Did you know that a person who is interested (obsessed? Not me…) in maps is called a “cartophile“? Did you ever wonder who or what certain streets were named after? That study is called “toponymy“. Combining the two is what we’ll do in this blog post. A tiny sampling of names and stories follow.
Piner Street, located just east of Carroll Blvd (named after Civil War-era Judge Joseph Carroll) between Oak and Hickory, was named for another judge from the 1870s, F. E. Piner, who was also a member of the IOOF. ¹
Sawyer Street, located between Locust and Bell south of the Square, was named after the first mayor of Denton, J. B. Sawyer, who was elected in August, 1869. Wait, you ask. Wasn’t Denton founded in 1857? Why so long to elect a mayor? The Texas Legislature granted the City’s charter in 1866 and only afterwards did they get around to electing a mayor, or “daddy”, as he was called in the 1869 Denton Monitor. ²
Hinkle Street, located off University Dr. going north to Windsor St, was named after a prominent local surgeon who helped open in 1949 the Medical and Surgical Clinic at Normal and Scripture Streets and passed away in 1955. Here is his obit from the Record-Chronicle:
Below is a map from 1922 apparently made by the City Engineer, V.G. Koch. Please ckick on each image to make it larger. In it you will see some oddities and irregularities:
For instance, Egan St. is spelled “Eagan” on the map but nowhere else that we can find. What happened to all the streets named after states? I think I know the reason why but I’ll let y’all take a guess. Personally, I’m kind of sad that “Lula St.” doesn’t exist anymore (now Bryan St. between Fry and Ponder St.). What other differences from today can you see?
Now, about that word “toponymy”. Here is a quote from a Turkish paper from the 2016 International Planning History Society Conference,
“Cities have a multi-layered and living structure, thus they also have a memory. Therefore, actions such as forgetting, recalling or storing information occur in cities as well. Urban memories sometimes change or disappear due to the rearrangement and reshaping of various components in cities. When the components of the urban memory are removed, the interaction is interrupted, and such components are removed from the urban memory and are thus forgotten.”
“Among the interventions on urban space, those carried out on streets are the most remarkable. The political, cultural, economic and social interventions on streets wipe out or reproduce certain information in the urban memory.”
What people, ideas, or forces made Dentonites name streets the way they did? What made them change names, as well? Some were named for decidedly important reasons and some for the more prosaic.
¹ Bridges, C.A. “History of Denton, Texas From the Beginning to 1960”. Texian Press, Waco, Tx. 1978. p. 65.
² Ibid. p. 111.
Written by Chuck Voellinger. firstname.lastname@example.org