CLOSE
Original image
Wikimedia Commons

How 65 Pittsburgh Neighborhoods Got Their Names

Original image
Wikimedia Commons

If you’re from Pittsburgh and you’re on Facebook, you probably saw the much-shared “fantasy map” of the city patterned after those of Middle Earth included in J.R.R. Tolkien books. Last year, I talked to Stentor Danielson, the cartographer and professor of geography who created it. He said that one could determine much about a place simply by looking at a map. I asked: What could an alien, with no knowledge of Pittsburgh but a deep understanding of maps, determine about this city of steel and pierogies just by glancing at the street layout?

“We talk about Pittsburgh as a city of neighborhoods, and that’s really obvious as we see how each neighborhood flows—how the streets all connect to each other and [how] they are aligned,” he said. “That says a lot about how Pittsburgh was built, over rivers and gorges. And you could also infer how Pittsburghers are attached to their neighborhoods.”

If the neighborhoods are distinct, it might be because most existed as homesteads and independent boroughs long before they were parts of Pittsburgh. From the 1860s to the 1930s, the city went on an annexation binge, assimilating nearby communities and old estates like some kind of ruthless Pitts-borg. The Rust Belt metropolis expanded, from the triangle-shaped city limits extending a few miles from the point at which the three rivers meet to a great splotch that encompasses a span of hills and valleys.

This is how 65 of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods got their names. The designations of some small neighborhoods seem lost to history (probably concocted by a real estate developer or inherited from a forgotten early landowner). Particularly helpful were Pittsburgh: A New Portrait by Franklin Toker, The Names of Pittsburgh by Bob Regan, and Pittsburgh and You, a 1982 guide to neighborhoods and local amenities and attractions created by the city and still available in its original format—typewritten pages in a three-ring binder—at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

1. Allegheny (East, West and Central)

via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Much of what is now the North Side cluster of Pittsburgh neighborhoods was once Allegheny City, an independent municipality named so for its place on the banks of the Allegheny River and gobbled up through a controversial annexation in 1907 that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Three neighborhoods—East Allegheny, West Allegheny, and Allegheny Central—retain the Allegheny name.

2. Allentown

Joseph Allen, an English butcher, purchased 124 acres of land here in 1827.

3. Banksville

In its earliest days (the 1770s), the settlement was known as "The Experiment"—the experiment being allowing a bunch of Scots-Irish immigrants, who were viewed as industrious but not valuable to the society, to farm and mine an area that was often attacked by natives. In the late 1700s, then-owner David Carnahan split the land between his three sons. One of the sons, Alexander Carnahan (who laid out the area after the Civil War), named the town Banksville after his wife, Eliza Banks.

4. Beechview

Beechview, home of the steepest street in the U.S., is named so for its beech trees.

5. Beltzhoover

The land was once farmed by one Melchior Beltzhoover, a German immigrant.

6. Bloomfield

via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This East End locale was once covered with fields of blooming flowers. George Washington, who visited the Pittsburgh area seven times, wrote of walking through “the high ground through a field of many blooms.”

7. Bluff

The home of Duquesne University and a bunch of law offices, this area has gone through a few names, including Uptown (for its proximity to downtown), Soho (named after a suburb of Birmingham, England) and Boyd’s Hill (for a guy who hanged himself here—seriously). Its current designation on city maps, Bluff, likely refers to the geological formation of the same name, a ridge that runs parallel to a shoreline. The neighborhood has a bluff-like area parallel to the Monongahela River.

8. Bon Air

In 1898, two businessmen bought a tract of land to resell and dubbed their enterprise the Bon Air Land Company, bonair being an old term meaning gentle and courteous. They picked well; today, Bon Air is one of Pittsburgh’s quietest and most suburban-seeming neighborhoods.

9. Brighton Heights

One of the main streets here is Brighton Road, named so because it leads to the borough of New Brighton (named for Brighton, England).

