Traverse City News and Events

Where's The Park On Park, And How Did Perry Hannah Only Get A Side Street?

By Ross Boissoneau | Nov. 8, 2019

Did you know Traverse City’s north-south streets are named after people, trees, and geographical locations, while its east-west streets are named after numbers or people? It’s just part of what The Ticker learned as we dove into the origins of street names in town, many of which speak to the region’s fauna and founders.
 
According to local historian Richard Fidler’s book Who We Were, What We Did, streets such as Pine, Oak, Maple, Spruce, Cedar and Hemlock were named for native trees. Locust Street is an exception, as black locust trees were not found here originally; it was so named to replace Bohemia Street sometime in the 20th century.
 
Other street names point to history. Fidler says that Union Street predates the Civil War, meaning its origin lies not in that conflict, but some other direction. He cites as a possibility the Union Schools of the mid-1800s, which drew students from two or more primary districts. Nearby Central Elementary, originally Central High, reflects that possibility, as it served as a Union School for students on the east and west sides of early Traverse City.
 
Veterans Drive was originally Veterans Memorial Highway, serving as a highway into Traverse City from the south. Maple trees were to be planted alongside it, one for each member of the armed services who had died during the Spanish-American War or World War I, though it’s difficult to determine if indeed that happened or if any are still standing, given the passage of time and the fact the layout of the road has changed in the years since. Today the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2780 is located at 3400 Veterans Drive.
 
Even Division Street has a history. While it is a dividing line between east and west, it was not arbitrary. It’s located along a section line within the Michigan Land Survey of 1851.
 
And where’s the park on Park Street? That street connects Grandview Parkway with State Street, before turning into the entrance to the Park Place hotel. Fidler’s book recounts how the oldest plat of the Traverse settlement shows a park where the Park Place now stands.
 
Hannah is named for Perry Hannah, of course, though why one of the city’s famous founding father got only a small street named for him is a mystery. Other streets named for pioneering families are Wadsworth, named for Elk Rapids founder Abram Wadsworth, who died in the Traverse settlement; and Boardman, which was actually named after the Boardman River. The river itself was named for Horace Boardman, son of Harry Boardman, who purchased land at the mouth of the river in 1947. Other local streets named for early settlers are Hamilton, Titus, Bates and Beadle.
 
Streets named for national leaders are common across the country, including Traverse City. Washington, Lincoln, Webster, Franklin, Jefferson, Garfield and others are named for famous statesmen of years past. Cass Street is named for Lewis Cass, governor of Michigan when it was a territory.
 
One of the more interesting historical street names is Wellington, named for Arthur Wellesley, the First Duke of Wellington. He was a British military leader and statesman, best known for his triumph over Napoleon at Waterloo. Fidler says he died the year the first plat map of Traverse was drawn, attributing the street name to the fact that both A. Tracy Lay and Perry Hannah had ancestors from the British Isles. “The honor points to the influence of the majority of early settlers who had ethnic roots in England,” Fidler writes.
 
He notes that some streets are named for the activities that took place nearby. Fair Street ran alongside the old fairgrounds (now the Civic Center), while another was named for the city’s airport, which actually moved three times in the 20thcentury to its present location, accessed by South Airport Road. Railroad Street lasted longer than the railroad tracks it paralleled.
 
Go west, and you’ll find one of the state’s (and indeed the nation’s) more fanciful names. Psycho Path off M-72 west of Traverse City in Leelanau County gets bonus points for mentions in numerous reports, including NBC News, Great Britain’s Telegraph, Curbed.com and several other websites. The private drive beat out several others from across the U.S. to be named the country’s craziest street name (Divorce Court in Heather Highlands, Penn., was number two).

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