|Where the Streets All Have Names|
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Joan P. and L. Roland Choiniere came around from the self-serve soda dispensers at McDonald’s of Webster one afternoon, and Roland paused to offer “a great idea.” How did Webster streets get named? “I think it would make an interesting story,” he said, forfeiting any royalties the report might encourage.
Town Clerk Robert T. Craver found a list of public ways, and when they were accepted by the town, but he couldn’t provide a “why” for any of the names. Then, Mr. Craver harkened to a time when his family developed a fairly large tract behind School Street and Perryville Road in Webster.
“We had to name the streets ourselves,” he said, remembering the particulars for town filings. They used the obvious: West Hollow Lane for a west bound road falling to a hollow; Brookside Avenue, again with respect to the terrain; and Surrey Lane, just to be different.
There’s an old saw about street names, that getting ID’d on a street sign is for dead presidents, trees, a developer or somebody in the developer’s family. This explains how Asselin Avenue, Bonnette Place, DiDonato Avenue, Paradis Lane, Panarelli Way, Racicot Avenue, Plasse Court and Hall Road were named. They’re former and current builders and/or developers, and may have only signed a petition for acceptance of a street built to town specifications. Then, there are developers who name streets for things instead of people, such as the late Herman Becker, who developed housing tracts in several areas, including the Upper Gore. There, he paired Blueberry to Hill, Lane, Terrace and Way, all rising to a crest on the Webster side of Mount Daniels, where the views can be quite dramatic on a clear day. Above all the Blueberry paired ways is Dream Street.
As to roads named for children or relatives of developers, we have Bernard, Brian, Camille, Douglas, Edward, Elaine, Ellen, Genevieve, Gia, Girard, Irene, Jeffrey, James, June, Lillian, Linda, Kenneth, Oscar, Nancy, Ronnie, Victoria and Wilfred. Town agencies involved in the acceptance process generally accept identifications, though names are examined by the engineering department to guard against near duplications; anything that might confuse a quick response team.
Public roads named for trees are Ash Street, Birch Drive, Cedar Drive, Hickory Lane, Oak Street, Oak Tree Lane, Chestnut Street, Maple Street, Elm Street, Pine Tree Lane and Spruce Lane.
There are some street designations that offer a story in themselves.
Happy Tree Lane off Thompson Road spawned from a lost seedling. The late Gordon Appelt planted a field of seedlings years ago. He subsequently found one that remained at the bottom of the box they came in, and planted it at the far end of the road where he lived, selecting the spot for no particular reason. The little pine tree grew to a nice shape, and his wife, Alice, began to decorate it for the different holidays, using appropriate themes for Christmas and other holidays. American flags were fixed to the branches for Independence Day and other legal holidays.
There was generally something on the little tree to give passers-by a smile. The late Gretchen Hoenig of nearby Thompson, Conn., placed a note on the tree one year, thanking the Appelts because they maintained a “Happy Tree.” When the road to their small lake development came up for acceptance at a town meeting, Gordon and Alice named it Happy Tree Lane. The name is still in place, but somebody destroyed the tree for no good reason maybe a decade or more ago.
Then there’s Starzec Drive. A way to the former North Village Mills, it has three houses on the left side of the street, and three others at a turn from the right side, making it a conundrum of sorts, a straightaway with housing in east-west and north-south directions. The late Alexander A. Starzec bought two of the dwellings at one point and tried to attach his name to the side that ran north-south, where his buildings were located. Some residents there had adopted an unofficial name of their own, so the plot thickened.
This came to light when Mr. Starzec’s article got to a town meeting decades ago. There’d be a need to change some of the deeds, said the Advisory Board, and one person objected to the probable cost. The request was passed over, but the petitioner persisted. The article was refiled a year or two later. No one objected to anything, and Starzec Drive became an official street name. Mr. Starzec had purchased the third dwelling on the north-south side of the street in the interim.
LeBoeuf Lane in the Lakeside area at Webster Lake had a name when the late Leonard E. LeBoeuf bought a summer residence there. Two of Mr. LeBoeuf’s buddies, Tony Polletta and Bob Harris, decided to surprise their friend, who had just retired as a lawyer. Guided by another attorney, they sponsored the town meeting request that changed the name to LeBoeuf. There were a couple of other homeowners on the street, but they reportedly went along with the idea.
It’s a major north-south highway, and not a street, but Interstate 395, first designated Route 52, probably brought more new streets and developments to the town as anything in recent history. The road was built in sections. The first taking was on Sept. 23, 1964, according to Mark D. Becker, chairman of the Board of Assessors. The taking was from the Connecticut state line near Wilsonville Road to Thompson Road in Webster, near Lake Parkway. The notice, filed with then-Town Clerk Pearl C. Mahon, indicated that a nursing home, a small lumber yard, and three dwellings were taken.
History tells us that in early America streets were named for landmarks, such as a church or a market; directions, such as north and the rest; and symbols of power, authority or heroes.
There was a time when newspapers added a line or two to street acceptances, reporting in whose honor a road had been named. It was for a landowner or an early resident of the street in many cases.
By the way, if any developers are looking for a street name, Choiniere hasn’t been taken.
Telegram & Gazette
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