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9 City Streets Named After Real People

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Wikimedia Commons

It seems strange that streets these days—from the cul de sac around the block to the major roadway that runs through the whole town—can be named after just about anything, inevitably leading to plenty of eye-popping and head-shaking moments while you’re meant to be focusing on the literal road ahead. There are plenty of famously wacky street names out there (favorites range from Psycho Path in Traverse City, Michigan to Tater Peeler Road in Lebanon, Texas), but there are still more alleys, avenues, and drives dedicated to something far better—real people. But just who is getting their moniker slapped on a street sign? And how exactly did they make that happen?

1. Martin Luther King, Jr. – various cities

America’s most famous activist has been honored with his very own streets in hundreds of American cities—at last count, there were over 730 streets named after the civil rights leader, with his own home state of Georgia laying down the pavement for at least 100 of them (the most of any state by far). The most famous of the hundreds of MLK streets can be found in Atlanta, his hometown, where Martin Luther King Jr. Drive borders the Atlanta University Center, a collection of historically black colleges and universities—including Morehouse College, where King went to school. Elsewhere across the country, MLK’s names adorns highways, byways, interchanges, and city streets. And while Georgia may have the most MLK streets, Illinois was the first state to use the good doctor’s name to mark a roadway—they dedicated Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive back in 1968.

2. George Balanchine Way – New York City

Beloved ballet choreographer, co-founder of the New York City Ballet, and father of American ballet George Balanchine got his very own street (well, portion of a street) named after him in New York City back in 1990. Positioned near the New York State Theatre on West 63rd Street, George Balanchine Way honors one of the world’s most famous choreographers and a true visionary when it came to artistic pursuits of the feet and mind. Balanchine is also honored by another street that bears his name in Tbilisi, the capital of the country of Georgia, where it's home to the U.S. Embassy.

3. Peter Jennings Way – New York City

New York City loves honoring its most famous citizens with streets named after them, and veteran newsman Peter Jennings is no exception. A year after the ABC anchor passed away, a portion of West 67th Street between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West was named for Jennings. The stretch of road is particularly meaningful: It's exactly where ABC Headquarters is located. It’s a fitting location and, hey, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump away from good ol' George Balanchine Way.  

4. Bob Hope Drive – Burbank, CA and Rancho Mirage, Ca

If there’s one key to getting a street named after you, it’s to just be wildly famous. The national treasure who was Bob Hope—comedian, vaudevillian, actor, singer, dancer, author, athlete, and Broadway star—has a whole mess of things named after him, especially around the areas of Southern California where his Hollywood career took place. Hope’s got an airport named after him, along with a square, a number of theaters, and even a golf tournament. The star even has four literal stars to his name, at least of the Hollywood Walk of Fame variety (one each for his contributions to live theater, radio, motion pictures, and television). But Hope also has two streets named after him—both “Bob Hope Drive”—located in Burbank, California and Rancho Mirage, California. Basically, you can’t move too far in SoCal without hitting something named after the superstar.

5. Astaire Avenue, Garland Drive, Lamarr Avenue, Skelton Circle, and Hepburn Circle – Culver City, CA

Elsewhere in Southern California, still more stars are honored with streets bearing their names, and we daresay they’re all talents with just as much class as Hope himself (good luck locating a Miley Cyrus Drive or a Britney Spears Circle out there, but we’ll give it some time). Culver City, a new mini suburb built on what was the back lot of the classic MGM Studio, includes a cluster of roadways named after some of the movie house’s most famous stars—including (Fred) Astaire Avenue, (Judy) Garland Drive, (Hedy) Lamarr Avenue, (Red) Skelton Circle, and (Katharine) Hepburn Circle. A few of those sound good enough to dance on.

6. Sam Cooke Way – Chicago, IL

It may have taken some time, but a change did indeed come to Chicago when soul singer superstar and pioneering talent Sam Cooke was honored with “Sam Cooke Way” back in June of 2011. The small stretch of the city’s Cottage Grove Avenue was picked because of its proximity to a corner where a teenaged Cooke would hang out and exercise his trademark pipes. Cooke had long since passed when the street was finally given a fresh moniker—he was shot by a hotel manager back in 1964—but fans of the singer can still visit the street named after him and imagine what it was like to hear him bust out a groove on a once-nondescript avenue.