10. Brookline

Two corporations that bought and sold land here, the Freehold Real Estate Company and West Liberty Improvement Company, named it after the Boston suburb for an unknown reason.

11. Carrick

via Wikimedia Commons // CC0

A physician, Dr. John H. O'Brien, badgered the Postal Service to install a post office here. When the agency did in 1853, it let him name it along with the area it served. He chose Carrick, after his hometown of Carrick-on-Suir, Ireland.

12. Central Northside

This area was once known as the Buena Vista Tract because it was dotted by streets named after Mexican-American War generals (Taylor, Sherman, Pilson) and battles (Monterey, Palo Alto, Buena Vista). James Robinson, Jr., the mayor of Allegheny City who christened the streets, had been a general in the war. Though the Mexican War streets remain a defining part of the neighborhood, the moniker Central Northside took hold when the area was marketed to new homebuyers in the mid-20th century.

13. Chartiers

A few decades before the founding of Pittsburgh, Pierre Chartiers, a French-Indian trapper, ran a trading post here.

14. Chateau

After Route 65 cut the North Side neighborhood of Manchester in half in the 1960s, the two parts were distinct enough that the city declared the half bordering the Ohio River its own neighborhood, dubbed Chateau for Chateau Street, which was presumably named for all of the grand houses along it.

15. Crafton Heights

This is another place named after an early landowner, though sources differ on who. Most cite attorney James Craft, though one says it was Charles J. Craft, a real estate developer.

16. Duquesne Heights

via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA-3.0

From across the Monongahela, this hillside neighborhood faces what was once Fort Duquesne, the French settlement built at the convergence of the rivers in 1754 and named in honor of Michel-Ange Du Quesne de Menneville, Marquis Du Quesne, governor of the French colonies in North America.

17. East Carnegie

The area outside this neighborhood was incorporated as the borough of Carnegie in 1894. The residents named it after Andrew Carnegie. (The steel baron donated a library, music hall, and high school in return.) Though still part of Pittsburgh, the small residential community east of it soon took on the name East Carnegie. 

18. East Hills

This hilly neighborhood is on Pittsburgh’s easternmost edge.

19. East Liberty

via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Jacob Negley, son of an early settler of East Liberty Valley, laid out and named the town of East Liberty after his wife’s farm, East Liberty Valley. It was east of the other settlements in Pittsburgh, and “liberty” was farming lexicon for an area open for grazing. Old-school Pittsburghers refer to the town as "Sliberty."

20. Elliott

In 1785, mill owner and ferryboat operator Daniel Elliot was granted two tracts of land here and named them Elliot’s Design and Elliot’s Delight. No one but him, apparently, was willing to call them that, so they eventually became simply Elliott.

21. Esplen

This tiny neighborhood, a sliver on the banks of the Ohio River, has the wicked cool distinction of being built on dirt that landed there after a railroad crew used explosives to blast apart a hill that was in their way. The railroad workers who later lived here named it after Henry Esplen, an admired administrator of the nearby Thaddeus Stevens School.

22. Fairywood

This one was coined by the Pennsylvania Railroad, who built this community as a residence for workers sometime around 1900.

23. Fineview

In 1828, Flemish nuns built a school for girls here, called Mt. Alverino, and Pittsburghers began calling it Nunnery Hill, even after the school closed and the nuns vacated. Later, James Andrews, a bridge designer and associate of Andrew Carnegie, built a home here. At his urging, the City Council renamed the neighborhood Fineview for its view of downtown.

24. Friendship

This neighborhood was once home to Friendship Farm, owned by a member of the Society of Friends, a.k.a. the Quakers.

25. Garfield

via Wikimedia Commons // CC0 1.0

The granddaughter of John Winebiddle, who owned much land in what is now the East End, sold the area that is now this neighborhood to the city in 1867. Pittsburgh divided it into lots for sale, the first of which was purchased on the day James Garfield was buried. The first lot-buyer named it in honor of the recently assassinated president.

