How Nashville's Neighborhoods Got Their Names

Nashville was named after Revolutionary War General Francis Nash. Established at an area along the Cumberland River referred to as French Lick—due to a salt lick that attracted animals and thus French fur trappers—the settlement was originally dubbed "Nashborough" but renamed Nashville in honor of the French.

Belmont Boulevard

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This area is named for the Belmont Mansion, built in the mid 19th century for the Acklen family. The 180-acre estate was constructed between 1849 and 1853 and is now owned by Belmont University.

Berry Hill

This South Nashville neighborhood is named after William Wells Berry, a 19th-century Nashville businessman. Berry was president of Third National Bank, and he built a house in the 1860s in Elmwood. The area around it was developed into a "satellite city" in the mid-20th century and took his name.

Bluefield

This area in Donelson earned its name in the late 18th century from the blue Mountain Chicory that grew in the area.

Clover Bottom

Clover Bottom in Donelson is named for the Clover Bottom plantation and mansion, which in turn is said to have claimed its title from an early horseracing track nearby.

Demonbreun

Demonbreun gets its name from one of the town’s earliest residents, Timothy Demonbreun. He was a fur trader from Quebec, and his real name was Jacques-Timothe Boucher Sieur de Montbrun. In 1769, he arrived and settled in what would eventually become the city of Nashville.

Donelson

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This area is named for Colonel John Donelson, a partner of James Robertson. These two men were selected by Richard Henderson, and they helped settle the area that would eventually become Nashville. In 1779, Donelson led the journey to the area via the Holston, Tennessee, Ohio, and Cumberland Rivers, while Robertson mounted an overland expedition. Donelson kept a diary of his expedition, which has survived. You can read it here [PDF].

The Downtown

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This is the original center of Nashville. In 1780, early settlers led by James Robertson established a fort between what is now Church Street and Broadway.

East End

East End was originally an outgrowth of the City of Edgefield, and it gained its name from its location on the eastern outskirts of that municipality.

East Nashville

East Nashville naturally lies to the east of downtown Nashville, and it is home to eclectic businesses and restaurants that make the area a draw for young urbanites, artists, and musicians.

Edgefield

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This neighborhood in East Nashville was named by Governor Neil S. Brown in the mid-19th century. It was annexed into Nashville proper on February 6, 1880.

Edgehill

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This neighborhood takes its name from the Edgehill contraband camp established by the Union army during the Civil War to house fugitive slaves, before and after they were freed. The area around the camp developed into a majority-black neighborhood.

Elliston Place

This is named for the Elliston family, who owned the land on which it sits beginning in the nineteenth century. Joseph Elliston served as the city's mayor, and bought the land for $11,500 in 1821.

Five Points

This commercial district in East Nashville is named for the 5-point intersection where Woodland Street, Clearview Avenue, and 11th Street meet.

Germantown

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Germantown was the center of the German community in 19th century Nashville, and it became the city’s first suburb.

Glencliff

This section of South Nashville is named for Glencliff Mansion, an antebellum home that was built in 1852 by slaves and stood where the neighborhood does today.

Green Hills

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In 1939, developers A. Roy Greene and Roy T. Primm, Sr. built a market on a piece of cow-grazing land for $5,000. They called it Green Hills Market, and the name came to represent the neighborhood itself, which now houses upscale shopping and some of Nashville’s wealthiest citizens.

Greenwood

This area in East Nashville is named for Greenwood Cemetery, the second oldest cemetery for blacks in Nashville. It was established in 1888, and Greenwood Park, the first amusement park in Nashville open to black patrons, followed in 1905. Both were founded by local leader Preston Taylor.

The Gulch

The Gulch is literally a gulch, which runs through the south side of Nashville’s downtown area.

Inglewood

This East Nashville neighborhood borrows its name from the Inglewood Place subdivision, which was built by the Inglewood Land Company, itself named for the Englewood Forest in Britain. The subdivision was developed beginning in 1908 to create a suburb fed by a new streetcar line.

Lockeland Springs

The neighborhood takes its name from Lockeland Spring, which in turn is named after the Lockeland Mansion, located beside it and named by Col. Robert Weakley for his wife, Jane Locke. The Lockeland Spring gained fame around the turn of the century when James Richardson purchased the mansion and, realizing the spring water was full of lithium salts, began bottling it for sale.

Marathon Village

This area is named for the historic Marathon Motor Cars factory which operated in Nashville from 1910 to 1914. In 1987, Barry Lyle Walker purchased the closed factory and began renovating the area, dubbing the redeveloped complex Marathon Village.

Maxwell

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This East Nashville neighborhood is named for the Maxwell House Hotel, itself named after its founder’s wife, Harriet Maxwell Owens.

Melrose

The Melrose Estate, built in the mid-19th century, was named so due to owner Cynthia Pillow Saunder's mother's Scottish ancestry (there is a town in Scotland named Melrose). The surrounding area also took this name, but the house itself was mostly lost to a fire in 1975.

Midtown

It's exactly what it sounds like: a commercially oriented neighborhood situated midway between the historic downtown and the more residential areas of the city.

Music Row

This area, situated between 16th Avenue, 17th Avenue, South Street, Division Street, and Grand Street, is the center of the city's country music industry.

Opryland

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Named after the Grand Ole Opry radio program and its venue, as well as in reference to the Opryland theme park that operated from 1972 until 1997. The term "Music Valley" is also used, and it refers to the cluster of attractions focusing on country music that have sprouted up around the Grand Ole Opry House.

Radnor

This neighborhood in South Nashville is named after Radnor College, a women’s college established in 1906 by A.N. Eshman. The school closed in 1914, but the name stuck.

Rosebank

Rosebank is named for the roses cultivated by the Rosebank Nursery, a popular and successful nursery that was established prior to the Civil War.

SoBro

This stands for “South of Broadway,” and follows an all-too-popular modern neighborhood naming structure (think SoHo and NoMad in New York, etc...).

Sylvan Park

Named after the Sylvan Park Land Company, a business that built many of the homes in the area in the early 20th century. One of the owners of that business named his own home, located within the neighborhood, "Sylvan Park."

Talbot’s Corner

This East Nashville neighborhood is named for the Talbot family and patriarch Thomas Talbot, a Revolutionary War veteran who became a Nashville businessman. The historic Talbot family cemetery is located within the area now known as Talbot’s Corner.

Two Rivers

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This area in Donelson takes its title from the Two Rivers Mansion, which was named due to its location near the intersection of the Cumberland and Stones Rivers.

Wedgewood-Houston

Known as "WeHo" for short, Wedgewood-Houston in South Nashville takes its name from the streets that make its borders: Wedgewood Ave to the south and Houston Street to the north.

The West End

This section within Midtown was, in the early 1900s, a suburban enclave on the then-western edge of Nashville. The Hillsboro-West End Neighborhood Association published a history of the neighborhood in 1992. They discuss the specific history of the name Hillsboro, but about the name “West End” only say, “Many major cities, including London, have a ‘West End.’”

Woodbine

This South Nashville neighborhood is named after a honeysuckle that grows in the area. It previously went by "Flat Rock," supposedly named for a flat rock Native Americans used to use as a meeting place. This name was determined to be "unsophisticated" by residents in 1939, and they voted to rename the area Woodbine.

The Florida Beach Town Where the Amish Go on Vacation

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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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