Quick question: What is the most common street name in the United States?
No-don’t Google it!! Just give the first answer that comes into your head!
Asking this question in my small (not very scientific) survey, I found that the majority of people gave “Main” as the #1 answer.
According to the top websites on this question the answer is either “Second” or “Park.” While the City of Plattsburgh does have a Park Avenue, there is no street named Second. It is also interesting to note that in New York State “Park” leads the list of most common names, but “Second” is not even in the top ten.
Why am I talking about street names? Well, the other day I was driving on N. Catherine St., turned onto Cornelia St. and then onto Margaret St., when it popped into my mind that quite a few of the city’s streets are named for women! Mind you these are not little side streets, these are some of the main thoroughfares in the city. This led to the larger questions: 1. How did all the streets in Plattsburgh come to be named, and 2. Why are the main ones named for women?
On June 16, 1785, Plattsburgh’s first town meeting was held at the home of Judge Charles Platt. Three men were elected commissioners of Highway and they soon laid out the principal roads of the town (city) that remain today.
Let’s start our “walk-about” with the streets named for women.
The main road through early Plattsburgh was named in honor of the “bright little Quaker” mother of Col. Melancton Smith (U.S. Army) and Capt. Sidney Smith (U.S. Navy), Margaret Mott Smith. Margaret’s husband Jude Melancton Smith was an officer during the American Revolution. He represented Duchess County in the first provincial congress as well as in the convention meeting in 1778 to consider the Constitution of the U.S. Smith along with the Platts were the original proprietors of Plattsburgh.
Margaret Street circa 1895
Col. Melancton Smith named a new street, then hardly more than a lane running west, for his young wife, Cornelia. He also named Elizabeth Street for his sister, Elizabeth Gilman. She was married to Henry S. Johnson, one of the up-and-coming lawyers in early Plattsburgh.
Grave of Cornelia Smith wife of Col. Melancton Smith in Riverside Cemetery
When Gilead Sperry gave the village of Plattsburgh a portion of land for a street to run to the south, his wife was given the honor of it being named for her, Catherine Kilburn Marsh. In an1822 newspaper article it was stated that she spelled her name with a “K” and the road was originally referred to as Katherine Street.
The Hon. J. Douglas Woodward was renowned for his efforts in laying out and improving the city’s streets as well as “living a pure life.” The city honored him by naming a street after his daughter Helen, who was a long-time principal of Plattsburgh High School. It is interesting that the part of what is now Brinkerhoff north of Helen was named after Woodward himself, but later it was decided to extend the Brinkerhoff name the entire length of the street. Also the northern part of Couch Street was named after Woodward’s wife, Matilda, but again the name Couch was extended for the entire street.
Charlotte Street was named for the wife of Rev. Hiram Safford who had been a Major of the 7th regiment of the Reg. N.Y. Volunteers. Charlotte was a granddaughter of Israel Green, proprietor of the renowned tavern in Plattsburgh. Charlotte St. ran from Bridge St to the Old Roman Catholic Cemetery where it then became Peru St. Let me warn you before you go looking for this street on the city map – it’s not there any more! At some time after the late 1970s, the entire street became Peru St.
Bird’sEye View Map showing location of Charlotte St. in 1899
Marion Street was named for the wife of Judge William P. Mooers who owned the land adjacent to the road.
Grace Avenue was a relatively new street addition in the 1930s. It was named after Grace Healey, wife of Samuel Healey, one of the developers of that area of the city.
One last interesting street named after a Plattsburgh female is Lucretia-Davi(d)son Dr.** This is a 20th century addition to our street names. There are no houses along it since it is a very short connector from Byrne Lane going north around the U.S. Oval. One might think that length mirrors Lucretia’s life. She began writing poetry at age four and died just short of her 17th birthday. Her poetry caught the attention of notable writers including Edgar Allan Poe…but that’s a story for another time.
**You probably notice the misspelling in Lucretia’s name. After calling this to the attention of City officials, they said the sign would be corrected.
It is a testament to the early leaders of Plattsburgh that they wanted to immortalize their mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters by naming the city’s streets after them.
(This is part I of a series on the names of Plattsburgh’s city streets)
Keep checking this blog—there’s more to come!!
Three Centuries in the Champlain Valley, Mrs. Geo. F. Tuttle 1909
Press Republican, Jan. 7, 1935 & Mar. 1-5, 1982
Old Plattsburgh, Marjorie Lansing Porter 1944