26. Glen Hazel

It was named for the wooded glens of hazelnut trees.

27. Greenfield

Upon the installation of streets in this area in 1878, City Councilman William Barker, Jr., dubbed it Greenfield for its lush greenery.

28. Hays

Industrialist James H. Hays opened the Hays and Haberman Mines here in 1828.

29. Hazelwood

Hazelwood, east of Glen Hazel, was named after John Wood’s estate Hazel Hill. Over time the name, taken from the hazelnut trees in the area, became Hazelwood.

30. Highland Park

via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

You might assume this one was named for its elevation. However, the neighborhood—as well as its eponymous public park and Highland Avenue—were named after Robert Hiland, a county surveyor who subdivided the land into plots for purchase after the Negley family sold it to the city. Perhaps someone in the Department of Public Works also thought it was named for its place atop the East End and “corrected” the spelling.

31. Homewood

William Wilkins, a judge and U.S. senator (amongst other positions), built his estate here and named it Homewood.

32. Knoxville

Rev. Jeremiah Knox was one of the first farmers here.

33. Larimer

William Larimer was one of the most prominent land speculators of the westward expansion (and the founder of Denver, Colorado). Before that, he was a general in the colonial-era Pennsylvania Militia and owner of a homestead here.

34. Lawrenceville

A popular misconception holds that this newly hip neighborhood—dubbed the Williamsburg of Pittsburgh by Gawker —was named after David L. Lawrence, city mayor and governor of Pennsylvania. Actually, Army Col. William Foster (father of Americana songwriter Stephen Foster) named it in honor of Captain James Lawrence, commander of the U.S.S. Chesapeake, whose dying command of “Don’t give up the ship!” was one of the rallying cries of the War of 1812. It was appropriate for a neighborhood that housed a munitions factory that helped arm the military until it was destroyed in an explosion in 1862.

35. Lincoln–Lemington–Belmar

Several Pittsburgh neighborhoods have had more than one name. Usually, when City Hall orders a new map, one moniker is preserved and another one or two are sent to the death row of the local lexicon, sustained for only another few years by older residents. But the city generously allowed this East End area three names. Lincoln and Lemington are streets that run through it, and Belmar comes from the long-gone Belmar Racetrack.

36. Lincoln Place

This area was named by Edward Haslett, a real estate developer who bought and sold land here.

37. Manchester

via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

English immigrants settled here and in 1832 named it after the British city of the same name.

38. Marshall-Shadeland

There have been quite a few names for this neighborhood, or parts of it, but the most recent city map has narrowed it down to two. I couldn’t find the origin of Shadeland, though it likely refers to the once forest-like character of this spot. Marshall comes from Archibald M. Marshall, grocer, dry goods merchant, and landscaper who practiced several of those trades in the area.  

39. Morningside

There seems to be no record of its origin, but the name Morningside Valley, for this area’s defining geological feature, predates the neighborhood.

40. Mount Oliver

This hilltop neighborhood was named for Dr. Oliver Ormsby, son of John Ormsby, an English soldier granted almost everything that is now Pittsburgh south of the Monongahela for his role in the French and Indian War. Oliver Ormsby established a residency here that included a private racetrack.

41. Mount Washington

via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

If you’ve ever seen a photo of Pittsburgh’s skyline, it was probably taken from the overlook on the 600-foot, tree-covered Mount Washington. The area was originally known as Coal Hill, which was not nearly majestic enough. Sometime in the 1880s, it was redubbed Mount Washington in honor of the first president who, during the French and Indian War, stood atop it and surmised that whoever controlled the area where the rivers met controlled the whole valley.

42. New Homestead

This one was named for the neighboring borough of Homestead.

43. North Shore

Home of PNC Park and Heinz Field, the North Shore sits on the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers, north of the point at which the rivers merge.

