different cities as in More Geo-BREWities. I’d also referenced the postal Zip Code made famous by a 1990’s television series in 90210: Myth and Reality.

I wondered if there were other abbreviations or codes used in a similar fashion.

Iqaluit’s Road to Nowhere

iqaluit: road to nowhere
iqaluit: road to nowhere by Agent Magenta on Flickr (cc)

Iqaluit (or ᐃᖃᓗᐃᑦ in the Inuktitut language) was the largest settlement and capital of Canada’s Nunavut Territory, with nearly seven thousand residents. I grew more curious about the city as I researched Sawtooth Elsewhere. Iqaluit offered a What to Do page on its website that included a "Road to Nowhere." That was its actual name and the road truly led nowhere (map).

Every city has its most famous road and ours is the Road to Nowhere. Most tourists want a picture under the road sign. If you’d like to actually experience the Road to Nowhere, you can hike or walk it year-round, ski it in the winter or drive in the summer. This scenic route will take you just outside of town on a winding road that goes by lakes, rolling hills and tundra until it eventually ends, in the middle of nowhere!

I’d drive it if I ever visited Iqaluit. I did pretty much that exact same thing when I went "out the road" in Juneau, Alaska.

Capitol, Behind the Scenes

On March 13, 2016 · Comments Off on Capitol, Behind the Scenes

I’ve lived in the Washington, DC area my entire life and it’s not very often that I get to see something in the city completely new. On Saturday the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series made its annual stop in town, and offered a private tour of the Capitol building as one of its pre-race activities. Invitations came through a lottery system and my favorite runner somehow summonsed the requisite luck to win a spot.

I am not a runner so I felt a little guilty attending. I rationalized it by telling myself that I do support one — most recently traveling to the Center of the Nation — a fact I’ve mentioned several times previously on Twelve Mile Circle. Also, I do like to bike so maybe that was sufficient physical activity to qualify although my running has been limited to weekly 3-mile "fun runs" at a local brewpub. Still, winners were allowed to bring one other person so I accepted my "guest of" status on Friday afternoon and headed over to the Capitol.

United States Capitol

There were about twenty lucky winners and their guests who met at the Capitol South metro station entrance. A former Congressman led the tour, Jim Ryun who represented the 2nd District of Kansas from 1996 to 2007. Member of Congress wasn’t his only accomplishment, either. He was also a highly accomplished runner. Rep. Ryun first ran a sub-four minute mile while he was still in high school and later recorded a personal best at 3:51.1, the last time an American held a world record at that distance. He participated in three Summer Olympics, and won a silver medal for 1,500 metres at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968. He also captured a slew of other national and world records at various distances during a distinguished career.

For two hours, Rep. Ryun and his wife Anne graciously guided the group through various uncharted corners of the Capitol generally off-limits to tourists, all the while conveying their reverence and respect for this cornerstone of American democracy. It was a rare privilege that few visitors get to experience in person. I truly savored every moment, realizing I probably wouldn’t be lucky enough to experience something like this again.

United States Capitol

There once was a time not too many years ago when it was easy to get into the Capitol and we could pretty much wander around public areas as we pleased. It used to be a regular stop on my standard tour whenever I shepherded out-of-town visitors around the famous sites of the National Mall for the day. We’d start at the Capitol, maybe pop into one or two of the Smithsonian museums, meander over to the Washington Monument and wind our way down gradually to the Lincoln Memorial. Access to the Capitol became much more difficult after 9-11. Congress created the Capitol Visitor Center to restrict the flow. Anyone wanting to get into the Capitol building itself needed a reservation in advance and then had to stick to a highly regimented tour.

Our Friday afternoon tour wasn’t anything like that. People elected to Congress retained certain privileges for life; "once a member, always a member." Those included access to special entrances into the building and unfettered access to certain areas of the Capitol otherwise restricted to the public. Those privileges also extended to their guests. A simple flash of a badge was all it took to completely bypass the Capitol Visitor Center and its crowds, and walk directly through a side entrance without a line. We still had to pass through a security checkpoint with guards and a magnetometer although that barely took any time at all for our modest group.

The same badge led to several more corridors and rooms including some I’d never seen even during simpler times when security wasn’t as tight. We couldn’t take photographs in most of those places and in fact we had to leave our mobile phones on a table and pick them up later. Thus, even though we got onto the floor of the House of Representatives, sat in the actual seats used by Members of Congress, marveled at the architectural details and heard stories of political events that happened there, I didn’t have a single photo to prove it. I also learned of the existence of a small chapel tucked away in an obscure corner, a beautiful room used for quiet contemplation with a stained glass image of George Washington kneeling in prayer; and again, no photos (although I found one on the Intertubes)

However, we were allowed to use our cameras on the Speaker’s Balcony. The Speaker of the House had perhaps best view of any office in Washington, and his staff allowed our group onto the balcony for a brief moment. That’s the photo I’ve posted immediately above. Amazing.

United States Capitol

Of course we also toured through many of the standard Capitol passages including the Rotunda and Statuary Hall. I’ve seen those places many times before so I focused my attention on the geo-oddities of the situation after soaking in the noteworthy artistic and architectural aesthetics. The Rotunda was still under renovation during our visit, making it difficult to appreciate its true beauty through scaffolding and canvas catchments. Construction couldn’t obscure one important fact that I’d mentioned previously in More Oddities in Washington, DC: the point directly beneath the center of the Capitol dome stood atop the city’s divisions. I made sure I found the exact spot where my body would be split evenly between Washington’s Northwest, Northeast, Southwest and Southeast quadrants simultaneously.

United States Capitol

Who is that blurry man in the photo? Why, that’s Father Damien. Each state got space for two statues in the Capitol. Hawaii chose King Kamehameha and Father Damien. Hawaii recognized Father Damien, now elevated to Saint Damien of Molokai, for his ministry to lepers forced to live on a remote corner of the island in the Nineteenth Century. Eventually he contracted the disease and died there in 1889. That former leper colony became Kalawao County, famed amongst county counters as the smallest county in the United States. Someday I will go there.

Our private tour ended and we found ourselves back on the street. We hopped onto the subway and headed to dinner, grateful for being in a place where opportunities like these sometimes presented themselves.

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