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Judy Spooner: A roadmap to how streets are named

Recently, someone asked me why there are several streets in Cottage Grove that don't seem to fit in with the current alphabetical system.

Originally, Orrin Thompson, developer, named the streets as homes were built starting in the late '50s. He named some streets after his children, and the rest after trees that were in alphabetical order.

Longtime resident Jack LaVold, also chair of the South Washington Watershed District, can recite, from memory, the original names of the streets on the west side of Highway 61.

"Ash, Butternut, Cherry, Daphne, Elm, Fur, Garwood, Hollywood, Ilex, Juniper, Kumquat, Larch and Magnolia," he said when I called him last week.

In the late '60s, the Washington County surveyor developed a numbering and naming system.

The system, now found throughout most of the county, is based on how far the street is from the steps of the state Capitol. Our home's number is 7528, which means we are 7.528 miles from the Capitol as the crow flies. The rule also applies to street numbers.

Alphabetical names work the same way.

Changing street names and numbers was not a popular idea in town.

But the city council moved ahead anyway in July of 1969 over residents' objections.

We lived on Hillside Lane at the time. With a twist of fate, our new street name was Hillside Trail. We also got a new house number.

The system called mostly for streets and avenues, but winding roads got a "trail" designation.

The council made some exceptions. For example, Point Douglas Road was retained because it is an extension, while not continuous, of the original road from St. Paul.

Belden Boulevard stayed because it was named after a family who sold their farm to Orrin Thompson.

Scott Boulevard is another holdover from the original names.

I looked back in our newspaper files to find the stories that were written about the controversy.

The then-residents of Scott Boulevard clamored for the city to keep their street name. The new name was slated to be Godiva Avenue.

They did not want to live on a street named after a naked lady on a horse.

In the 10th Century, Lady Godiva rode naked in the streets of Coventry, England to protest excessive taxes imposed by her husband.

In 2010, however, most people would assume their street was going to be named after a box of chocolates.

The old naming system was "unsystematic and haphazard," argued Cottage Grove Administrator Carl Meissner. Residents' mail was going to other cities with the same streets and numbers, he said.

Jamaica Avenue's name was originally "Jamaca,"(Jam-a-cah) under the re-naming system. However, most residents and visitors thought it should be "Jamaica," and was just misspelled.

Many of the signs were stolen and the city eventually changed the signs to "Jamaica," to get rid of what was seen as a misspelled word.

My favorite story about street naming occurred when the city held a contest to name the park next to Grey Cloud Elementary School.

The winning name was Kingston Park. The submitter's rationale was that Kingston is the capital of Jamaica.

As far as I know, there is no country named "Jamaca."

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
(651) 459-7600