44. Northview Heights

Northview Heights took after a low-income public housing complex of the same name, completed in 1962.

45. Oakland

The home to Carlow University, the University of Pittsburgh, and a student population incapable of getting their trash into a trash bin on trash day, Oakland was named for its abundance of oak trees. It was little more than a forest until the Great Fire of 1845 caused several prominent families to look eastward for a place to rebuild their estates.

46. Oakwood

This area is also named for its oak trees.

47. Overbrook

This neighborhood was once part of Baldwin Township. Citing crummy streets and few streetlights, citizens petitioned for independence in 1919. After they broke away, they chose Overbrook as the name of the new borough, probably after the stream that runs through it. In 1930, they voted to join the city.

48. Perry North/Perry South

The Venango Path, a Native American trail leading up to Lake Erie, ran through this area. Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry made use of the passageway as a supply line during the War of 1812. As a result, parts of this area went through several Perry-related names, including Perrysville and Perry Hill Top, before the city settled on Perry North and Perry South.

49. Point Breeze

via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY SA-3.0

A tavern/hotel called Point Breeze, built around 1800, sat where Penn and Fifth Avenues now cross.

50. Polish Hill

In late 1800s, an influx of Polish immigrants settled here, and it was an easy walk to jobs at steel mills on the Allegheny. The neighborhood’s welcome sign still reads “Witamy Do Polish Hill.”

51. Regent Square

A tiny, idyllic neighborhood on the easternmost edge of the East End, Regent Square is the prefab creation of William E. Harmon of Harmon Realty, who coined the name. In 1919, he acquired the land here, hoping to sell to Westinghouse Electric managers and executives.

52. Saint Clair

Once, a pair of villages named after Revolutionary War General Arthur St. Clair sat side by side in Allegheny County. While Upper Saint Clair remains, Lower Saint Clair was annexed by Pittsburgh in 1920 and became the neighborhood of Saint Clair.

53. Shadyside

David Aiken (the namesake of Aiken Avenue) donated the land for the first Pennsylvania Railroad station in Pittsburgh’s East End. As a thanks, the railroad allowed him to name the station. His wife, Caroline, suggested Shadyside, apparently after a book title. The name extended to the surrounding area.

54. Sheraden

William Sheraden owned a 122-acre farm here.

55. Southshore

This ghost of neighborhood—with 19 residents, a junkyard, a dock, and a few warehouses—is a thin strip on the banks of the Monongahela, directly south of the merging of the three rivers.

56. South Side Flats/South Side Slopes

Once a slew of communities stood across the Monongahela from Pittsburgh. The largest were East and West Birmingham, named for founding landowner John Ormsby’s birthplace of Birmingham, England. When the city annexed the area in 1872, it brushed them aside and stamped the label South Side Flats on the region along the river (which now has more diners and dive bars than a Jim Jarmusch movie) and the South Side Slopes on the hillside above.

57. Spring Garden

There were once many natural springs here.

58. Spring Hill–City View

This North Side neighborhood has two official names, Spring Hill and City View, and they are both pretty literal: It’s a hill that has springs, and you can get an eyeful of the city skyline from it.

59. Squirrel Hill

Long before the founding of Pittsburgh, Native Americans hunted grey squirrels here. Now, the only hunters are Jerry’s Records customers pursuing the stacks for some old Sam Cooke.

60. Stanton Heights

The name was concocted by the Steelwood Corporation, which in 1947 purchased the land here (once a country club) and built 400 units of housing for workers. 

61. Strip District

via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

There were once several communities along the Allegheny River here, including Bayardstown and Croghansville, but their identities faded away once it became a hub for industry, then shipping and receiving and later electric retail. (Think a discount shoe store, a popcorn shop and an outlet for dried flowers in close proximity, because why not?) No one seems to know how the exact origin of the Strip District name, but it’s likely due to long strip of business that exists along the concurrent Penn and Liberty avenues.

