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How 9 Louisville Neighborhoods Got Their Names

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Historic Louisville, Kentucky, has got to be a contender for having the most neighborhoods in any American city. Its districts can be small, sometimes comprising only a few blocks, but they number in the hundreds, and each has a distinct personality—and more often than not, an interesting tale to tell. Here are a few of their backstories.

1. LIMERICK

Named after County Limerick by the Irish immigrants who established the area, this neighborhood was a Catholic stronghold in a Protestant city. The area had its own annual St. Patrick’s Day parade for 46 years, and roads are named after Catholic saints, such as St. Catherine Street and Bertrand Street (for St. Louis Bertrand, who is also the namesake of the neighborhood’s striking Edwardian English Gothic style church). Although some “lace curtain Irish” immigrants built lavish mansions in Limerick, it’s historically been home to working-class people, and today supports a mix of Irish-American and black Louisvillians, among other demographics. It’s also known for its well-preserved 19th-century architecture.

2. CAMP TAYLOR

Camp Taylor started out not as a neighborhood but a military base. Named after the United States’ 12th president, Camp Zachary Taylor was one of the largest military training camps in the U.S. when it was constructed in 1917, housing over 47,000 recruits. It was also, at the time, the single largest building project in Louisville’s history.

After World War I ended in 1918, most of the government buildings were torn down and the area was redeveloped to become a residential neighborhood of mostly bungalows—many of which were bought by soldiers returning from war—but the old name stuck around. Author F. Scott Fitzgerald was stationed at Camp Zachary Taylor for one month in 1918 and later name-checked it in The Great Gatsby: The mysterious Jay Gatsby is said to have met Daisy while stationed there.

3. CHEROKEE GARDENS/CHEROKEE TRIANGLE

A photo of autumn leaves in Cherokee Park, Louisville, Kentucky.
Autumn in Cherokee Park.
LuAnn Snawder Photography, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Both neighborhoods are named after nearby Cherokee Park, a massive 409-acre city park designed by the father of landscape design, Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park in New York City. Cherokee Park itself is so named thanks to a 19th-century trend of romanticizing Native American imagery—e.g., Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha. Olmsted actually went on a tear and named three parks after native peoples: Cherokee, Iroquois, and Shawnee. Later, his sons and their firm would help develop more parks, some maintaining that naming tradition.

4. PLEASURE RIDGE PARK

This somewhat salaciously named neighborhood stems from a resort that was built there in the 1870s. The Paine Resort was adjacent to shady Muldraugh Ridge, a popular spot for dancing and picnicking. It was colloquially renamed “Pleasure Ridge,” and the new name later spread to the whole area. (An earlier name for the neighborhood, dating to before L. M. Paine built the resort but still owned most of the surrounding land, was pretty much diametrically opposed its present-day one: Painesville.)

5. OKOLONA

Settled by farmers in the late 1700s, Okolona would eventually get the name Lone Oak, after a huge tree that stood in its center. But when the town tried to register its post office, it learned that there was already a Lone Oak, Kentucky. So the residents roughly rearranged the letters and called it Okolona instead. (For what it’s worth, there’s also a town called Okolona in Mississippi, but its chamber of commerce claims it was named after a Chickasaw warrior and has nothing to do with oak trees.) The community of Okolona has since been incorporated into Louisville proper, which happened when all of Jefferson County merged with the city in 2003. The lone oak itself was around until the 1970s, when it was hit by lightning and subsequently chopped down.

6. KOSMOSDALE

Located in the southwestern part of Louisville, this area was christened after the Kosmos Cement Company, which began developing the area around 1905. (The company’s name itself has been claimed to have come from a type of stone used in the manufacture of cement, or the idea that the product would be sold “around the cosmos,” with a spelling change to tie it in to Kentucky.) The company built a row of 12 duplexes on Dixie Highway for its employees to live in, as well as a school, a medical clinic, and a company store, fostering a small community that still stands today. Kosmos Cement Company is now affiliated with Cemex, but the plant still operates out of Kosmosdale.

