Saturday, June 28, 2014

Street Names

Wandering around Schenectady yesterday, I became aware of street names which are often used but probably not well understood by our history deprived society.

For instance, we dined in an establishment on Jay Street. Walked by an alley named Bradley, and walked along a street named Clinton; while also traversing more well known names such as State Street, Franklin Street, Broadway, and even Liberty Street. 

Why do so many upstate NY cities have a State Street instead of or in addition to a Main Street?

Jay street was very interesting. John Jay was a great revolutionary leader, who, admittedly made a bad decision to retire from Congress rather than sign the Declaration of Independence, but he became governor of New York, worked with Hamilton on the Federalist Papers, and helped establish the government of the State of New York. 

I do not see many Jay Streets in my travels and it was this street which began to get my mind turning about how many people even have a small understanding of the people whose names are remembered on our streets. 

DeWitt Clinton
Some are easy--Franklin for instance. Although there is confusion by at least one candidate for Congress about his contributions to the United States.

Others can be confusing. Clinton would be an example. No, this street was not named for President William Jefferson Clinton, but rather another famous Clinton named DeWitt Clinton. He was instrumental in the development of the New York and the nation. He was a US Senator, a governor of NY, and was instrumental in the development of the Erie Canal.

Bradley Alley was interesting. Surely, it must have been named for the great General of the Army, Omar Bradley--but it seemed a bit out of place given the other names surrounding the area. I like the Omar Bradley thought though.

What is my take away? We need to look at the street names we cross every day and, unless living in Columbia, Maryland, where they don't make any sense anyway, try to remember the history and the people associated with the names on the signs. We need to remember more than just the Kennedy's and Martin Luther King Jr. names, but people like Charles Carroll, a signer of the Declaration of Independence from Maryland, and the industrialist of early Maryland, Richard Snowden

I will remember Richard now every day when I drive Snowden River Parkway. 

-- Bob Doan, writing from Schenectady, NY

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