62. Swisshelm Park

Swisshelm Park was named for John Swisshelm, who owned a home and gristmill here.

63. Troy Hill

One of the first inhabitants of this settlement atop a plateau overlooking the Allegheny was Elizabeth Seymore, who dubbed it The Village of New Troy, after her hometown of Troy, New York. It was shortened to Troy Hill in subsequent decades.

64. West End

This area was once called Temperanceville because founding landowner Isaac Warden didn’t allow the sale or consumption of booze. When the city annexed it in 1873, it was redubbed the West End (although that term colloquially refers to all of the hilly neighborhoods on the western fringes).

65. Westwood

Its developers, the Wood-Harmon Company, gave the neighborhood this preplanned subdivision-sounding name in the early 1900s.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Neighborhoods
How 8 Twin Cities Neighborhoods Got Their Names
Original image
iStock

Poetry, frogs, and … murder? Neighborhoods in St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota were named after all three. Read on for the stories behind some of the Twin Cities’ many neighborhood names.

1. LONGFELLOW, MINNEAPOLIS

If the name rings a bookish bell, it should: The neighborhood was named after Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the 19th century author who penned beloved poems such as The Song of Hiawatha. There is also the Longfellow Community, which includes the Longfellow neighborhood and several other smaller neighborhoods too, all of which have Victorian-era connotations. Howe was named after Julia Ward Howe, whose 1862 “Battle Hymn of the Republic” is one of the United States’ most beloved patriotic songs. Cooper was ultimately named after James Fenimore Cooper, the novelist best known for The Last of the Mohicans. Seward bears the name of William Seward, Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State. And Hiawatha shares its name with Longfellow’s famous poem, which in part tells the tragic story of an Ojibwe warrior and his love for a Dakota woman, Minnehaha. That name might ring a bell, too: It’s been bestowed on countless things in the region, including another Minneapolis neighborhood.

2. FROGTOWN, ST. PAUL

Frogtown has a more official-sounding name: Thomas-Dale. But the neighborhood has been known by an amphibian moniker for years. Nobody’s completely sure why. Theories range from a 19th-century bishop nicknaming the marshy area after its chorus of frogs to a German nickname for the croakers. Others suspect the word “frog” was meant as an ethnic slur to describe the area’s French residents [PDF] or that it was derived from a common nickname for the tool that’s used to switch railroad cars from track to track (the area was once home to two rail yards). It may never be clear which is true, but the neighborhood was built near swampy wetland—which could explain the ribbity label.

3. POWDERHORN PARK, MINNEAPOLIS

What sounds like a potentially violent place name is anything but. Instead, Powderhorn Park got its name from something that gives Minnesota its reputation as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”—a body of water. It’s just 12 acres, but Powderhorn Lake once bore a resemblance to the gunpowder containers toted by people in the days before paper (and later metallic) cartridges. (Modern cartridges hold bullets, gunpowder, and a primer; back then, the gun was primed by hand after pouring the gunpowder in.) The funnel-like device is now obsolete and once the lake became part of a municipal park, it lost its original looks. Still, the name remains, as does the grand Minnesota tradition of lake pride.

4. COMO PARK, ST. PAUL

That pride isn’t always well-founded—despite their majestic-sounding names, many of Minnesota’s lakes are, well, not so majestic. St. Paul’s Como Park neighborhood got its name from Lake Como, which conjures up visions of the dramatic subalpine lake it’s named after. But even though the St. Paul lake is no pond, it’s not exactly as scenic as something you’d find in Italy. If the legend is to be believed, that didn’t concern the lake’s first white settler, a Swiss immigrant named Charles Perry, all that much, and he renamed the lake—known by the uninspiring name Sandy Lake—after the Alps he loved. However, there’s a competing and more likely theory. The lake might have been named not by Perry, but by a land speculator named Henry McKenty who profited from the Alpine association. Well, kind of: As the Park Bugle’s Roger Bergerson notes, McKenty lost everything in the Panic of 1857 and moved on, presumably to give dramatic monikers to other bodies of water.

