How Los Angeles Neighborhoods Got Their Names

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

The divide between the different neighborhoods of Los Angeles can feel like one between cities, and in some cases—like West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and Culver City—it literally is. But residents of L.A. really do place stock in the neighborhood they live in, whether it be on the Westside or Eastside, downtown or nestled in the hills.

L.A. is a big place—the Los Angeles TimesMapping L.A. project has 272 neighborhoods in the city. Outlining the origin of all their names would be a project worthy of a large research university. In order to make this both manageable and comprehensible, I stuck to the neighborhoods and cities within a few areas of the Times’ map: the Westside, South L.A., Central L.A., Southeast, Eastside, and Northeast L.A. This leaves out the many valleys and mountains and bays that make Los Angeles County so sprawling, but it also hits most of the places you’d think of as L.A. proper. I also didn’t explain all of the many variations on Beverly, Hollywood, and some others, as well as many hyphenates and neighborhoods named after streets.

Apologies in advance to all those excluded. You’re still great.

Artesia

Wikimedia Commons

Artesia was named for the area’s large number of Artesian wells, which are stored pockets of groundwater that sometimes flow to the surface. Because of the wells, Artesia eventually became a major dairy district in the early 1900s.

Atwater Village

This land was owned by the family of Harriet Atwater Paramore when it was subdivided in 1912, hence the name.

Baldwin Park

The legend behind Baldwin Park’s name is a weird one. According to the city’s website, a man named “Lucky” Baldwin wanted to start a town nearby called “Baldwinville.” At the time, Baldwin Park was known as Vineland, and they invited Lucky Baldwin to a town meeting to discuss the idea. As he entered, the over-80-year-old Baldwin fell, but one of the town’s residents caught and saved him. Out of gratitude, he decided not to start Baldwinville, and Vineland took on the name Baldwin Park.

Bel Air

Immortalized by The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, the wealthy neighborhood was named by the wife of rancher Alphonso Bell, who founded the community in 1923. She came up with the Italian name of “Bel Air.”

Bell

Bell was actually founded by Alphonso Bell’s father, James George Bell, whose family moved there to start a ranch and farm. Their former home, the Bell House, is now a historic landmark.

Bellflower

Bellflower came out of a bit of a controversy. The name Somerset was already taken by a town in Colorado, and the U.S. Post Office rejected the town’s residents’ request for that name in 1909. A few different explanations for the city's eventual name exist, but its website says that the most common one comes from the town’s orchard of Bellefleur apples.

Beverly Hills

One of the most famous places in the United States, Beverly Hills’ naming shows how random these things can be. Burton E. Green acquired the land in the early 1900s in order to look for oil. Instead, he found water, and he named the city after a farm he loved in Massachusetts.

Boyle Heights

Kristy Plaza, Flickr

Boyle Heights was named after Andrew Boyle by his son-in-law, William Workman. Boyle planted vineyards and lived on the land in the mid-to-late 1800s.

Carthay

The name of Carthay is an Anglicized derivation of J. Harvey McCarthy’s surname, but it has also become more or less indistinguishable from the Carthay Circle Theater, his landmark Hollywood movie house in the neighborhood. The neighborhood is often referred to now as Carthay Circle.

Century City

Century City went from being a ranch to a 20th Century Fox backlot before Fox sold it for $50 million to finance the making of Cleopatra. Now a “city within the city” that houses the headquarters of enormous entertainment companies like CAA, the project was so ambitious at the start that the joke around the name, which was derived from the studio’s, became that it would take a century to finish.

Cerritos

Prayitno, Flickr

Cerritos used to be called “the City of Dairy Valley,” which might be the best name I’ve ever heard for anything. But as the price of land changed, the city shifted its focus from agriculture to development, and the name changed along with it. Cerritos came from the nearby Cerritos College, as well as the 1834 Spanish land grant Rancho Los Cerritos. (Cerritos means “little hills.”)

Commerce

The city was renamed as such in the 1940s to promote commerce. Makes sense!

Compton

Long before N.W.A. repped Compton, Griffith Dickenson Compton made his way to the area in 1867, and the town is named for him.

Cudahy

Cudahy is named after a meatpacker named Michael Cudahy who used the area to raise sheep and hogs in the late 1800s.

