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How 9 Salt Lake City Neighborhoods Got Their Names

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Once known for being an ultra-religious Mormon stronghold and not much else, Utah’s capital, Salt Lake City, is having a moment. As it slowly sheds its teetotaling, conservative past, SLC is becoming a destination for craft beer, arthouse movies, and coffeehouse culture. But Salt Lake City also has a rich and compelling history, and its pioneers played a major role in the westward expansion of the United States. Read on to learn more about this dichotomous—yet somehow harmonious—city by the Great Salt Lake.

1. THE MARMALADE DISTRICT

Just north of downtown, on Salt Lake City's Capitol Hill, you’ll find the Marmalade Hill Historic District, one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. They’ve laid on the charm here, with Italianate, Carpenter Gothic, and Russian-influenced architecture sprinkled throughout. It’s also one of Salt Lake City’s LGBT-friendly neighborhoods, along with the avenues just to the east. The Marmalade District got its adorable name thanks to the names of its streets, some of which are named after fruits, themselves referencing the orchards once planted there by the city’s founders. (The 19th century pioneers who settled Utah were big on preserves, understandably—such as marmalade.) Fruit-themed streets in the Marmalade District that have survived to the present day Quince Street, Almond Street, and West Apricot Avenue.

2. SUGAR HOUSE

Sugar House Park. Image credit: Edgar Zuniga Jr. via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

 
Another one of the city’s oldest districts is Sugar House, established in 1853. Not long after its founding, the Deseret Manufacturing Company set up shop in an old smithy in the neighborhood, aiming to avoid the high cost of importing sugar to the Utah Territory from the Midwest by processing beets into refined sugar. The construction of the factory was plagued by delays, and when it was finally finished, the machinery didn’t actually work. The building was converted into a paper mill in 1856.

But the name Sugar House, suggested by the mayor’s wife, stuck, and subsequent building projects were also christened with it, including the now-defunct Sugar House Prison and later the Sugar House Park that replaced it. When the neighborhood’s Sprague Library was dedicated in 1928, Mayor John F. Bowman suggested at the ceremony that Sugar House be rebranded as "South East Salt Lake City." His idea was rejected.

3. AGRICULTURAL PARK

In 1902, the Latter-Day Saints Millennial Star reported that “The Deseret Agricultural and Manufacturing Society of Utah … now proposes to hold all State fairs at the Agricultural park on the western outskirts of Salt Lake City. A $30,000 permanent building will be erected in the spring.” This fair had begun in 1856 as an “agricultural sermon” intended to “encourage the production of articles from the native elements in Utah Territory,” and was held irregularly in various offices and LDS meeting houses until the legislature bought the aforementioned agricultural park—known thereafter as the Fairpark. (Records for an early incarnation of the fair show that it awarded prizes for best boar, best pair of woolen hose, best six brooms, best map of Utah, best shoelaces, best penmanship, best fall pear, and best sweet potato, among other categories.)

Folks mostly refer to the whole area as Fairpark now, but some real estate types still use its earlier name—Agricultural Park—to talk about a select triangle of Fairpark southwest of the Jordan River and down to North Temple and Redwood Road. The city limits have expanded since 1902, of course; no longer on the city’s outskirts, the Fairpark neighborhood now sits roughly in the center of SLC. By the way, the $30,000 building mentioned in the Latter-Day Saints Millennial Star article—a mix of Beaux Arts and Mission styles known as the Horticulture Building until it was renamed Promontory Hall in 1977—still stands at the entrance of the Fairpark.

4. THE GRANARY DISTRICT

Once an industrial area, the emerging Granary District is named for its colossal grain silos, which served the area’s once-numerous flour mills in a past life. Left to decay for decades after the rail lines moved west, the neighborhood has benefited from a recent redesign campaign, and it’s become a haven for artists and entrepreneurs who’re attracted to its gritty personality. These days, the Granary District is better known for its indie breweries , hip coffee shops, and Granary Row, an annual street festival that comprises a beer garden, food trucks, and pop-up shops housed in shipping containers.

5. EMIGRATION OAKS

Although it sits just outside of Salt Lake City proper, abutting the city’s northeastern border, Emigration Oaks and the adjacent Emigration Canyon play an important part in SLC’s history. The small township takes its name from a 18-square-mile swath of woods, which itself is so named for the emigrants who passed through it and the canyon in the 1840s. These included both the Mormons and the ill-fated Donner-Reed Party that forged a route across Emigration Canyon, en route to California, a year before Brigham Young and his pioneers led their own wagon trains through the rocky terrain. (Nearby Donner Hill is named for the groups’ leader, George Donner; they climbed it afer having given up on the canyon, a decision that may have doomed the group.)

Young himself would later lead between 60,000 and 70,000 more Mormons from the Midwest to the Salt Lake Valley through this region—Mormons who, in turn, built around 400 settlements, including Salt Lake City. Today, the area is known both for its tony new mansions and its offbeat vintage architecture, such as the Pink Garage—once the supposed gangster hideout of Prohibition-era bootlegger Cleveland Bunnell Lester.

6. PEOPLE’S FREEWAY

Located just south of downtown Salt Lake City, People’s Freeway is sort of like the southern half of the Granary District—or perhaps it’s the Granary that seems to be rising out of a portion of People’s Freeway. This neighborhood is known for its affordability, its mass transit, and, unsurprisingly, its easy access to the freeway, with I-15 forming its western boundary and two major freeway entrances within its borders. It’s also got great old diners and dive bars—as well as Smith’s Ballpark, which hosts minor league and university baseball games.

7. HARVARD-YALE

Like the Marmalade District, the Harvard-Yale neighborhood is another SLC district known for both its architectural jewels and themed street names. Also called Yalecrest, the area features streets named for Ivy League universities, such as Princeton, Yale, and Harvard Avenues. The neighborhood's homes are largely from the late 1800s and early 1900s, with English Cottage and English Tudor styles featured prominently. The area was once used as farmland by Salt Lake City’s early settlers and is overwhelmingly residential today, having served as a home base for many LDS church leaders, business executives, and the well-to-do in general. The whole district has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2007, although a single home within Yalecrest—a Prairie School-style bungalow formerly belonging to 8th LDS president George Albert Smith—has held its own spot on the National Register since 1993.

8. WASATCH HOLLOW

Located in southeast Salt Lake City, the community of Wasatch Hollow is named for a valley—or hollow—created by the Wasatch Mountains, which stand over the city from the east. The Wasatch Range itself is named after a Ute (a local Native American people) word meaning "mountain pass" or "low pass over high range.” Established in the 1920s, the neighborhood is mainly residential, although the “15th & 15th” business district boasts several popular restaurants. (“Wasatch Hollow” and “15th & 15th” are sometimes used interchangeably.)

9. ROSE PARK

Rose Park’s name isn’t terribly imaginative, but involves a cute story. In the 1940s, the area’s developer set out to realize his vision of a neighborhood laid out (vaguely) in the shape of a rose, with short residential streets curving around one another like petals. The main street, American Beauty Drive, was supposed to make it a long-stemmed rose. The dedication to this idea was so intense that all the houses’ roofs originally had either red or green shingles. One the most ethnically diverse areas in the state, Rose Park is in full bloom these days after a period of economic depression, and Salt Lakers appreciate its affordable real estate prices, huge community garden, and excellent Latin food. The layout has grown and changed since the ‘40s and isn’t really shaped like a rose anymore, but the idea is preserved in the names of the streets, which are different varieties of roses: Capistrano, Topaz, and Nocturne, to name a few.

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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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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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