Does Your Street’s Name Influence Your Home’s Appeal?

By Bill Primavera

For the past few years, I’ve been living in a condominium whose street name is that of a recent former president. While a highly political friend tells me that she would not live on a street bearing that name even if the home were given to her free, I suspect that she would. 

The home is splendid in my view, and I believe that its address projects an image of quality, which follows through in reality. I consider myself lucky to be able to live there.                       

Besides serving as a way to find where you live, can the name of your street influence the perception of your home and its value, positively or negatively? 

The thought occurred to me a while back when I read a report about residents’ complaints in a town in Putnam County where a local motel housed a number of sex offenders. Almost as a throwaway at the end of the article, the motel’s street address was listed as Sodom Road. You just can’t make this stuff up.

The origins of street names can be a fascinating study, ranging from history, their locations, mystery or sheer whimsy. 

I was first aware of how streets got their names while attending elementary school in Philadelphia. The nuns taught us that the derivation of street names was based on the plan developed by William Penn, where the major east-west streets were the names of trees: Vine, Mulberry, Chestnut, Walnut, Locust, Spruce and Pine among them, intersected by a numbered grid.

When we took a class trip to Washington, D.C., I found that all 50 states have streets named after them and most of them cross diagonally through an alphabetic and numbered grid system. Rather than making an address clear, the intention of that system was to confuse invaders and to guard the Capitol, but today it serves to confuse tourists as well.

When I moved to New York City, I was relieved to find a grid that made finding any address very easy, except for the wildly erratic system in Greenwich Village, which was established before the grid system. It resulted in having West 4th Street somehow managing to intersect West 12th Street.

Around 1850, with increased value placed on nature, it became common to name streets after trees. As a result, my past neighborhood, an early one, features Hickory, Hemlock and Birch streets. 

The roads in our communities might reveal the types of industries they originally supported, such as Mill Street, Milk Street, Commerce Street and Mechanics Road. Also, Presidents were honored in every town: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Madison and Kennedy boulevards abound across the nation. And some streets simply reflect the surroundings, such as Mountain View, Lakeside and Hudson View.

But the most creative names came with modern housing track developments where builders became responsible for naming streets, harnessing the suggestive power of words that shape a neighborhood even before the first home was built.

Sometimes the personal interests of builders attached themselves to street names. The most interesting I’ve found is a Mahopac neighborhood known as the “fish bowl” where the streets are named Pike Place, Perch Drive and Trout Place. I also have friends who live in the “flower” neighborhood of Astor, Dahlia, and Tulip. 

In Yorktown, we become American literary aficionados with such names as Whitman, Emerson and Thoreau.

From the 1970s and ‘80s, newer developments frequently adopted names of the developers’ wives or daughters, and only infrequently, sons. Today, that practice is generally discouraged by town planning boards because those street signs tend to be stolen more frequently, presumably by young people of the same names.

We can be drawn to or repelled by the mystery of some street names. I had a real estate client who challenged me to find a house for her on Watermelon Hill Road simply because she loved the name so much. My personal favorites in this region are Pudding Street, Bullet Hole Road and Lover’s Lane in Putnam Valley and Fiddler’s Bridge Road in Dutchess County. Where did those haunting names originate, I wonder?

As I travel our byways, I also ponder such questions as whether Church Street or Seminary Road lead the traveler to heaven? 

And let’s not forget all the names that reflect our native American roots, such as Wiccoppee and Taconic.

There’s no denying that whether your street suggests picking a flower, enjoying the comfort of a shade tree, paying tribute to a founding father, making love or catching a fish, its name can indeed add character, charm or mystery to where you live.

Can you guess the most popular street name in America? No, it’s not Main, Maple or Elm. It’s 2nd Street. Surprised?

The reason is that most towns in America started with a simple grid of numbered streets, but many times 1st Street was renamed Main Street, boosting 2nd Street to the lead. So you might say that 2nd is second to none.

Bill Primavera, while a publicist and journalist, is also a realtor associated with William Raveis Real Estate and founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.

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