Culver City

One of the major parts of Los Angeles that is actually its own city, Culver City was named after Harry Culver, who founded the city in 1917. His ad campaign of “All Roads Lead To Culver City,” combined with luring Thomas Ince’s studio operations there, helped make Culver City one of the main centers of Hollywood operations.

Downey

John Gately Downey has a few different distinctions. Thirty three years old at the time of his election, he remains the youngest man to ever be elected Governor of California, and prior to the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger, he was the only one to have been born outside the United States. An Irishman, Downey founded the town of Downey, which became a common place for Irish immigrants to settle.

Eagle Rock

Eagle Rock is named for a large rock near the neighborhood that—surprise!—looks like an eagle.

Echo Park

AndrewGorden, Flickr

Echo Park’s name is generally chalked up to a few different, possibly apocryphal stories of workers hearing their voices echo off either bluffs around the park or a dam they were building.

Glassell Park

meltwater, Flickr

An attorney named Andrew Glassell acquired the land that would later become Glassell Park in 1871, and when he and his family began living there, many of the neighborhood’s streets were also named after his relatives.

Green Meadows

Green Meadows is notorious for being very different than its name might suggest—no meadows, not green. But it received the name in 2001 from the 8th District Empowerment Congress, which was attempting to connect neighborhoods in South L.A. to their histories by giving them the names formerly possessed by tracts of land in the same areas. (This is true for a number of other South L.A. neighborhoods, which is why they aren’t on this list.)

Griffith Park

Justin Vidamo, Flickr

The man Griffith Park is named after had not just one, but two Griffiths to offer: Colonel Griffith J. Griffith. Griffith started an ostrich farm on the land, and later donated much of it to the city—perhaps an attempt to atone for the 1903 shooting and killing of his wife, for which he spent time in jail.

Hancock Park

Konrad Summers, Flickr

Hancock Park is named for the Hancock family, specifically G. Allan Hancock, who inherited the land from his father and then developed it for residential use.

Hollywood

You’ve possibly heard of this one? One of the early settlers of Hollywood, Harvey Henderson Wilcox, wanted to name his new land “Figwood,” but he was (wisely) overruled by his wife, who picked up the name Hollywood from a Dutch woman she met on a train. The name was reinforced as it was then used for the main boulevard in town as well as the hotel, which began construction in 1902.

Huntington Park

Ken Lund, Flickr

Huntington Park is named for railroad man and collector Henry Huntington, who also lent his name to Huntington Beach and a hotel, library, botanical gardens, and other places throughout L.A.

La Mirada

La Mirada was actually founded by the mapmaker Andrew McNally, who, along with William Rand, formed Rand McNally. McNally was processing olive oil in the area, and the land passed down through his family. Eventually, after becoming famous for the detail of its planning and development, it was incorporated into Los Angeles, and in 1960, voters changed the name to La Mirada, which is Spanish for “the look.”

Lincoln Heights

Corona, Flickr

As a neighborhood, Lincoln Heights has a longer history than most current areas of L.A.—it’s been a suburb of downtown since the late 1800s. It was referred to as East Los Angeles at first, but in 1913, Abraham Lincoln High School was built nearby, and in 1917, the community voted to rename the neighborhood Lincoln Heights.

Los Feliz

Los Feliz is named for Rancho Los Feliz, which used to be on the territory that the neighborhood now occupies. But the way you pronounce the name is still up for debate—there’s a schism in Los Angeles over whether to pronounce it according to the Spanish way, “Los Fey-LEASE,” or in a more Anglicized fashion, as “Los FEE-lus.”

Lynwood

Not a bad gift to your wife—the dairyman C.H. Sessions named the acres and creamery he’d obtained after his wife, whose maiden name was Lynne Wood. As the area grew, a railroad station took the name Lynwood as well, and it spread from there.

Malibu

The area where Malibu now exists used to be occupied by the Chumash tribe, which called it Humaliwo, meaning “the surf sounds loudly.” If you’ve ever been to Malibu, you’ll know that this is an apt name. Eventually, Humaliwo became “Malibu,” as the “hu” isn’t emphasized in the original Native American word.