7. Dave Grohl Alley – Warren, OH

All apologies to Nirvana, The Foo Fighters, and Them Crooked Vultures, but only drummer and singer Dave Grohl has earned his own street back in his hometown of Warren, Ohio. The street was dedicated in August of 2009, and Grohl returned to the town he was born in to receive both a key to the city and the honor of having an entire alley named after him. While an alley might not scream excitement, the town put on a real show, with Grohl himself putting on an actual show along with other local bands. The alley itself is also something special—it’s covered with murals dedicated to Grohl and crafted by local artists.

8. Flaming Lips Alley – Oklahoma City, OK

Grohl isn’t the only musician with his own alley. Oklahoma City’s own Flaming Lips also have one named in their honor. The rock band earned the distinction back in December of 2006, when the city bestowed a street in their entertainment district, Bricktown, with the name “Flaming Lips Alley.” Succinct, right? Not content to have Bricktown celebrate just one street named after a popular musical act, the city also gave streets to both Vince Gill and Charlie Christian during the event. Bricktown is also home to the Oklahoma City Redhawks’ baseball stadium, located on the corner of Johnny Bench Drive and Joe Carter Avenue, both baseball players who were Oklahoma City natives.

9. Korn Row – Bakersfield, CA

Did you know that American nu metal band Korn has two Grammys? No? Then you’re probably not aware that the SoCal band also has a small stretch of road in their hometown of Bakersfield, California named after them. Back in February 2006, the band not only got the portion of road (a back access road to the town’s Rabobank Arena) dedicated to them, their hometown also honored them with an entire day in their honor. Yup, Korn Row was dedicated on Korn Day, and now you’re up to date on your Korn honors. 

BONUS: Tupac Lane – Las Vegas, NV

While Las Vegas’s own “Tupac Lane” isn’t officially named after dead rapper Tupac Shakur (who was shot dead in the city in 1996), it’s still too strange to ignore. What are the odds that a famous musician with a unique moniker would share a name with an apparently unrelated street in the very city that he lost his life in? Actually, the odds might be pretty high, considering that Las Vegas has a laughable history of strange street names (including some amazingly incorrect versions of both common words and proper names). The Awl covered the phenomenon of terrible Las Vegas street names earlier this year, but here’s a sample of other famous names attached to unrelated streets (all misspellings are, embarrassingly enough for the city, correct): Jane Austin Avenue, Alfa Romero Avenue, De Vinci Court, and Bugsy Siegal Circle. Get it together, City of Sin.

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13 Fascinating Facts About Nina Simone
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Nina Simone, who would’ve celebrated her 85th birthday today, was known for using her musical platform to speak out. “I think women play a major part in opening the doors for better understanding around the world,” the “Strange Fruit” songstress once said. Though she chose to keep her personal life shrouded in secrecy, these facts grant VIP access into a life well-lived and the music that still lives on.

1. NINA SIMONE WAS HER STAGE NAME.

The singer was born as Eunice Waymon on February 21, 1933. But by age 21, the North Carolina native was going by a different name at her nightly Atlantic City gig: Nina Simone. She hoped that adopting a different name would keep her mother from finding out about her performances. “Nina” was her boyfriend’s nickname for her at the time. “Simone” was inspired by Simone Signoret, an actress that the singer admired.

2. SHE HAD HUMBLE BEGINNINGS.


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There's a reason that much of the singer's music had gospel-like sounds. Simone—the daughter of a Methodist minister and a handyman—was raised in the church and started playing the piano by ear at age 3. She got her start in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, where she played gospel hymns and classical music at Old St. Luke’s CME, the church where her mother ministered. After Simone died on April 21, 2003, she was memorialized at the same sanctuary.

3. SHE WAS BOOK SMART...

Simone, who graduated valedictorian of her high school class, studied at the prestigious Julliard School of Music for a brief period of time before applying to Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. Unfortunately, Simone was denied admission. For years, she maintained that her race was the reason behind the rejection. But a Curtis faculty member, Vladimir Sokoloff, has gone on record to say that her skin color wasn’t a factor. “It had nothing to do with her…background,” he said in 1992. But Simone ended up getting the last laugh: Two days before her death, the school awarded her an honorary degree.

4. ... WITH DEGREES TO PROVE IT.

Simone—who preferred to be called “doctor Nina Simone”—was also awarded two other honorary degrees, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Malcolm X College.