7. SCHNITZELBURG

In 1866, when developer D.H. Meriwether first planned out this area of Louisville, along with a triangle of land just to the west that bears his name today, it was originally named Meriwether's Enlargement. However, when it turned out that the neighborhood’s residents were largely German immigrants, they and other Louisvillians began calling it “Schnitzelburg,” probably referring to the popular German/Austrian dish.

8. BUTCHERTOWN

A photo of the interior of Butchertown Grocery in Louisville, Kentucky
The interior of Butchertown Grocery.
Jessica Dillree, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This one is kind of a no-brainer: Butchertown was once full of butchers and stockyards, starting in the 1820s. It was attractive to these business owners because animal remains could be handily dumped into Beargrass Creek, which wasn’t allowed next door in the downtown area for hygiene reasons. In 1937, the Ohio River flooded, and 70% of Louisville was underwater. With Butchertown sitting right on the river’s edge, the already-seedy neighborhood was sent into even sharper decline, with many homes destroyed—or just left to rot. In the 1990s, though, a major overhaul was launched, old buildings were rebuilt and refurbished, and today’s Butchertown is a trendy hotspot known for sleek restaurants, antique boutiques, and art galleries.

9. SMOKETOWN

Smoketown was where Louisville’s brickyards were; according to an 1871 directory, 9 out of the city’s 20 were located in this area. This was thanks to a giant deposit of clay in the ground (possibly evidenced by the name of South Clay Street, which runs through the neighborhood). The kilns used in brickyards produce smoke as well as bricks, and so the neighborhood’s name wrote itself. Folks also called it Frogtown, a name that originated after the brickyards were abandoned in the 1880s, once the clay had been depleted: They left behind empty clay pits that filled with water—and frogs.

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How Baltimore's Neighborhoods Got Their Names
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Baltimore gets a bad rap. Yes, like most major cities, it has its problems with crime, but it’s also got a dazzling waterfront, a thriving arts and music scene, almost three centuries of history, and literally hundreds of different neighborhoods. Some of the earliest National Register Historic Districts are found in Baltimore, and close to a third of the city’s buildings are designated as historic in the register—at 65,000, they’ve got more than any other American city. With so much history to go around in Charm City, there are, naturally, some interesting stories behind the names of these districts. Here are a few.

1. PIGTOWN

The area of Baltimore now called Pigtown was originally part of a 2368-acre plantation called Mount Clare. Interestingly, one of Maryland’s first iron foundries was built in this area in the mid-18th century. It housed the largest furnace used for pig iron (a crude iron product used to produce steel or wrought iron) in the colonies before the American Revolution, but that’s just a coincidence. The area is actually called Pigtown because pigs were offloaded here and herded to nearby slaughterhouses, so pigs roaming the streets were a common sight. That said, in the late 1970s and early ’80s, there was an effort to restyle the neighborhood as Washington Village, but it wasn’t really successful; today, the name Pigtown is a source of pride.

2. OAKENSHAWE

This tony residential area, known for its charming Georgian revival architecture and its status on the National Register of Historic Places, was originally planned as a “streetcar suburb” when it was built between 1916 and 1925, and was touted for its ease of access to downtown Baltimore via the St. Paul Streetcar. The area is named after shipping magnate James Wilson’s home, the 350-acre Okenshawe Estate, built in the early 19th century. Even after the estate was torn down, the area where it stood was generally known as “Oakenshaw” until about 1910, when cartographers started adding an extra e on city maps. The spelling discrepancy is preserved today in the name of Oakenshaw Place, a street within the neighborhood, whose spelling lie somewhere in the middle of the community and the historical estate—with two as but still missing the final e.