Mar Vista

cubby_t_bear, Flickr

In 1923, George Sunday, the son of evangelist Billy Sunday, came up with the name Mar Vista, which is Spanish for “sea view,” when he was naming a subdivision in the former neighborhood of Ocean Park Heights. Santa Monica and Venice tried to annex Mar Vista in the following years, but it became incorporated by Los Angeles in 1927.

Maywood

Strangely, Maywood, like Lynwood, is also named after a woman by the last name of Wood. This one’s first name, as you might expect, was May, and she agreed to allow the real estate corporation she worked for to use her name when they originally divvied up the ranch that was on the property into individual homes.

Montebello

The name Montebello was provided by hydraulic engineer William Mulholland, who would eventually become the namesake for the famed Mulholland Drive. “Montebello” means “beautiful mountain” in Italian, which also means it could be the name of any neighborhood in southern California.

Norwalk

Norwalk was the idea of the two Sproul brothers. They named the land they purchased in 1869 “Norwalk” after North-walk, a trail that crossed the Anaheim Branch Railroad.

Pacific Palisades

The idea of “Pacific Palisades” is very literal: it comes from the neighborhood’s location right on the Pacific Ocean and the resemblance of the cliffs overlooking the ocean to the Hudson River Palisades in New York. Originally founded as a possible religious commune, the area is now famous for beautiful homes, wealth, and those cliffs.

Palms

Ryan Vaarsi, Flickr

Originally known as La Ballona, Palms earned its name when contractors rode in in 1886 and planted thousands of palm trees as a way of prettying up the land they were about to sell. The neighborhood was first called “the Palms,” but like Facebook, it would eventually drop the “the.”

Paramount

One of the more interesting subplots in the development of L.A. was the constant annexation and territorial battles between different neighborhoods and cities within the county. Paramount, which took its name from a major north-south street—and shares it with one of Hollywood’s largest film studios—had to survive the attempts of a number of nearby neighborhoods to absorb it before eventually being incorporated as a city in 1957.

Pico Rivera

Pico Rivera takes the first word in its name—which is also the name of a large east-west boulevard, as well as included in a number of other neighborhoods—from Pío Pico, the last Mexican governor of California, before it transferred into the hands of the United States following the Mexican-American War.

Playa del Rey

Playa del Rey means “beach of the king” in Spanish, and it came to be the major name for the neighborhood, following earlier uses of "Palisades del Rey" and simply "Del Rey" by the contractors and developers who turned it into a residential area.

Santa Fe Springs

Santa Fe Springs takes its name from the Santa Fe Railway. Santa Fe means “Holy Faith,” and it stems from the former full name of Santa Fe, New Mexico, which was “La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís.”

Santa Monica

Although there are counter-narratives, one of the most common explanations for the name of Santa Monica is that a group of Spanish explorers found some springs while they were traversing the coast. It was either the feast day of St. Monica, or the springs reminded them of the tears that St. Monica cried for her son Augustine, and they named the area Santa Monica.

Silver Lake

Jeremy Levine, Flickr

Silver Lake shares its name with the neighborhood’s reservoir, which, in addition to the hills and architecture, gives the area much of its beauty. Both are named after Herman Silver, a member of the Los Angeles Board of Water commissioners who served as the superintendent of the United States Mint in Colorado and worked with the railroads before ending up in California due to his health.

University Park

University Park is the neighborhood in which the University of Southern California is located, along with Mount St. Mary’s College and Hebrew Union College.

Venice

Most visitors to Venice will immediately see its network of canals, lined with beautiful homes, and connect the name to the canals of Italy’s Venice. And it’s true that Venice, Los Angeles is named after Venice, Italy, but the name actually preceded the canals. Founded by Abbott Kinney, whose name is now shared with one of the neighborhood’s main streets, Venice was at first called “Venice of America” and was designed as a resort town. Kinney had the canals dug to drain the neighborhood’s marshes as well as to resemble the ones in Italy, but with the advent of the automobile, they fell out of use. The canals weren’t renovated and repaired until 1993, but since then, they’ve become one of the centerpieces of L.A.

Vernon

According to the Los Angeles Times’ Mapping project, Vernon had a population of only 94 in the 2000 U.S. Census, which gives it one of the lowest population densities in L.A. County. The neighborhood was founded as a primarily industrial area, with a focus on railroads, and the men who founded it named Vernon after a dirt path running through the center.