5. HER CAREER WAS ROOTED IN ACTIVISM.

A photo of Nina Simone circa 1969

Gerrit de Bruin

At the age of 12, Simone refused to play at a church revival because her parents had to sit at the back of the hall. From then on, Simone used her art to take a stand. Many of her songs in the '60s, including “Mississippi Goddamn,” “Why (The King of Love Is Dead),” and “Young, Gifted and Black,” addressed the rampant racial injustices of that era.

Unfortunately, her activism wasn't always welcome. Her popularity diminished; venues didn’t invite her to perform, and radio stations didn’t play her songs. But she pressed on—even after the Civil Rights Movement. In 1997, Simone told Interview Magazine that she addressed her songs to the third world. In her own words: “I’m a real rebel with a cause.”

6. ONE OF HER MOST FAMOUS SONGS WAS BANNED.

Mississippi Goddam,” her 1964 anthem, only took her 20 minutes to an hour to write, according to legend—but it made an impact that still stands the test of time. When she wrote it, Simone had been fed up with the country’s racial unrest. Medger Evers, a Mississippi-born civil rights activist, was assassinated in his home state in 1963. That same year, the Ku Klux Klan bombed a Birmingham Baptist church and as a result, four young black girls were killed. Simone took to her notebook and piano to express her sentiments.

“Alabama's gotten me so upset/Tennessee made me lose my rest/And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam,” she sang.

Some say that the song was banned in Southern radio stations because “goddam” was in the title. But others argue that the subject matter is what caused the stations to return the records cracked in half.

7. SHE NEVER HAD A NUMBER ONE HIT.

Nina Simone released over 40 albums during her decades-spanning career including studio albums, live versions, and compilations, and scored 15 Grammy nominations. But her highest-charting (and her first) hit, “I Loves You, Porgy,” peaked at #2 on the U.S. R&B charts in 1959. Still, her music would go on to influence legendary singers like Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin.

8. SHE USED HER STYLE TO MAKE A STATEMENT.

Head wraps, bold jewelry, and floor-skimming sheaths were all part of Simone’s stylish rotation. In 1967, she wore the same black crochet fishnet jumpsuit with flesh-colored lining for the entire year. Not only did it give off the illusion of her being naked, but “I wanted people to remember me looking a certain way,” she said. “It made it easier for me.”

9. SHE HAD MANY HOMES.

New York City, Liberia, Barbados, England, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands were all places that Simone called home. She died at her home in Southern France, and her ashes were scattered in several African countries.

10. SHE HAD A FAMOUS INNER CIRCLE.

During the late '60s, Simone and her second husband Andrew Stroud lived next to Malcolm X and his family in Mount Vernon, New York. He wasn't her only famous pal. Simone was very close with playwright Lorraine Hansberry. After Hansberry’s death, Simone penned “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” in her honor, a tribute to Hansberry's play of the same title. Simone even struck up a brief friendship with David Bowie in the mid-1970s, who called her every night for a month to offer his advice and support.

11. YOU CAN STILL VISIT SIMONE IN HER HOMETOWN.

Photo of Nina Simone
Amazing Nina Documentary Film, LLC, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, an 8-foot sculpture of Eunice Waymon was erected in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina. Her likeness stands tall in Nina Simone Plaza, where she’s seated and playing an eternal song on a keyboard that floats in midair. Her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, gave sculptor Zenos Frudakis some of Simone’s ashes to weld into the sculpture’s bronze heart. "It's not something very often done, but I thought it was part of the idea of bringing her home," Frudakis said.

12. YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD HER MUSIC IN RECENT HITS.

Rihanna sang a few verses of Simone’s “Do What You Gotta Do” on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. He’s clearly a superfan: “Blood on the Leaves” and his duet with Jay Z, “New Day,” feature Simone samples as well, along with Lil’ Wayne’s “Dontgetit,” Common’s “Misunderstood” and a host of other tracks.

13. HER MUSIC IS STILL BEING PERFORMED.

Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone was released along with the Netflix documentary in 2015. On the album, Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan, Usher, Alice Smith, and more paid tribute to the legend by performing covers of 16 of her most famous tracks.

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13 Secrets From the Guinness Archives
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Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Guinness has been a staple in Irish pubs for nearly 260 years. With so much history, it's no surprise that the Guinness Storehouse Archives—which are open to the public—are stuffed with intriguing artifacts that tell some pretty wild stories. Here are a few.