3. OLD GOUCHER

After many years of stagnation, Old Goucher is currently known for its spate of new development, with many Victorian-era buildings restored and several parks and green spaces reclaimed in the last several years. But it was originally known for Goucher College, which was established in this neighborhood in 1885, before moving to suburban Towson, Maryland, in the 1950s. The neighborhood still bears the school’s name—perhaps with the word “Old” attached to denote the fact that Goucher isn’t here anymore. Goucher College itself was named after co-founder John Goucher, a Methodist pastor, and his wife Mary, who sought to create a Methodist-sponsored college for female students; the name was changed in 1910 from Women’s College of Baltimore City.

4. THE MIDDLE EAST

In the late ’70s, the residents of this decaying section of East Baltimore were seeking federal grant funds to repair its deteriorating buildings, and a group was created to oversee the $800,000 they received. The neighborhood didn’t really have a name, however, and so they weren’t sure what to name the organization either. Fortunately, Lucille Gorham, the group’s director, came up with a solution at the 1978 grant hearing: “We have the Northeast Community Organization on one side and the Southeast on the other. So, tell them you're from the Middle East Community Organization, because you're right in the middle of everything.” Times have changed, however, and because real estate companies find it’s difficult to sell houses in an area named after a geographical region strongly associated with military conflict, there’s been a push to rebrand the region as “Eager Park,” after a public space that opened in May 2017. (It’s not really catching on so far.) Also, because a good portion of the HBO series The Wire was filmed here, it’s also sometimes referred to as “Wire Park.”

5. WAVERLY (AND BETTER WAVERLY)

Both the neighborhood of Waverly and adjacent Better Waverly (better meaning larger , i.e., “greater Waverly”) are christened after Sir Walter Scott’s novel, Waverley [sic]. Waverly began in the 1840s as an independent village of wealthy merchants that was called Huntingdon, but when it became clear that there were other local Huntingdons, literature fans in the town opted to change the name in order to get themselves a post office. Despite the book being set in the Jacobite, not Victorian, era, the borders of Better Waverly are roughly the same as the original Victorian-era village from the mid-1800s. Although brick row houses—which are frequently seen around Baltimore—were later added, a large part of Waverly still comprises quaint wooden Victorian-era homes.

6. DICKEYVILLE

Found on the westernmost edge of Baltimore, Dickeyville was first known as Franklin, for the Franklin paper mill built there in 1808. About 20 years later, three brothers named Wethered were running a wool mill in the area, and they later built a lumber mill, school, and church. The town’s name then changed to Wetheredville, until the town was sold to Irish emigrant William J. Dickey. After William J. Dickey died, his son, William A. Dickey, became the president of the company, and the town was renamed Dickeyville—intending to honor his father, but since their names were almost identical, he basically named the town after himself, too.

7. OVERLEA

Hidden in the northeast corner of the city limits, Overlea was established in the late 1800s as Lange’s Farm, named after a farm in the area. As in many other communities, the streets were named after trees—Cedar, Hickory, Spruce, Willow, and so on—and the community borders ended up being the tree-themed streets. The area was known for its views, as it's situated above rolling meadows, and as such, the neighborhood’s name was changed to Overlea sometime around the turn of the century—with Overlea meaning “over the meadow.” The community was partially annexed by the City of Baltimore in 1919.

8. RIDGELY’S DELIGHT

Located just outside Baltimore’s downtown, adjacent to Camden Yards, this rowhouse-heavy neighborhood has been a diverse melting pot for centuries. Part of the land, originally known as Howard's Timber Neck because it was owned by Captain John Howard, was transferred to Colonel Charles “the Merchant” Ridgely upon his marriage to Howard’s daughter, Rachel. It was then combined with another of Ridgely’s properties, called Brotherly Love, then resurveyed and called Ridgely's Delight, in reference to another of its owner’s flamboyantly named properties: a plantation named Ridgely’s Whim. (He also owned two estates called Claret and White Wine.) A former thoroughfare belonging to the Susquehannock tribe and later the main highway between Washington and Philadelphia in the late 1700s and early 1800s passes through the neighborhood—it’s now known as Washington Boulevard.