Watts

Owing to the Watts Towers and the Watts Riots in the mid-1960s, the name Watts was originally taken from a developer named Charles H. Watts, who purchased the land that now makes up the neighborhood in order to farm livestock.

Wilshire

InSapphoWeTrust, Flickr

The neighborhood of Wilshire is named for the boulevard that runs through it, one of the major roads in Los Angeles. That boulevard is named for the developer Henry Gaylord Wilshire, a socialist who donated part of the land the boulevard now lies on to the city.

Windsor Square

Windsor Square sounds like what a mansion in the English countryside might be called, and there’s a reason for that. Developer Robert A. Rowan and his associates intended for homes in the neighborhood to be reminiscent of that setting. Prices for home deeds in the area were set high so as to facilitate the building of large homes by the wealthy, and the area became one of the most upscale in urban Los Angeles.

Corrections have been made for Atwater, Paramount, and Pico Rivera.

The Florida Beach Town Where the Amish Go on Vacation

iStock
iStock

In the coming months, with the arrival of low temperatures and the slowdown of the farming season, thousands of Amish people in Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania will pack their bags and head south to a snowbird paradise that has attracted Plain People since the early 20th century—Pinecraft, Florida.

Located on the Gulf Coast, Pinecraft is an idyllic place nestled a few miles from the crystalline beaches of Sarasota, dotted with cozy white bungalows and oak trees strewn with Spanish moss. The Amish first arrived in Pinecraft in the 1920s, back when the area was little more than a tourist campground. At first, farmers hoped to plant celery in the region, but the soil proved to be better suited as a spot to lounge in the sun than it did for gardening. In 1946, the Tourist Mennonite Church in Florida was established in Pinecraft so that the Amish could “take vacations without breaking their beliefs,” Atlas Obscura reports. Over the coming decades, word of mouth spread up north. Today, approximately 5000 Amish and (some) Mennonite people visit Pinecraft every year to relax during the winter months.

Most Amish visitors make the long trip by charter bus. In 2012, Miki Meek of The New York Times hopped on one such bus in Ohio and traveled 19 hours to Florida. She described the scene aboard: “Stiff black hats are gingerly stowed in overhead bins as the bus winds its way through hilly farm country ... grandparents, neighbors, sisters, and childhood friends ... talked into the night, using conversation as entertainment instead of movies or music.”

Down in Pinecraft, crowds of Amish people welcome the arrival of each bus. There, visitors can expect to see men and women in traditional dress. “Clothing choices clue you in to hometowns,” Meek wrote. “Men from Tampico, Illinois, wear denim overalls; girls from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, cover their dresses with black aprons; and women from northern Indiana have neatly pressed pleats on their white bonnets.” It’s one of the few places in America where different communities of Amish have the opportunity to mingle.

However, the rules here are much more lax, with vacationers often showing much more skin than usual. Many of the rental homes, which sometimes have to be booked a year in advance, have electricity. (Overall, the restrictions preventing the Amish from connecting to the public power grid aren't as tight when a home is temporary.) Rather than riding in a horse and buggy, many people move around Pinecraft on tricycles. Most days are punctuated by fish fries, auctions, yard sales, and fierce bocce matches, with shuffleboard, the nightly women’s volleyball game, and live musical performances being the biggest draws.

As Meek reported, many people joke that the village is the closest thing the Amish have to Las Vegas: “What happens in Pinecraft, stays in Pinecraft.”

15 U.S. Town and City Names With Unusual Backstories

Michael Swigart, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Michael Swigart, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

While many towns and cities in the United States were named after historical figures or nearby topographical features, some monikers have origin stories that are a little more unusual. Here are 15 names with backstories that range from the curious to the downright bizarre.

1. TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, NEW MEXICO

Originally named Hot Springs, this New Mexico spa town changed its name to Truth or Consequences on March 31, 1950, in reference to the popular game show of the same name. Host Ralph Edwards had promised to host the show in the first town that changed its name to Truth or Consequences. Hot Springs obliged, and Ralph Edwards kept his promise. But rather than change their name back to Hot Springs once the novelty wore off, residents voted to make the name permanent in 1967.

