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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 9 New Orleans Neighborhoods Got Their Names
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One of the most historic cities in the U.S., New Orleans dazzles with its ornate cathedrals, lush gardens, and neighborhoods that seem to melt into one another—so much so that it can be hard to know where exactly you are. But whether you find yourself in the Gentilly or the French Quarter, one thing’s for sure: The area’s bound to have a rich, compelling story to tell.

1. BYWATER

Known for its colorful Spanish and French architecture, Bywater encompasses—but is not limited to—much of the Bywater Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This area has gone through a few different nicknames—it was first Faubourg Washington (faubourg being an old French term meaning something like suburb) and later Little Saxony, for its sizable population of German immigrants. But in the 1940s, when the telephone company gave each area a unique code name for the rotary phone dial (to help make phone numbers easier to remember), they went with BYwater for this neighborhood, due to its close proximity to the Mississippi River. Later, the code was changed to WHitehall, but it was too late by then: Bywater had caught on for good. Today, it’s also part of what’s affectionately known as “the Sliver by the River,” referring to the area along the water that saw no flooding during Hurricane Katrina, thanks to its slightly higher elevation compared to the rest of New Orleans.

2. PIGEON TOWN

Located in the 17th Ward, Pigeon Town is a working-class nabe known for its concentration of musicians and artists. It’s also sometimes called Pension Town, usually by newcomers to the area, and there’s been great debate over which name came first and is therefore correct. In 2015, The Times-Picayune tried to get to the root of the matter, finding local histories explaining the origins of both names. They found that Pension Town may date to late 19th-century wars and returning soldiers buying land with their army pensions, while Pigeon Town could be a reference to immigrants who once populated the area and spoke in “pidgin” English. Meanwhile, the city officially calls the region Leonidas, for the street running through its center, and it’s also called West Carrollton—as it once comprised about half of the town of Carrollton before it was incorporated into New Orleans. Pigeon Town or Pension Town are still the most common names you’ll heard these days, though, and locals often sidestep the whole issue by just calling it “P-Town.”

3. VIEUX CARRÉ

The balconies of the French Quarter decked out for Mardi Gras
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The oldest part of the city, Vieux Carré is perhaps better known as the French Quarter, and it literally translates to “old square” in French. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, this was the site of the original central plaza built by the French settlers in the early 1700s. Most of the neighborhood’s current buildings, however, were constructed by the Spanish during their rule of New Orleans in the later 1700s—and this is partially because the Great New Orleans Fire of 1788 wiped out most of the French buildings. Buildings in the Vieux Carré are particularly known for the lacy, elaborate ironwork found on their signature “galleries” (a wider version of a balcony, supported by columns). The Vieux Carré is also the name of a classic cocktail from the 1930s—rye whiskey, cognac, vermouth, Benedictine, and two kinds of bitters—which was coined in the area’s own Hotel Monteleone.

4. LITTLE WOODS

This one isn’t too strange if you look at its original name, Petit Bois: It’s a direct translation of Little Woods. What’s perhaps more of a mystery is the fact that there were no forests growing in this area when it was first developed by the French. The "Little Woods" they were referring to was, in fact, the swamp vegetation on Lake Pontchartrain, which the neighborhood faces. Close enough.

5. ST. ROCH

The entrance to St. Roch cemetery
Bess Lovejoy

A subdivision of Bywater, St. Roch was known as Faubourg Franklin for its first century or so. But in the mid-19th century, a yellow fever epidemic hit the city of New Orleans, whereupon German priest Peter Leonard Thevis vowed to St. Roch, the patron saint of good health, to build a chapel in the area dedicated to him if no one in the parish died of the disease. The saint apparently provided, because Thevis built the chapel, along with a shrine and cemetery, both of which shortly became New Orleans landmarks. The neighborhood has been called St. Roch ever since.

6. TREMÉ

Although Claude Tremé only owned land in the area for a short time—and his wife was actually the one who inherited most of it—he’s somehow managed to be the lasting namesake of a neighborhood that has really gone through some nicknames. It was first called Place de Nègres, after the main plaza where slaves would gather to dance and play music. This name—both the plaza and the neighborhood—was later updated to Congo Square. In the late 19th century, the city of New Orleans renamed it Beauregard Square, after Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard, but people ignored that and kept calling it Congo Square. Then the area was called Back of Town for many years, for its location away from both Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi and at the “back” of the French Quarter. In the ’70s, the city created Louis Armstrong Park and christened an open space within it “Congo Square,” in a callback to the area’s history. Today, its official name is actually Tremé-Lafitte, since it’s incorporated the Lafitte Projects. According to “The King of Tremé,” drummer Shannon Powell, the name “Tremé” has only been in use to refer to this area as of the 21st century. “We always called this neighborhood part of the 6th Ward. Local people called it that. No one local called the Tremé Tremé.”

7. ALGIERS

There are two main theories behind the name of this neighborhood that’s also known as the 15th Ward. One is that its location was so far-flung that the French settlers compared the distance between it and the rest of the city to the distance between France and Algeria. The other is that a soldier who had fought in Algeria said that the neighborhood looked similar to the north African landscape he’d recently returned from when viewed from a ship. Neither of these tales have been proven, however.

8. GENTILLY

Gentilly is a corruption of the word chantilly, but it’s not the lace that this neighborhood is named for. Instead, it’s the town of Chantilly, located just outside of Paris, for which the lace is also named—and more specifically, it was the town's grand Château de Chantilly that the French settlers had in mind when they developed this area just outside of New Orleans. It’s said that the G was swapped in because “French tongues have a hard time with something starting with ‘Ch.’”

