Signature Street Signs
What's in a street name?
Maybe it's to honor a leader -- like presidents Cleveland (Avenue), McKinley (Avenue), Jackson (Avenue), Lincoln (Avenue), Washington (Avenue), Madison (Avenue) and Woodrow (Avenue) for example.
Or maybe it's a local leader, local resident, Civil War leader or just some favorite names of developers.
"A lot of developers, when they come in, have an idea what they want to name their streets," Utility Services Coordinator Steve Hanson said. "All they have to do is double check that we don't already have a street by the same name."
He admits that once in a while there is a mix up and the city ends up with two similar or same names, and then one has to be renamed.
"Meadow Drive in Timber Creek -- We have a Meadow Drive on Highland Drive and a Meadow Lane on the north side of town. And nobody knew where Meadow Drive was, so they changed it to Aspen Drive.
"That's one that slipped by me. There won't be too many more 'L's' and 'M's' out there," he said.
When it comes to naming the roadways in Detroit Lakes, streets run east-west and avenues run north-south. Other than that, the names of city thoroughfares don't have much rhyme or reason, which can be confusing for those moving into town and even emergency personnel.
"We don't want something that was done in the, I'm guessing, '60s or '70s, when we had a Lori, Loring, Long, and it drives the fire guys crazy because now we have all these names that are the same almost," Hanson said.
Some of the historically-named streets with a story behind them include Richwood Road, which leads to Richwood; Legion Road, which runs past the American Legion and Lake Avenue, which leads to the lake. Union Street was named for the soldiers in the Civil War, Minnesota Avenue and State Street are obvious, and Soo Avenue runs next to the Soo Line Railroad tracks.
Sherman Street is named after the Civil War general. Front Street was the front of the village for many years, and streets such as Knollcrest, Northland and Pioneer are descriptions of the area or early settlers.
Summit Avenue was the top, or summit, of Fox Hill, and Central Street was the center of town; Pembina Street was named for the Pembina Ox Cart Trail. Rossman Avenue was for pioneer and justice of the peace W.W. Rossman, Andrews Avenue was for pioneer settler John Andrews, Bowling Avenue was for A.E. Bowling, an early merchant, and Curry Avenue was for Carleton Curry, marshal and operator of a livery stable.
Davis Avenue is for Martin Van Buren Davis, early businessman, Thomas Avenue is for I.M. Thomas, early railroader, Morrow Avenue is for W.M. Morrow, county auditor and cashier at the First National Bank, and Roberts Street is for Captain W.C. Roberts, who operated the Detroit Hotel.
Holmes Street was named for E.G. Holmes and Frazee Street for R.L. Frazee, founder of Frazee. Peoples Street was named for Judge George Peoples Jr., Phinney Avenue for J.H. Phinney, who operated the first general store in Detroit Lakes, and Reynolds Street was named for Reuben Reynolds, early lawyer and judge.
Hanson said that the city council has named some streets, and he himself has named a few -- White Clover Beach Road, for example -- but "you just put them on the map and that's what they end up being.
"It would be nice if Washington (Avenue) was Main (Avenue) and everything west was First, Second, Third, Fourth, and everything east was First, Second, Third, Fourth."
Someday, he predicts, there may be that change. Of course to preserve history and pacify those who have lived here for years, the names would remain and the numbers would just be added.
"That way people coming into town, instead of saying Lincoln Avenue, 'where the heck's that?' you could just say First Street East and they'd know where to go," he said.
In 1970, the Detroit Lakes Planning Commission recommended changing the streets and avenues to numbers to make it easier for directions, but the public was not in favor of that and in 1971, the city council effectively abandoned the idea.
In the Woodcrest Boulevard (off Shorewood Drive) area, Hanson said he remembers the developers came before the council for street name approval.
"The guy came up with another 'L' for his wife, and Jeff Swanson stood up and said 'no, we have too many of those already, we need something different.' The council hashed for 15-20 minutes and finally (city administrator) Rich Grabow asked (alderman) Jan Ness, 'hey, what's your new granddaughter's name?' It was Heather, and so it's Heather Lane."