2. ZILWAUKEE, MICHIGAN

An exit sign for Zilwaukee, Michigan
Ken Lund, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

If you noticed that the name Zilwaukee sounds a little bit like Milwaukee, that’s no coincidence. Zilwaukee, Michigan wasn’t just named after Milwaukee as a tribute to the Wisconsin city, but to trick potential settlers who were interested in moving to Milwaukee. Started in 1848 by New Yorkers Daniel and Solomon Johnson, the settlement initially consisted of little more than a few houses and a sawmill. In need of workers, the Johnson brothers decided the best way to attract settlers was through deceit. They named their little riverside settlement “Zilwaukie” (later changed to Zilwaukee) and waited for settlers to start pouring in. It’s unclear whether their plan was successful; settlers did eventually arrive, though it may have been the general desire for work (the founding of the town happened to coincide with an influx of German immigrants), rather than the Johnson brothers' clever scheme, that attracted the town’s residents.

3. PORTLAND, OREGON

If not for a momentous coin toss, Portland could have been named Boston. Founded by Massachusetts-born lawyer Asa Lovejoy and Maine-born Francis Pettygrove, the 640-acre site that would become Portland was originally known only as “The Clearing.” When it came time to give the town a real name, Lovejoy and Pettygrove began to argue. While Pettygrove insisted the town be named Portland after the city in Maine, Lovejoy wanted to name the settlement for his hometown, Boston. In order to settle the dispute, the two founders decided to flip a coin. Winning two out of three tosses, Pettygrove got his way, and gave Portland its name.

4. EGG HARBOR, WISCONSIN

While there are a few theories regarding Egg Harbor’s origins, one of the most popular (and well-documented) centers on the great battle that took place just offshore in 1825. According to an 1862 recounting, a group of traders traveling in a handful of small boats to Mackinac Island decided to take shelter in an unnamed harbor overnight. As they paddled toward shore, a friendly race broke out, with each boat trying to overtake its neighbor. In order to slow each other’s progress, the traders began tossing bits of hardtack (a type of biscuit or cracker) at each other. But they soon realized they might need the hardtack later, and so they started throwing eggs. According to one witness, the fighting didn’t stop once the traders reached shore. Instead, they repeated their egg fight on land, stopping only once they ran out of eggs, and had “laughed until exhaustion.” The next day, speeches were made commemorating the great egg battle, and Egg Harbor was given its name.

5. NAGS HEAD, NORTH CAROLINA

Some believe Nags Head was named for one of the several towns of that name on the English coast. Others, however, believe Nags Head has a more nefarious backstory. According to legend, recounted in the 19th century by Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, pirates once used the beach at Nags Head to lure in their prey. They’d attach a lamp to the neck of an old horse (or nag), which would slowly walk the beach at night. Mistaking the nag’s lantern for the lights of another boat, ships would sail toward the light, grounding themselves in the shallow waters near the beach and making themselves a perfect target for pirates.

6. BASTROP, LOUISIANA & BASTROP, TEXAS

A sign in Bastrop, Texas
Wil C. Fry, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Another town name with a criminal backstory is Bastrop. The two towns with the same title in Louisiana and Texas were named for Dutch nobleman Felipe Enrique Neri, the Baron de Bastrop, who played an important role in settling the future Lone Star State. Only it turns out the Baron de Bastrop wasn’t a baron at all: Historians now believe the self-proclaimed Dutch nobleman was actually one Philip Hendrick Nering Bögel, a former tax collector who left Holland after being accused of embezzlement. Bogel fled to America with a 1000 gold ducat price on his head and reestablished himself as a Dutch nobleman. He went on to help establish several Anglo-American colonies in Texas, and even acted as a representative to the state of Coahuila and Texas in the 1820s.

7. MODESTO, CALIFORNIA

From towns and cities, right down to buildings and park benches, people seem to love naming landmarks after themselves; it’s the nature of the human ego. Which is why the story behind Modesto, California's name is particularly surprising. Founded in 1870 and incorporated in 1884, Modesto was the last stop on the Central Pacific Railroad line. Town residents decided that they wanted to name their new town after financier William Chapman Ralston, to honor the man who brought them the railroad and connected them to the rest of the country. But Ralston was too humble, and asked the town to find a more suitable namesake. Instead, residents decided to call their town Modesto, in honor of Ralston’s modesty.

