The day I dreaded finally arrived. I was defaulted to the new version of Google Maps yesterday. I wasn’t favorably impressed when I first reviewed it last May and I always understood that the version I’ve used since the creation of Twelve Mile Circle would go away eventually. Sooner-or-later I was going to have to confront this issue.
Allow me to clear a backlog of some short topics with another installment of Odds and Ends while I try to figure out how to use the new version. Hopefully some of my earlier concerns have been addressed.
I noticed a little park in Kentucky as I searched for various places named Confluence while leading up to the Confluence of Confluences article. Mary Breckinridge Memorial Park, also known as the Confluence Recreation Area, caught my eye. Who was Mary Breckinridge and how did she earn a memorial park, I wondered?
It was a fascinating story that I’d hoped to turn into a full article, although I couldn’t figure out how to approach it. Mary Carson Breckinridge, as I learned was part of THE Breckinridge family:
the family has included six members of the United States House of Representatives, two United States Senators, a cabinet member, two Ambassadors, a Vice President of United States and an unsuccessful Presidential candidate. Breckinridges have served as college presidents, prominent ministers, soldiers, theologians and in important positions at state and local levels.
Breckenridge, Colorado and its famous ski resort? Yes, named for the same family, even if spelled slightly differently. The family name and its influence spread far-and-wide across the United States.
Mary Carson Breckinridge took a different path, leveraging her family prestige and pedigree towards public service. She grew up privileged. She was also educated by private tutors and in exclusive schools both in the United States and in Europe. After personal tragedies during her early adulthood, she turned to nursing, helping to comfort victims of the 1918 influenza pandemic and then
The following year she joined the American Committee for Devastated France and organized a visiting nurse program in France. The program was so successful that two years later her nurses and midwives were caring for children and pregnant women throughout France. When Breckinridge returned to the United States in 1921, she found that there were no schools of midwifery and planned to start one.
This evolved into the Frontier Nursing Service and the Frontier Nursing University, providing health care and educating nurse-midwives in an under-served corner of Appalachia. Hyden, Kentucky, the base of her operations and home of the current Mary Breckinridge Hospital, was just just down the road from Confluence and the little park named in her remembrance.
Tour de Odd
I’m thinking about organizing a casual bicycle ride between several Washington, DC area geo-oddities sometime this spring or summer. Sites would include stops at the American Meridian, various practical exclaves, an original boundary stone and the little chunk of Washington, DC crossed by the famous Beltway which is displayed in the photograph above (and see map).
Members of the 12MC audience who might be interested in joining me — the potential out and back is displayed above — should feel free to contact me offline. The route is nearly flat, almost at sea-level, and provides amazing panoramic views of the monuments. I’ll let anyone interested know more as I work out the details and the weather warms up.
Twitter user @colourcountry mentioned the interesting situation of Ontario, California which comes remarkably close (in name) to Ontario, Canada. The postal code for California is CA and the top-level Internet domain for Canada is ca. There’s all sort of potential for trouble or confusion going in either direction. He also noted a similar issue with Trinidad, Colorado (CO) and Trinidad, Colombia, Colombia (co). Are there other instances?
That also reminded me of how far I’ve fallen behind on user mail. My apologies to all of you who have sent story suggestions. I’ll try to get to them as soon as I can.
Speaking of user suggestions, reader Kevin mentioned his fascination with the town of Accident in Maryland. He noted that visitors would be accidental tourists, and that the town had a "South North street and a North South Street." It’s true!
Mr. George Deakins was to receive 600 acres of land in Western Maryland as a payment of a debt from King George II of England. Mr. Deakins sent out two corps of engineers, each without knowledge of the other, to survey the best land in this area. Both crews returned and to their surprise, they had both marked the same Oak tree as their starting and returning points. Mr. Deakins chose this plot of ground and had it patented “The Accident Tract”. Now called, the Town of Accident!
Streets and roads appear frequently on Twelve Mile Circle. So do patterns. The two can be combined as seen with a logical street grid featuring either numbers or letters. I’ll focus on the latter. Lists of alphabetical patterns can be found elsewhere on the Intertubes so I sorted through a multitude of possibilities and selected a few of my favorites. This was not intended to be an exhaustive examination.
