By Danny Crownover
Streets in Gadsden often were named for a certain person or thing connected to the site. For example, Walnut Street received its name because it once was lined with the many beautiful walnut trees. Chestnut Street was named for the groves of American Chestnut trees.
Another street name that comes to The Vagabond’s mind is Reservoir Street, which received its name from a large reservoir built on top of a hill north of Tuscaloosa Avenue. The reservoir provided water and protected Gadsden from fire.
A platted section in South Gadsden located near the former steel mill has streets and avenues named for presidents of the United States, including Lincoln, Grant, Polk, Pierce, Garfield, Cleveland, Harrison, Jefferson, McKinley, Roosevelt, Van Buren, Washington and Nixon.
In the adjoining section of Walnut Park are Washington, Wilson and Lincoln streets. There are also avenues named in honor of Henry W. Grady and William Jennings Bryan.
In Gadsden, you can find streets named for some of America’s states, including Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Carolina, Kansas, Colorado, Arizona, Alaska, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Rhode Island and Mississippi.
A glance at a city map shows that some street with Native American names, Noccalula, Tuscaloosa, Sequoyah, Wawonah, Tomahawk, Arrowhead, Winona, Montezuma and Coosa.
In the mill village in Alabama City, the New England influence is indicated by such street names as Hinsdale, Cumnock, Dwight, Marston, Sandusky, Wilkerson and Cabot.
In Goodyear Park in East Gadsden are Akron, Ohio connected names such as Litchfield, Slusser, Wolf, Wahl, Richardson, Stillman, Grant and Harpham.
Other areas of Gadsden feature Spanish street names such as Vista, Vallejo, Monte Vista and Vistamont.
Streets related to nature and woods include Elm, Locust, Chestnut, Walnut, Bay, Cherry, Crabapple, Oak, Vine, Plum, Pine, Peachtree, Mimosa, Maple, Holly, Magnolia, Hackberry, Hickory, Muscadine, Honeysuckle, Mistletoe and Wistera.
Most of the early pioneer families are memorialized and represented on streets such as Turrentine, Woodliffe, Slack, Moragne, Ewing, Hammond, Kyle, Elliott, Mitchell, Clayton, Sansom, Cansler, Randall, Christopher, Hood, Herzberg, Paden, Keeling and Lay. One of the pioneer Paden family married a girl named Reich, and thus the street was called Padenreich.
There are some strange streets or roads called Wahl, Vimy, Lovejoy and Franhaven.
Some streets will make you wonder how and why they got their names – Tom Cat, Knucklewood, Hind, Rum and Fox Chase. Then there are names that nobody remembers how they got named nor who they were named for – Lou Ellen, Julia, Helen and Gregory.
Strange as it may be, years ago, several streets and avenues of Gadsden had the same names. The duplication of street names was so frequent that it brought about much confusion, so much that postmen had great difficulty in delivering mail.
Such things usually resulted from rapid growth and expansion in a growing city. Additions inside the corporate limits were often surveyed and mapped with names being recorded without regard to any duplications in the older section. Suburban tracts also followed the same pattern, and as they were annexed, they added to the confusion of street names.
Gadsden had been growing so fast and so many additions have been annexed in so short a time that there was little chance to keep up with street names. Throughout the years, the city studied the situation and had a view of making corrections. It took an “unscrambling,” as one city official said, to create an orderly system to be followed in the future.
In Alabama City, the main downtown finance center was located on Wall Street. On July 13, 1932, Alabama City voted to merge into Gadsden, and many streets had to be renamed. The most critical was First Street to 15th Streets, as all of these streets were duplicates of those in Gadsden. The solution? Since 17th Street was the most westward street number in Gadsden, it was decided to just add 20 to each Alabama City street. Thus, First Street became 21st Street, Second Street became 22nd Street, and so on.