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How Charlotte's Neighborhoods Got Their Names

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Wonder how Myers Park or NoDa became Myers Park and NoDa? To track down these answers, we enlisted the help of Thomas Hanchett, local Charlotte, North Carolina historian and author of the book Sorting Out the New South City. 

Of course, this list isn’t comprehensive. Some neighborhoods didn’t make the list because their etymologies were obvious (we’re looking at you South End and University City), and some were omitted because there’s no reliable information (why does no one know where Chantilly originated?). But we’ve dug up some fun historical facts that explain where your neighborhood got its name—and possibly its personality.

1. Arboretum 

Charlotte’s Arboretum neighborhood surrounds the eponymous shopping center (location of the city’s first Wal-Mart), which opened in 1989. The center and the neighborhood were named for the large quantity of trees that were in the area prior to its development. 

2. Ballantyne

Just outside the I-485 loop, this neighborhood is one of the city’s newer additions. It was originally farmland and a large family hunting preserve until Charlottean Smoky Bissell purchased the land (around 2,000 acres) for development in 1995 and named it after his aunt, Barbara Ballantyne. 

3. Biddleville 

© James Willamor

This community is home to the historically black college, Johnson C. Smith University, which was formerly Biddle University. The school—and ultimately the neighborhood—were named for Major Henry J. Biddle, an officer in the Union Army who died during the Civil War. His wife, Mary Biddle, donated funding in his honor to help found the college. 

4. Blakeney 

This South Charlotte neighborhood and shopping complex takes its name from James A. Blakeney. After his father, a South Carolina native, was killed during the Civil War, his mother resettled with her children in the Blakeney area in 1883. The family accumulated considerable holdings in the area, and the James A. Blakeney House, constructed in 1901, is still in the neighborhood—and currently for sale for $1.5 million. 

5. Cherry

© James Willamor

Historically, this small neighborhood has also been called Cherryton or Cherrytown. “It may have been an old plantation slave quarters,” says historian Thomas Hanchett. “Its name is said to have come from the cherry trees that once grew on its hillsides.”    

6. Cotswold 

© James Willamor

This neighborhood derived its name from the Cotswold Village Shops located at the intersection of Randolph and Sharon Amity Roads. The shops, which were once Cotswold Mall, were named for the charming Cotswolds area in England.

7. Dilworth

© James Willamor

Edward Dilworth Latta, a traveling salesman from New York, moved to Charlotte in 1876. In 1890 he joined with Charlotte’s mayor and four other investors to develop the city’s first street car suburb. Latta also created Dilworth’s Latta Park, which was originally an amusement park designed to draw city dwellers to see the neighborhood before it was developed. “He was a very modest man,” says Hanchett. “From what I know, he never named anything Edward.”

8. Eastover 

Prior to 1927, the land on the east side of Providence Road was primarily two dairy farms. At that time, Charlotte’s E.C. Griffith Company began creating an upscale new suburb aptly named for its location to the east of much of the city’s previously developed suburbs. 

9. Elizabeth 

© James Willamor

When Charles B. King established a small Lutheran college for women in 1897, he named it after his mother-in-law, Anne Elizabeth Watts, because Watts’ husband, a tobacco businessman, had provided much of the funding for the school. The neighborhood takes its name from Elizabeth College, which stood on the present-day site of Presbyterian Hospital.

10. First, Second, Third, and Fourth Wards

© James Willamor

By the 1850s the village of Charlotte had grown large enough that it needed to be separated into four political wards. A quadrant was made with the intersection of Trade and Tryon streets at its center. Charlotte officially ended the ward voting system in 1945, but the names of the center city neighborhoods stuck. 

11. FreeMoreWest 

Want proof that Charlotte is still a young city? The name of this neighborhood, just outside of Uptown, has only been coined in the last several years. Named for Freedom Drive, Morehead Street, and the west side, its one of Charlotte’s fastest growing urban neighborhoods.

12. Grier Heights

Arthur S. Grier was an influential African American leader in Charlotte during the segregation era. He was the owner of Grier’s Grocery on Monroe Road, and he built his home—which still stands—across the street from the store in 1922. Several business ventures later, Grier developed the land behind his home into the area that became known first as Griertown and later as Grier Heights.

13. Myers Park 

© James Willamor

Charlotte resident Colonel William R. Myers is known for donating the land for the area’s first African American college, Biddle College (now Johnson C. Smith University) as well as Myers Street School, the city’s first public school for African Americans. His son, J.S. “Jack” Myers, came into his inheritance, which included 306 acres of then farmland, at the age of 26. Jack Myers accumulated more than 1000 acres, on which he created tree-lined roads and planted flowers, earning it the nickname “Myers Park.” 

14. NoDa

© James Willamor

The first question most people ask about this eclectic arts district is where it got its funny name. It’s short for “North Davidson,” the street that runs through its center. Architect Russell Pound originally coined the name in the early 1990s. 

15. Plaza Midwood

© James Willamor

While this east Charlotte area has plenty of historic roots, it wasn’t formally recognized as a neighborhood until 1973 when two residents decided to form a community organization. They coined the name by combining the area’s most notable residential street, The Plaza, with one of its larger subdivisions, Midwood.

16. SouthPark 

© James Willamor

Today, SouthPark is one of the city’s most sought-after and upscale neighborhoods. But it was only with the arrival of SouthPark Mall in 1970 that Charlotte residents began to flock to this spot, which was once former North Carolina Governor Cameron Morrison’s 3,000-acre farm. The mall, titled for its picturesque location south of town, was the neighborhood’s namesake.  

17. Starmount

Like much of the South Boulevard corridor of Charlotte, this neighborhood was established in the latter part of the 20th century. Now it’s one of South Charlotte’s largest neighborhoods, but the initial construction spread from Starbrook Drive, which lent its name to the development.

18. Steele Creek

Not surprisingly, this neighborhood is named after the small creek that runs through it. The origin of the creek’s name is a little less certain, but it’s believed that the Steele family were Scotch-Irish settlers who came to the area in the early 18th century. 

19. Washington Heights

This neighborhood, which opened as a streetcar suburb in 1913, was originally planned as a suburb for the city’s middle-income African American residents and named in honor of Booker T. Washington. 

20. Wilmore

© James Willamor

This area was originally home to the Wilson and Moore farms. Hence, when it was converted into another one of the city’s streetcar neighborhoods in the early 20th century, the names were combined for Wilmore.

See other cities in our Neighborhoods series.

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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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