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What’s in a Name? — Street Names

By Heather Lodge

What is the name of your street?
What is the name of the street your school is on?
Have you ever thought about why your street is named the way it is?

Let’s find out!

In New England, we have 12 categories of street names:

British Places: Many streets in New England are named after places in the United Kingdom. This began with the English settlers who named their new homes after the towns, cities, and counties where they grew up. Examples of these are Kent, Devonshire, Scotland, Edinburgh, Windsor, and Limerick. 

Nearby Towns: There is almost always a street named after a neighboring town. This is usually, but not always, the street that connects the two towns. For example, I grew up in a town named Madison, next to a town named Durham: both towns have roads named for the other. Sometimes roads are named after major cities nearby. There is a Hartford Avenue in Stamford and a Fairfield Avenue in Greenwich.

States: Usually the closer the state is to the town, the more likely it is to appear as a street name. For instance, there is a Connecticut Avenue in several towns in Long Island: Long Beach, Massapequa, Freeport, and Medford.

Building/Businesses: Meeting House, Academy, School, Church, Wharf, Orchard, Station, Park, Museum, and Ironworks are all street names that describe the buildings that were on those streets at one time, and may still be! There are also street names that refer to former notable buildings. Cream Pot Road, near where I grew up, used to be the site of a dairy farm: sometimes the names are more poetic than literal. 

Native American: There are many street names pertaining to Native Americans. Oneida Drive in central Greenwich takes its name from an Indian nation. Sachem Road in Cos Cob takes its name from the title for an Indian chief.  Equally likely are names that have the word “Indian” in the name, like Indian Field Road.

Local People: Often roads are named after the families who lived there. The names of colonial families are the most likely to be represented by street names. Examples are Mead, Hoyt, Winthrop, and Lockwood. Theses streets usually, but not always, run through property once owned by these families. Occasionally, there are streets named after more recent property owners, such as (Robert Moffat Bruce) Park Avenue and (Henry Osborne Havemeyer) Lane in central Greenwich.

Famous People: Revolutionary War heroes, such as Putnam and Lafayette, are commonly used in street names in the original 13 states. Presidents’ names, such as Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, are equally common. Less common are streets named for civil rights activists, the most popular of which is Martin Luther King Jr

People’s First Names: Does your street name sound like a person’s first name? Sometimes a street is named after a person who lived there. Just as often, a street name is the first name of the developer of the property surrounding the street or one of their family members. Examples in Greenwich are Roger Drive, Susan Lane, and Cornelia Drive. Sometimes the street name is a combination of two first names, such as Annjim Drive in Cos Cob.

Locational: Often, streets indicate their relationships to other points on the map, such as North, South, East, West, Upper, Lower, and Main. Running opposite of each other across Greenwich Avenue are East Elm Street and West Elm Street.

Geographic: Is your street on a lake, by the sound, or in a valley? In town, there is a Lake Avenue, a Soundview Drive, and a Valleywood Drive.  Sometimes geographic names are in Scots, English’s sister language, spoken by the Scottish. Examples are Burns and Glen, which translate as brook and valley, respectively.

Nature: Streets named after the local plant and animal life include Oak, Birch, Maple, Deer, Meadow, Lark, Rose, Lily, Fox, Sparrow, Frost, and Laurel. Sometimes, when streets are named after non-native plants, such as Heather and Gingko, the owners or developers might plant these in their gardens to match the street’s name!

Random: Have you ever looked at a street name and thought “What?” Where I grew up, I thought that about Roast Meat Hill. In Greenwich, that’s what I think whenever I pass by Mimosa Drive. These streets are not always food related, other famously odd street names in Connecticut are Tootin’ Hill, Satan’s Kingdom, and BMW. Be on the lookout!

Today’s Activity

Let’s play Street Name Bingo!

  • Click on the link below and print out the bingo card made just for you.
  • Each box is a different type of street name. As you play, put the name of the street you found in the corresponding box.
  • Go for a walk with your family, and see if you can fill out a whole row, or better yet, the whole card.
  • If you want, share what you find with us. We would love to see where your adventure leads you.

Have Fun!

By Heather Lodge

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