1. THE LEASE TO THE DUBLIN BREWERY WAS INTENDED TO LAST 9000 YEARS.

In 1759, founder Arthur Guinness signed a lease for a four-acre property at St. James’s Gate in Dublin. The lease required a down payment of £100, an annual rent of £45, and a term of 9000 years (not a typo). Such lengthy leases were relatively common back then: “At the time in Ireland, there was a lot of instability to do with land tenure,” explains Fergus Brady, Archives Manager at Guinness. Centuries earlier, the British had begun confiscating land from native Irish in an effort to build plantations, and extra-long leases were a means of avoiding this fate. As Brady explains, “You see these really long leases: 99-year or 999-year leases. It seemed to be a legal custom at the time that they used the number nine.”

2. ARTHUR GUINNESS WAS NOT AFRAID TO DEFEND HIS PROPERTY WITH A PICKAXE.

In 1775, the Dublin Corporation—that is, the city government—demanded that Arthur Guinness pay for the spring water flowing to his brewery. When Guinness argued that he was already paying for water rights through his 9000-year rental agreement, the Dublin Corporation sent a sheriff and a committee to his brewery to cut off the water supply. Guinness was livid. He seized a pickaxe and unleashed a torrent of obscenities so colorful that the Dublin Corporation’s goons eventually retreated.

3. GUINNESS ONCE DEPLOYED FIELD AGENTS TO CATCH COUNTERFEITERS.

Guinness Apology
Guinness Archive, Diageo Ireland

In the 19th century, there was no such thing as brand consistency. Guinness did not bottle its own beer; instead, it shipped the suds in wooden casks to publicans who supplied their own bottles and applied their own personalized labels. Occasionally, these publicans sold fake or adulterated Guinness. To prevent such sales, the company sent special agents called “travellers” into the field to collect beer samples, which it tested in a laboratory. “If a publican was found to be serving adulterated or counterfeit Guinness, they had to give a public apology in their local newspaper—and even the national newspapers,” archivist Jessica Handy says.

4. FOR 21 YEARS, THE COMPANY HIRED A GUY TO TRAVEL THE WORLD AND DRINK BEER.

In 1899, Guinness hired an American ex-brewer named Arthur T. Shand to be a “Guinness World Traveller.” It was arguably the coolest job in the world. For 21 years, Shand traveled the world taste-testing beer. According to Brady, “His job was to travel the world and taste Guinness, say whether it was good or bad, who our bottlers in the market were, who our major competition was, what kind of people were drinking our product.” Shand traveled to Australia and New Zealand, to Southeast Asia and Egypt. “He was sort of a Guinness sommelier,” Brady says.

5. THE COMPANY'S HARP LOGO CAUSED TROUBLE WITH THE IRISH GOVERNMENT.

The Celtic harp—based on the 14th century “Brian Boru Harp” preserved at Trinity College—became a trademarked Guinness logo in 1876. Forty-five years later, when Ireland gained independence from England, the Irish Free State decided to use the same Celtic harp as its official state emblem. This became awkward. Guinness owned the trademark, and the Irish government was forced to search for a workaround. You can find their solution on an Irish Euro coin. Look at the coin, and you’ll notice that the harp’s straight edge faces the right; meanwhile, the harp on a glass of Guinness shows the straight edge facing left [PDF].

6. GUINNESS REPORTEDLY SAVED LIVES ON THE BATTLEFIELD.

The old slogan “Guinness is good for you” sounds like a marketing gimmick, but it was born out of a genuine belief that the beer was, in fact, a restorative tonic. The health claim dates back to 1815, when an ailing cavalry officer wounded at the Battle of Waterloo reportedly credited Guinness for his recovery. For decades, the medical community widely claimed that the dark beer possessed real health benefits—and they weren’t necessarily wrong. “There was little safe drinking water at the time,” Handy says. “But with brewing, consumers knew they were getting a safe beverage.”

7. THE COMPANY CREATED A SPECIAL RECIPE FOR CONVALESCENTS.

A label for Guinness invalid stout
Guinness Archive, Diageo Ireland

From the 1880s to the 1920s, Guinness produced a special “Nourishing Export Stout”—a.k.a. “Invalid Stout”—that contained extra sugars, alcohol, and solids and came in cute one-third pint bottles. “It was very common practice for people to buy a couple bottles and keep them as a tonic, even if it was just a glass or half a glass,” Handy says. In fact, Guinness went as far as asking general practitioners for testimonials attesting to the beer’s medical benefits. According to Brady, “Many of them wrote back and said yes, we prescribe this for various ailments.” One doctor even claimed a pint was “as nourishing as a glass of milk.”

