What's in a Name? What's in a Name?
What's in a Name?
The Daily GOOD
Get our daily dose of information and inspiration. Sign up Now ›
Nowadays, neighborhood sobriquets are designed by marketing gurus to make an area more appealing. In 100 years, that story will be forgotten, but the names will remain. We often forget that the names of our oldest neighborhoods hold a deep history and sense of place. Here are some of our favorite neighborhoods and neighborhood names, and the people, geographies, and stories from which they came.
Back Bay, Boston
Named for the fact that, between 1857 and 1882, the back part of the bay between Boston and Cambridge was literally filled in, creating the neighborhood.
Named for the British Duke of Bedford and Peter Stuyvesant, the last Dutch governor of New York.
Named for the goats that Polish immigrants raised in the neighborhood. A male goat is called a buck.
Echo Park, Los Angeles
Named for the echoes that occurred when workers shouted while building a local reservoir.
Five Sisters, Burlington
Named because the five main streets in the area—Catherine, Caroline, Margaret, Charlotte, and Marian—were named for the daughters of the developer.
Frogtown, St. Paul
Theories about the neighborhood’s name abound: because of the area’s French settlers, because a Catholic priest witnessed croaking frogs in the area, or because railroad couplers were known as “frogs,” and the area was full of railroad workers.
Greenwich Village, Manhattan
Named in the 1670s for Greenwyck, the town on Long Island where the neighborhood’s developer, Yellis Mandeville, had lived previously.
Haight Ashbury, San Francisco
Named for the intersection of Haight and Ashbury Streets. The origin of the name Haight is unknown. Ashbury was a city supervisor at the time.
The Mission District, San Francisco
Named for the nearby Spanish mission, which, while officially known as San Francisco de Asis, is commonly known as Mission Dolores, after a nearby creek.
When the predominately German immigrants of the area returned over the Miami and Erie Canal from work in downtown Cincinnati, they would say they were going “over the Rhine.”
Park Slope, Brooklyn
Named for its location on a hill leading up to Prospect Park.
Named for the fact that it was the area where the railroad released cargoes of pigs to go to the city’s slaughterhouses.
Silver Lake, Los Angeles
Originally called Ivanhoe, the neighborhood underwent a name change when the local reservoir was named after Herman Silver, who was one of Los Angeles’s first water commissioners.
SoCo, Austin, Texas
Named for its proximity to South Congress Avenue, which was itself named for the location where, according to legend, Mirabeau Lamar, vice president of the Texas Republic, shot a buffalo and declared the location to be the new seat of the Texan government.
Soulard, St. Louis
Named for Antoine Soulard, a French explorer who first surveyed the area for the king of Spain.
Named for the fact that the area is where the city’s orderly grid system of streets breaks down.
Vinegar Hill, Brooklyn
Named after a battle in the Irish Rebellion of 1798, in an attempt to lure Irish immigrants to settle in the area.
Watts, Los Angeles
Named for the neighborhood’s developer, Charles Watts.
Named for the local primary school, which was named for the 19th-century poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier.
Wicker Park, Chicago
Named for the local park, which in turn was named after the developers Charles and Joel Wicker, who donated a parcel of land to the city in the 1870s to build a public park.
Named for Colonel Jonathan Williams, the engineer who surveyed the land, which had been purchased by Richard Woodhull.
The Message-Maker: On the Ground with Baltimore Street Artist GAIA Internationally acclaimed artist uses painting to reach his city.
Buckets are the New Pumpkins Do you annually waste nourishing squash flesh on bourgeois porch displays? Jettison the traditional jack-o’-lantern with this one simple trick
Watch Out for the Witch Flick A guide to the positive, negative, and complicated depictions of women as witches in movies, warts and all
The Not-So-Mad Science of Head Transplants We may soon be able to successfully graft a human head onto a different body, but is it worth the cost in terms of dollars and ethics?
A Friendly Game of International Border Subversion Activists in Morocco and Algeria hope to play a volleyball game using the countries’ mutual border as a net
13 Spooky Sites That Redefine the Term Skeleton Structure Humans have been using bones as building materials for centuries While world religions and ancient history are replete with alternative burial solutions, some of the most mesmerizing are found in ossuaries
Teacher’s Little Reading Helper Know any child iPad addicts who should be learning how to read instead of playing Candy Crush? Try Bam Boomerang
How Elves and Serpents are Saving Iceland for Future Generations Most Iceland residents believe in magic to some degree, and it’s helping to preserve the environment, foster community … and rake in tourism dollars
5 Tales of Halloween Heartbreak A conversation about growing up in the U.S. without celebrating national dress-up-and-get-free-candy day
Thomas Nestor Jr. Joins the Ranks Read more ›