5. HOLLAND, MINNEAPOLIS

You might assume that a neighborhood called Holland was named after its Dutch residents. In this case, you’d be wrong: Holland was named after a 19th century novelist named Josiah Gilbert Holland. Holland helped found Scribner’s Monthly, one of the most influential publications of its day. He was well known during his heyday, but not under his own name. Rather, he often published under the pseudonym “Timothy Titcomb.” In books like Titcomb’s Letters to Young People, Single and Married, Holland gave advice on everything from etiquette to romance. “Never content yourself with the idea of having a common-place wife,” he urged his male readers. “You want one who will stimulate you, stir you up, keep you moving, show you your weak points, and make something of you.”

6. DAYTON’S BLUFF, ST. PAUL

Lyman Dayton, the land speculator after whom Dayton’s Bluff is named, found a wife. But all too soon, she became a widow. Described as “an energetic, stirring, liberal, kind-hearted man,” Dayton came to Minnesota from New England and decided to buy up land east of St. Paul in the hopes of making his fortune. No matter that a large ravine separated his land from the city. His gamble ended up making sense for homeowners, who built their houses on top of the neighborhood’s rolling hills. Early residents were rich Germans who made the most of their views. But Dayton’s triumph didn’t last long: He was in poor health and died at just 55 years of age. His widow and only son ended up living in a nearby town that, appropriately, bore their last name. Today, Dayton, Minnesota is home to about 4600 residents.

7. BELTRAMI, MINNEAPOLIS

Many of Minneapolis’s neighborhoods bear the names of the developers who created them. Not so Beltrami. It’s named after Giacomo Beltrami, an Italian explorer and jurist who discovered the headwaters of the Mississippi. Or so he claimed. The restless Italian loved the Mississippi River and set out to discover where it came from. When he made it to the lake he named Lake Julia in 1823, he figured that was its source and spread the news far and wide. Of course, he was wrong: The mighty river’s head is actually at Lake Itasca in north central Minnesota. Apparently Beltrami’s claim was taken with a grain of salt, even though the true source wasn’t identified until 1832. Beltrami eventually went back to Europe, but he’s still commemorated in Minnesota for his exploration and his dramatic accounts of the area.

8. PAYNE-PHALEN, ST. PAUL

Beltrami was dramatic, but the story of Edward Phelan (or Phalen), after whom a lake from which the Payne-Phalen neighborhood drew its moniker was partially named, makes the explorer’s life seem tepid. Phelan, an Irishman, was one of St. Paul’s first residents—and possibly its first murderer.

After being discharged from the U.S. Army at nearby Fort Snelling, he arrived in the St. Paul area, which had only recently been opened for settlement. That meant he had first dibs on land that few had even seen yet. However, Phelan’s empty pocketbook meant he had to join forces with a sergeant, John Hays, to buy up the land he wanted—a prime slice of real estate in what is now downtown St. Paul. Phelan, who was known for his temper, started farming with Hays. But then Hays disappeared—and when his mutilated body was found near a local cave, Phelan was the prime suspect [PDF]. Neighbors all contradicted Phelan’s version of the story, which was that Native Americans had attacked his former business partner. Phalen was found not guilty, but in the time the trial took Hay’s claim had been jumped, and since all of his neighbors felt he was guilty, Phalen moved away. Eventually he himself would be murdered on his way to finding fortune in California. Despite the distasteful associations, his name ended up on several St. Paul landmarks, including Lake Phalen, after which the neighborhood is named. As for Hays, his name has faded from memory—and as MPR News’ Tracy Mumford notes, it’s not even certain where his bones were buried.

Original image
iStock
arrow
Neighborhoods
How Baltimore's Neighborhoods Got Their Names
Original image
iStock

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.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios