A Passel Of Curious Cincinnati Street Names, Part One (A to E)

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How did your street gets its name? Peruse this catalog of peculiar and prominent Cincinnati roads, places, lanes, drives, courts, and more to learn their curious histories.

Annwood Street (East Walnut Hills)

Most Cincinnati streets that memorialize people recognize men, but there are several honoring women. Anne (Bryan) Wood (1780-1867), for whom this street and a connecting lane is named, is also responsible for the nearby Wold Street, named for her estate. A native of England, Mrs. Wood and her husband James arrived early in Cincinnati and made a fortune in merchandizing. Their daughter Ellen married Judge Timothy Walker, one of the founders of the Cincinnati Law School. Although she died 30 years previously, warm memories inspired the neighboring community to preserve her name through the street signs.

Arcadia Place (Hyde Park)

Soon after this 47-lot subdivision was platted in 1916, the new residents formed a neighborhood association that survived for decades. Every family on the street was automatically enrolled in The Arcadians, an organization devoted to fostering neighborhood pride. The Arcadians sponsored annual Halloween and Christmas parties as well as regular gatherings. They elected officers annually. When the subdivision was first constructed, none of the houses had addresses, so the Post Office refused to deliver mail. The residents adopted addresses based on the lot number of the parcel on which they had built their houses, so today’s addresses don’t match the standard city system.

Did Fannie Hurst really scrawl her displeasure across a Public Library scrapbook? It appears she wanted to connect Cincinnati’s Back Street to her 1931 best-seller of the same name.

Scrapbook image from Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County

Back Street (Over-the-Rhine)

When Back Street was first scratched out of the northern reaches of the city, it was literally a “back street,” and that is apparently how it got its name. That’s according to Ray Steffens, a Cincinnati Post reporter who penned an invaluable series of articles, “How Was It Named?” that are treasured by local history buffs. So invaluable are these articles that they were collected by a dedicated librarian at the Cincinnati Public Library, where they occasioned a bit of a literary spat. Steffens pooh-poohed the idea that Hamilton-born novelist Fannie Hurst drew any connection between Cincinnati’s Back Street and the titular “Back Street” of her 1931 best-selling pot boiler. Apparently, on one of her trips through Cincinnati, Miss Hurst paged through the library’s scrapbook of Steffens’ columns, because this handwritten note is scrawled through the clipping for Back Street: “Not correct. Miss Hurst researched here, because I am Miss Hurst.”

Belsaw Place (Clifton)

For reasons perhaps known only to the family, the estate of Thomas Sherlock in Clifton was named Belsaw and was uniformly praised for its beauty by the newspapers of the day. Mr. Sherlock immigrated from Ireland and made a fortune in Ohio River shipping and insurance. He died in 1895. Two years later, a short street on the southern side of Ludlow was renamed Sherlock Avenue in his honor. (Sorry, Baker Street Irregulars!) When Thomas’ widow, Nancy, died in 1899, the rural estate in north Clifton was bequeathed to the couple’s five daughters along with all the jewels, horses, carriages and artwork. When the estate was subdivided in 1921, it was announced as the “most exclusive” development in the city, with no houses allowed to be constructed for less than $20,000.

Boudway Lane (Westwood)

Perhaps the most maladroit street name in all of Cincinnati sprang from the unrelenting necessity of police paperwork. Right on the border of Westwood and West Price Hill lies a minuscule stretch of pavement with no addresses, but lots of traffic accidents. In the early 1990s, the police appealed to the city’s public works department to slap a name on this anonymous wreck magnet. Since the tiny strip of asphalt, no more than 250 feet long, connected Boudinot Avenue and Glenway, the poets at City Hall coughed up a portmanteau word and christened it Boudway Lane. A few years later, the dolorous Boudway was subsumed as an extension of the equally mellifluous Glenhills Way.

Calhoun Street (Corryville)

In 1843, John C. Calhoun, United States Senator from South Carolina, was very popular among the Democrats of Cincinnati. A proponent of states’ rights and limited government, Calhoun fiercely defended slavery and the interests of white supremacy. A group of Cincinnati Democratic businessmen wrote a public letter to Calhoun that year, inviting him to visit Cincinnati. One of the signers of the invitation was William Corry (1811-1880), among the children of William Corry (1778-1833) who owned all the land that was later known as Corryville. The southern boundary of Corry’s property was a road named Calhoun Street in the 1840s, apparently in homage to the Southern firebrand.

Camargo Road (Madeira)

A lot of folks, mostly men, are memorialized in Cincinnati street names. We have lots of streets named for presidents, governors, generals, businessmen, property owners and so on. Camargo Road – although its origins remain somewhat obscure – is likely the only street in this area named for a ballerina. Marie Anne de Cupis de Camargo (1710-1770) was known as “La Camargo” and lived the extravagant life of an Eighteenth-Century sex symbol. She was the first ballerina to wear slippers instead of heeled shoes and she is often credited with adopting the shortened skirt for the stage. As her name indicates, she had Spanish roots – Camargo is a very small village in northern Spain – but indications are that it is the dancer, not the municipality, that gave its name to our road.

Carrel Street (Columbia-Tusculum)

When Columbia was annexed by Cincinnati, that venerable old town (older than Cincinnati) had its own Main Street and, of course, that duplicate name had to go. Reaching into history, the city fathers renamed the street in honor of Hercules Carrel, a legendary boat builder, whose operations were based nearby. Mr. Carrel also had a riverboat named in his honor, but don’t you wish the city would have named that street for his first name? Hercules Street! Now, there’s a name to be reckoned with!

Catawba Valley Drive (Columbia-Tusculum)

Readers of Dann Woellert’s exhaustive history of Cincinnati winemaking know that most hillsides on the north bank of the Ohio were given over to vineyards in the decades before the Civil War. That was certainly true in the area around Alms Park. One remnant of those long-gone vines is a little street named Catawba Valley Drive, honoring the Catawba grapes that once grew here. At one time, Wine Press Road ran nearby, but was later incorporated into Alms Park.

Cross Lane (Walnut Hills)

Walnut Hills was platted by the Reverend James Kemper, pioneering Presbyterian minister, who built his own residence there in 1794. That log house is now preserved at the Heritage Village Museum inside Sharon Woods Park. As an energetically religious man, naming a street after the cross would not be unusual, but Kemper’s intentions had nothing to do with his proselytizing zeal. He named all his east-west streets “Cross Lane” and numbered them. The only lane retaining that designation was originally named “Cross Lane No. 1.”

Dublin Court (Dillonvale)

It’s a mystery why Cincinnati’s annual Saint Patrick’s Day shenanigans aren’t scheduled out in Dillonvale. Joseph Dillon, a proud son of the Auld Sod, platted the Sycamore Township community that he would christen with his own name in 1951. He remembered his birthplace by naming streets for Dublin, Belfast, Antrim, Killarney, Wicklow, Donegal, Wexford, and Limerick, and that’s no Blarney!

Despite its Tolkienesque name, Elberon Avenue has more to do with dead presidents than with elves.

Image courtesy of University of Cincinnati Archives & Rare Books Library

Elberon (Price Hill)

With the popularity of J.R.R. Tolkein’s fantasy novels in the 1960s, folks could be excused for believing that this street was named for some elvish prince. In fact, capitalizing on that association a (very good) Cincinnati folk-rock group took Elberon as their band name. The actual origin of this street traces to the assassination of President James A. Garfield in 1881. After being shot in Washington, DC, Garfield was moved to Elberon, New Jersey, along the Atlantic shore, where it was hoped sea breezes would help him heal. That treatment failed and Garfield died in Elberon. Cincinnati was devoted to Garfield and commissioned a statue, still standing on Vine Street. Boyle Avenue was renamed Elberon in 1889, shortly after the statue was installed. Which only begs the question: How was the New Jersey town named? Turns out it has nothing to do with elves, nor (as believed for a long time) Native Americans. “Elberon” is a contraction of L.B. Brown, among the early settlers of that little seaside resort.

Eppert Walk (Mount Washington)

Josephine R. “Josie” Eppert was 60 years old when she died in 1939. She had been a schoolteacher her entire adult life and was beloved by generations of children who attended Mount Washington Elementary School. She lived at the corner of Plymouth and Oxford avenues and walked home along a footpath that was later paved. Clifton Merriman, local real estate broker, suggested memorializing Miss Eppert by placing her name on the route she had traveled for decades.

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