9. METAIRIE

A footbridge over Lafreniere Park in Metairie
A footbridge over Lafreniere Park in Metairie
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Although it abuts the city limits to the west and is technically not a part of New Orleans, Metairie isn’t a separate city either, only an unincorporated “census-designated place,” so we’re counting it. The community got its name from four French brothers, the Chauvins, who owned thousands of acres in Jefferson Parish in the 1720s, which they split up to employ sharecroppers who paid their rent in produce. The French word for such a tenant farm is—voilà—métairie.

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How 8 Washington, D.C. Neighborhoods Got Their Names 
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Most people know that Washington, D.C. is packed with historic buildings, but its neighborhood names reflect a more intimate history that sometimes dates back all the way to the city's origins on the banks of the Potomac. Here are the stories behind a few of the District’s neighborhood names, plus a bonus story of one distinctively named neighborhood that is no longer.

1. ANACOSTIA

Anacostia gets its musical name from an Anglicization. In 1608, Captain John Smith made his first Chesapeake Bay voyage, sailing up the bay and exploring its many inlets and rivers. One of them led him to a village of Nactochtank people—one of many tribes that inhabited the region and used its rivers and plains for food and trading. As European traders kept coming to the region, someone Anglicized anaquash(e)tan(i)k, the Nacotchtank word for village or trading center, as Anacostia. The name stuck among white settlers, and despite being briefly named Uniontown, Anacostia is known by that name to this day.

2. KALORAMA

Another one of Washington’s most sonorous place names comes from Greek. In 1807, a poet named Joel Barlow moved into a house with some seriously sweet views of the newly built White House and Capitol. He nicknamed it Kalorama—“beautiful view” in Greek.

3. PLEASANT PLAINS

Awesome views apparently abounded in old Washington. In the 1700s, a farmer named James Holmead bought a huge tract of undeveloped land in what was then Maryland. The family named part of their estate “Pleasant Plains,” and it stuck. The Holmead family loved dramatic estate names—other properties included James’s Park and the fancifully named “Widow’s Mite.” Pleasant Plains was eventually divvied up, and part of the estate was turned into a luxury suburb called Mt. Pleasant. James’s son, Anthony, also opened a burial ground that has since gone defunct.

4. FOGGY BOTTOM

A photograph of the Washington, DC Foggy Bottom Metro station
The Foggy Bottom Metro station.

Not all views in early Washington were pleasant, however. Take the area near where the Potomac and Rock Creek meet, now one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. It was settled early in the city’s history and initially known as Hamburgh, a German settlement that became part of Washington when the federal district was created. The area later became an industrial center, home to two breweries and a gas works. Foggy Bottom was never terribly inviting: The damp marsh was prone to mists and overrun by frogs. But the smoke and smog emitted by its industrial residents is thought to be responsible for its catchy nickname. Today, the neighborhood shares that handle with the U.S. Department of State, which is headquartered in the neighborhood.

5. FORT TOTTEN

The Fort Totten neighborhood shares a name with a one-time military base turned park in Queens, New York. The D.C. version was also once a real fort, built starting in 1861 to protect Abraham Lincoln’s summer home, and later became part of a park. The fort can still be seen—just one of the District’s many Civil War fortifications—and today, a tiny neighborhood is named after the fort and the park.

6. TRINIDAD

Spoiler alert: There are multiple Trinidads, too. The one not in the Caribbean is squarely in northeastern D.C. It’s named after the tropical country thanks to James Barry, a land speculator who once lived in the original Trinidad and who named his farm after the country, then sold it to another mogul, William Wilson Corcoran. Corcoran enjoyed life on Trinidad Farm until he decided to give it away, donating it in 1872 to what is now George Washington University. The college sold it to a brickworks, who sold part of it to a group of developers, who sold the land to residents of the new neighborhood of Trinidad.

7. CHEVY CHASE

A photo of sunset on Western Avenue in the Chevy Chase neighborhood, with the Maryland side on the right.
Sunset on Western Avenue in the Chevy Chase neighborhood.

The D.C. area has two Chevy Chases: A neighborhood in the city itself, and an adjoining town in suburban Maryland. Both derive their name from a land company that still exists today.

As Washington, D.C. expanded, real estate investors began to vie for unoccupied land, including farmland in the northwestern part of the city. The Chevy Chase Land Company, which was founded by future Nevada representative and senator and noted white supremacist Francis G. Newlands, began snapping up that land in the 1890s. Newlands milked both his mining fortune and his government connections to create what he saw as the ideal suburb. Today, that neighborhood is known for its large collection of Sears kit houses—bungalows that land owners bought directly from the Sears catalogue and assembled themselves.

8. CARVER LANGSTON

Carver Langston doesn’t just have two names: It’s two neighborhoods that are too small to be referred to as individual neighborhoods. The first, Carver, was named after George Washington Carver, the African American inventor and botanist. The second, Langston, was named after John Mercer Langston, who became one of the first African-Americans to hold elected office in the United States (township clerk in Brownhelm, Ohio in 1855) before going on to establish Howard University’s Law Department and becoming Virginia’s first black Representative.

BONUS: SWAMPOODLE

Alas, the Washington neighborhood with the weirdest name is no more. In the 19th century, a shantytown on the banks of the Tiber Creek earned the name “swampoodle”—an apparent reference to the area’s swampy puddles. With a reputation for being wild and crime-ridden, it was known as “the ideal place to turn a dishonest dollar.” But the neighborhood didn’t make it out of the 19th century and was eventually displaced when Union Station was built. Oddly enough, Philadelphia had its own Swampoodle—a section of North Philly whose name disappeared at some point during the 20th century (although some residents are currently trying to bring it back as "Swampoodle Heights").

All photos via iStock.

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