8. DOCTORS REGULARLY PRESCRIBED THE BEER TO NURSING MOTHERS.

From the 1880s to the 1930s, many physicians believed Guinness was an effective galactagogue—that is, a lactation aid. The company sent bottles to hospitals as well as wax cartons of yeast (which supposedly helped skin problems and migraines). Hundreds, possibly thousands, of doctors prescribed the beer for ailments such as influenza, insomnia, and anxiety, David Hughes writes in A Bottle of Guinness Please: The Colourful History of Guinness. According to Brady, the company was sending beer to hospitals as late as the 1970s.

9. THE COMPANY ONCE DROPPED 200,000 MESSAGES-IN-A-BOTTLE INTO THE OCEAN.

A Guinness message in a bottle
The message within every bottle dropped in the Atlantic Ocean in 1959.
Guinness Archive, Diageo Ireland

In 1954, Guinness dumped 50,000 messages-in-a-bottle in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. In 1959, they repeated the stunt again, with 38 ships dropping 150,000 bottles in the Atlantic. The first bottle was discovered in the Azores off Portugal just three months after the initial drop [PDF]. Since then, the bottles have turned up in California, New Zealand, and South Africa. Just last year, a bottle was discovered in Nova Scotia. (If you find one, you just might be offered a trip to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.)

10. THE PERSONNEL FILES IN THE GUINNESS ARCHIVES CONTAIN SOME DOOZIES.

The Guinness corporate archives are open to the public. According to Handy, “Some of the stories you get in there are amazing, because you get accident reports and you get crazy stories of people bouncing on bags of hops outside the brewery." This may sound less surprising considering that, back in the day, Guinness employees were given an allowance of two pints of beer every day [PDF].

11. A GUINNESS SCIENTIST MADE A STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT MARK IN THE FIELD OF STATISTICS.

If you’ve taken a statistics class, you might be familiar with the Student’s t-test or the t-statistic. (It’s a method of working with a small sample size when the standard deviation is unknown.) The t-test was first described by William S. Gosset, a brewer and statistician at Guinness who was attempting to analyze a small sample of malt extract. Gosset’s discovery not only helped Guinness create a more consistent-tasting beer, it would lay the bedrock for one of the most important concepts in statistics: statistical significance.

12. GUINNESS IS SO BIG IN AFRICA, IT LAUNCHED A SUCCESSFUL FEATURE-LENGTH FILM.

Guinness began exporting beer to Africa in 1827. In the 1960s, it opened a brewery in Nigeria—followed by Cameroon and Ghana. Today, there are reportedly more Guinness drinkers in Nigeria than there are in Ireland. “In Ireland, England, and the United States, everybody thinks that Guinness is synonymous with Ireland,” Brady says. “But in Nigeria, there’s a very very low conception of that.” The beer is such a cultural staple that a fictional character who advertised the product named Michael Power—a James Bond-like, crime-fighting journalist—became the star of a feature film in 2003 called Critical Assignment, which was a box office smash. (Of course, there’s some branding built into the script. As Brady explains, “There are definitely scenes where Michael Power is enjoying a pint of Guinness.”)

13. DISPENSING BEER WITH NITROGEN WAS ORIGINALLY CONSIDERED LAUGHABLE.

In the 1950s, Guinness scientist Michael Ash was tasked with solving the “draft problem.” At the time, dispensing a draft pint of Guinness was ridiculously complicated, and the company was losing market share to draft lagers in Britain that could be easily dispensed with CO2. “The stout was too lively to be dispensed with CO2 only,” Brady says. “Ash worked on the problem for four years, working long hours day or night, and became a bit of a recluse apparently. A lot of doubters at the brewery called the project ‘daft Guinness.’” But then Ash attempted dispensing the beer with plain air. It worked. The secret ingredient, Ash discovered, was nitrogen. The air we breathe is 78 percent nitrogen. Today, a Guinness draft contains 75 percent nitrogen. Not only did the discovery make dispensing the beer easier, it created a creamy mouthfeel that’s been the signature of Irish stouts since.

Full disclosure: Guinness paid for the author to attend an International Stout Day festival in 2017, which provided the opportunity to speak to their archivists.

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