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How Austin's Neighborhoods Got Their Names
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When Austin was chosen as the capital of Texas, it wasn’t called Austin at all—it was a small village called Waterloo until its name was changed to honor Stephen F. Austin, the colonist known as the “Father of Texas,” in 1839. Many of its neighborhoods also have colorful histories. Here’s how seven of them got their names.

1. ZILKER

You can thank Andrew Jackson Zilker, a bootstrapping Texas politician and philanthropist, for the name of this south central Austin neighborhood. Zilker was the ice king of Austin, making his fortune with the chilly stuff before beginning to buy up land around the area. In 1917, he sold a 350-acre tract of land to the city of Austin and gave the proceeds to the Austin public schools. Now the park—and the neighborhood that adjoins it—is named in his honor.

2. JUDGES HILL

A photograph of The Mansion at Judge's Hill
The Mansion at Judge's Hill in 2013

Now a residential neighborhood in the heart of Austin, Judges Hill has been associated with the judiciary since before the city had its current name—and before Texas was part of the United States. One early resident was Thomas Jefferson Chambers, an American speculator and attorney who bought much of his land in shady deals, then became a naturalized Mexican citizen with the intention of practicing law—the only foreigner to be granted a law license. He was later named chief justice of the newly formed Texas Supreme Court, but never presided over a case. Nevertheless, for his service he was given land in the Austin area. After the annexation of Texas, Elijah Sterling Clark Robertson—also a judge—bought property there, and other judges and attorneys followed. Voila: Judges Hill.

3. BREMOND BLOCK

Speaking of Victorian-era luxury, the Bremond Block Historic District provides a rare glimpse of what Austin looked like back in the day. The neighborhood was named after the Bremond family, merchants and bankers who constructed or modified fancy houses there beginning in the 1870s. Today, the Bremonds are known mainly for the block they created—a magnet for wealthy Austinites and family members that’s now on the National Register of Historic Places.

4. CLARKSVILLE

An arial photo of the Clarksville neighborhood in Austin, Texas and beyond
Matthew Rutledge, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Unlike the Bremond Block, Clarksville was not known for its wealth. The land was granted and sold to the former slaves of Texas's own governor, Elisha M. Pease, in 1865. Charles Clark, a freed slave, also bought some of the land that's now Clarksville from another former Confederate officer, Nathan G. Shelley, and it became one of the four freedmen’s towns in Austin. Most of the neighborhood’s small, wood-framed houses are now gone, and as Kristie Cantou of Hatch + Ulland Owen Architects writes, “most African-American residents have been driven out of the neighborhood by decades of land speculation, gentrification, construction of Mopac [the Missouri Pacific Railroad] and rising property taxes.”

5. JOLLYVILLE

You might think things are pretty jovial in Jollyville, but stop right there: The north Austin neighborhood got its name from a person, not a state of mind. Jollyville was named after John G. Jolly, a blacksmith who lived in the once-tiny town that is now a neighborhood in north Austin.

6. MOORE’S CROSSING

A photo of the Old Moore's Crossing Bridge in Austin, Texas
The Old Moore's Crossing Bridge
Dave Wilson, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Like many Austin neighborhoods, this historic district owes its name to one of the area’s many creeks. The airport area got its name from a man named John B. Moore’s store that, you guessed it, was near a creek crossing. In this case the creek was Onion Creek, which also lent its name to a ritzy country club neighborhood south of downtown. Onion Creek, it’s safe to assume, got its name from onions, though it’s impossible to track the name’s origin.

7. SWEDE HILL

When it comes to obvious names, Swede or Swedish Hill may have Onion Creek beat. It was settled by Swedish people in the 1870s. At the time, there were more Swedish people in Texas than in any other Southern state, perhaps because Swedish immigrants weren't intimidated by the harsh, arid climate. Many Texas Swedes hailed from the exact same county in Sweden, and in Austin the community flocked to a place they called Svenska Kullen, or Swedish Hill. There are other reminders of Sweden in Austin, like the Govalle neighborhood, which is named after a ranch that immigrant Swen Magnus Swenson named “Ga Valla,” or “good pastures.”

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