8. CHICKEN, ALASKA

A town sign in Chicken, Alaska
J. STEPHEN CONN, FLICKR / CC BY-NC 2.0

Originally a mining town, Chicken got its unusual name from a group of gold miners who weren’t great at spelling. The miners wanted to call the town Ptarmigan, after the grouse-like bird that inhabited the area, but couldn’t figure out how to spell the word. So they settled on naming the town for an easier-to-spell bird: the chicken.

9. FROG EYE, ALABAMA

According to legend, Frog Eye was named after a ceramic frog. During the prohibition era, the proprietor of a local saloon kept the little frog sculpture in his shop window at all times: When police officers were in the bar, he’d close one of the frog’s eyes so that customers would know not to order illegal liquor.

10. HOT COFFEE, MISSISSIPPI

A sign in Hot Coffee, Mississippi
Jimmy Emerson DVM, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Mississippi community known as Hot Coffee was, you guessed it, named for its damn fine cup of coffee. According to a WPA history of Mississippi written during the Great Depression, a Civil War veteran named J.J. Davis built a store at the intersection of two major thoroughfares in Mississippi, hoping to attract travelers. “He hung a coffee pot over his door, and served coffee that was both hot and good, made of pure spring water and New Orleans beans,” explains the WPA historian. “He used molasses drippings for sugar and the customer could have either long or short sweetening; he refused to serve cream, saying it ruined the taste.” The 19th-century coffee connoisseur soon developed a reputation for his superior beans, and both travelers and local politicians would frequent his shop. According to legend, Davis started calling the community Hot Coffee after a traveling salesman burnt his mouth trying to drink Davis’s coffee too quickly, calling out, “Mister, this is hot coffee!”

11. SLAUGHTER BEACH, DELAWARE

There’s some debate as to how Slaughter Beach got its name. While some believe the bayside community was named for local postmaster William Slaughter, others claim it was named after the hordes of horseshoe crabs that lay their eggs on the beach of the Delaware Bay each spring. Because of unpredictable tides, the horseshoe crabs often ended up stranded on the beach, at the mercy of predatory animals like foxes and raccoons—which resulted in something of an annual horseshoe crab slaughter.

12. KITTS HUMMOCK, DELAWARE

According to local legend, the little Delaware community now known as Kitts Hummock was originally named Kidd’s Hammock, after Captain William Kidd. The notorious pirate terrorized America’s east coast during the 17th century, and though there is little historical information to tie him specifically to the community of Kitts Hummock, legends of Kidd’s treasure buried somewhere in Delaware persist to this day.

13. TELEPHONE, TEXAS

Back in the 1880s, having a telephone was a really big deal. Such a big deal, in fact, that one Texas community decided it was worth naming their town after. According to the Texas State Historical Association, the tiny community of Telephone was established in 1886. General store owner Pete Hindman submitted a series of town names to postal authorities, but all were already in use. Frustrated, Hindman submitted the name Telephone, in reference to the fact that the only telephone in the area was in his store.

14. TIGHTWAD, MISSOURI


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According to Tightwad residents, the little Missouri town’s name dates back to the early 20th century, when the local mailman asked the local grocer to set aside a watermelon for him while he made his rounds. The postman came back after delivering the community’s mail only to find that the grocer had sold the watermelon to a customer who had agreed to pay 50 cents more. The postman accused the grocer of being a tightwad, and apparently the rest of the community agreed, and even embraced the accusation. They unofficially called the little community Tightwad until the village was incorporated in the 1980s, making the title official.

15. JIM THORPE, PENNSYLVANIA

Originally two towns called Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk, this Pennsylvania town became one and changed its name to Jim Thorpe after the legendary turn-of-the-century Olympic athlete, baseball player, and football star in the 1950s. The two towns didn’t have any pre-existing connection to Thorpe, who was from Oklahoma and had played for Milwaukee and New York teams. Rather, after Thorpe’s death, his third wife made a deal with them. Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk were looking for a way to promote tourism; at the same time, Thorpe’s wife wanted what she considered a proper memorial for her husband, so she essentially sold the towns on rebranding themselves as Jim Thorpe. The towns merged, bought Thorpe's remains from his widow, built him a monument, and became Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. Two of Jim Thorpe’s sons then fought a legal battle to have his remains returned to Oklahoma, but in October 2015 the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, leaving in place the appeals court ruling in favor of the town.

A version of this story originally ran in 2016.

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