Notice the Address on the Sign in this Low-Quality Video I Took a Few Years Ago
My fascination probably originated with my longtime hometown, Arlington, Virginia. The north-south streets fell nicely into order for three complete alphabets plus the first letter of a fourth alphabet, as the county explained. The number of syllables represented alphabet sequences, so Arizona Street — four syllables — fell within the fourth alphabet and became the final street on the grid (map). This location was actually a triple-geo-oddity: (1) the only Arlington street in the 4th Alphabet; (2) a practical exclave separated by road from the rest of Arlington and approachable only through Fairfax Co. or the City of Falls Church; and (3) the location of the West Cornerstone of the original District of Columbia.
I was also quite familiar with the Washington, DC alphabet system for east-west streets, which went first with single letters of the alphabet, then two-syllable words, then three syllable words, and finally and somewhat enigmatically with flowers and trees. Greater Greater Washington provided the best concise explanation I’ve seen. The final District street all the way up next to the North Cornerstone was Verbena Street. I wasn’t familiar with Verbena although apparently it’s a flowering plant.
Before we proceed I’ll note that I found anomalies and exceptions on all of the grids so there’s no need to point them out unless something truly bizarre comes to light. For instance, Washington, DC doesn’t have a "J" Street, which is something already well known and cited frequently.
I think Tulsa might have been my favorite occurrence. North-South avenues located east of Main Street got alphabetic names of cities geographically east of Tulsa; those west of Main were named alphabetically for cities west of Tulsa. The pattern continued for quite a distance, too. Heading east it appeared to run for about two-and-a-half alphabets ending with Maplewood (map), which could represent a town in Minnesota or New Jersey.
I stumbled upon a wonderful explanation and a detailed map that I can’t possibly improve upon at Streets.MN, which somehow snagged a Mongolian IP address that shares a common abbreviation with Minnesota (".mn"). Maybe I should grab a domain from Monaco so the 12MC website could become 12.mc?
The Twin Cities, Minneapolis and Saint Paul, and immediate environs developed an absolutely crazy number of alphabets. The website I referenced suggested a naming convention extending all the way to the second letter of the eighth alphabet, Brockton Lane. Another site with a very old school design explained the source of the names behind many of the streets in the grid’s first alphabet.
Denver and surrounding areas certainly rivaled and maybe exceeded the Twin Cities for alphabetical street naming wackiness. The alphabets went on-and-on even into distant rural areas in the vague hope that maybe someday the matrix would fill-in. The last one seemed to be Calhoun-Byers Road, a distance of 45 miles / 73 kilometres (map) from the grid’s baseline intersection at Ellsworth Ave. and Broadway!
A lot of 12MC readers live in New York City and I’m sure many were already wondering whether I’d mention Alphabet City in the East Village. The name derived from Avenues A, B, C and D, which ran through the neighborhood, the only single-letter avenues in Manhattan (map). That was nice and such, although it represented a measly four letters of the alphabet.
There were better alphabets in NYC. However one must leave Manhattan and enter Brooklyn to experience them. The Greenpoint neighborhood, just across the East River from Manhattan incorporated a partial alphabet from Ash through Quay with a couple of letters missing (map).
Travel farther into Brooklyn and one can experience Avenues A through Z (map). This might lead one to wonder — well, it lead ME to wonder — if the Sesame Street parody musical Avenue Q happened to be named for this particular alphabetic progression. It’s claimed that it was not:
The set of Avenue Q depicts several tenements on a rundown fictional street located “in an outer borough of New York City.” This fictional Avenue Q could be in the Midwood and Gravesend area of Brooklyn, where there are Avenues A through Z, with a few exceptions. One of those exceptions is Avenue Q. The street between Avenue P and Avenue R is known as Quentin Road, named for the youngest son of President Roosevelt. The Q subway train, whose symbol used to be a Q in an orange circle resembling the Avenue Q logo, travels through this neighborhood. However, the authors have stated that Avenue Q is fictional and is not related to this or any other particular street.
I’m not sure I necessarily believe that, though. Or maybe I don’t want to believe it.
I decided to take a bit of a departure today, focusing more on images and diving even farther into hyper-local coverage. This may interest a smaller slice of the usual 12MC audience.
I took the kids to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo recently and decided to take the Memorial Bridge across the Potomac River instead of the usual Roosevelt Bridge just for grins. I’d seen the bridge sculptures on the Memorial Bridge many times before of course although they reminded me that the District of Columbia seemed to have an abundance of such features. I thought I might catalog them, or at least the ones I knew about, and maybe learn more about them in the process.
My thanks in advance to the many people who shared Creative Common images of these artworks. That meant I didn’t have to use grainy Google Street View images although I’ll include links to those for anyone who may be curious.
Arlington Memorial Bridge
Memorial Bridge by vpickering, on Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license
The Memorial Bridge linking Arlington National Cemetery to the Lincoln Memorial actually had a longer name, the Arlington Memorial Bridge. The architectural firm John G. Waite Associates performed a structure report recently and listed various themes and sculptors,
“The Arts of War,” “Sacrifice” and “Valor” were sculpted by Leo Friedlander. The “Arts of Peace,” “Music and Harvest” and “Aspiration and Literature” were sculpted by James Earle Fraser.
I’d always called this double-arched bridge over Rock Creek Park the Calvert Street Bridge (or the bridge I had to walk across to get from the Metro to Adams Morgan). More properly it’s named for Duke Ellington, a beloved native son of Washington. Each of four abutments included reliefs sculpted by Leon Hermant in 1935. They featured forms of transportation; automobile, train, ship and airplane. Collectively they’re titled "Four Modes of Travel." A windblown topless lady on wheels represented automobiles, apparently.
I didn’t know the Dumbarton Bridge had a name other than "That Bridge Over Rock Creek Park at Q Street" until just now. It featured four buffalo — actually American Bison as my obsessive compulsive nature forced me to note — sculpted and cast in bronze by Alexander Phimister Proctor circa 1912-1914 (dates seemed to vary). A bison adorned each of four pylons.
Taft Bridge by StreetsofWashington, on Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license
Originally called the Connecticut Avenue Bridge, the Taft Bridge was named for former U.S. President William Howard Taft. He was the President possibly best known for being morbidly obese and getting stuck in a bathtub although that likely never happened. It must have been tough to be a President sandwiched between Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Imagine serving as the chief executive for the administration between two individuals of such stature. He also served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court subsequently, a unique honor. The bridge was named for Taft in 1931, the year following his death.
I chose a vintage postcard to represent the lions perched on the four corners of the Taft Bridge over Rock Creek Park. Often called the "Perry Lions" they were creations of Roland Hinton Perry in 1906 and were designed in cast concrete like the bridge itself. That presented a problem in latter years. The lions decayed beyond the point of repair and they had to be replaced in 2000 using molds based upon the original designs. Therefore any modern images represented reproductions, not originals.
Another interesting architectural detail was the set of iron lampposts crowned by eagles designed by Ernest Bairstow.
Lazo by Daquella manera, on Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license
I couldn’t find that the 16th Street bridge over Piney Branch had an official name although Bridge Hunter called it Piney Branch Parkway Bridge so let’s go with that. I also didn’t realize it had sculptures so thanks to dcMemorials.com for including these tigers within their index, where I found them. They were another creation of A. Phimister Proctor circa 1906-1910.
No, the image above wasn’t a sculpture. The new Woodrow Wilson Bridge opened in 2008 to carry Washington’s eastern side of the Beltway across the Potomac River featured a drawbridge just like the older one. The control room for raising and lowering the span was built in a tiny wedge of District territory clipped by the bridge. The old tower on the old bridge used to have a bas-relief sculpture bust of Woodrow Wilson, and I think that same one may have been moved to a pylon albeit no longer technically within the Washington, DC boundaries. The sculptor appeared to be Carl Paul Jennewein circa 1961.
The newest bridge sculpture will be completed soon. It’s being installed by the Kent Bloomer Studio and it will look like wing-shaped arches to those traveling on New York Avenue where it crosses above the Union Station rail yard.
I can’t guarantee that’s the complete set of DC bridges with sculptures. It should get the list started though.