One prominent road in Arlington, Virginia just lost its Confederate name; and no one is looking back. Transecting Crystal City, future home of Amazon’s HQ2, Jefferson Davis Highway reverted to its pre-1920’s name, Richmond Highway. Signed as US Route 1, the road still connects Washington DC to Richmond, Virginia; though parallel Interstate 95 is the preferred, and usually quicker, alternative. Route 1 is the common, layman’s name; except for the hotels and major businesses whose stationery list the once-lengthy street address bearing the Confederate States of America president’s name.
These business owners and representatives were supportive of the change. Damnata Memoria (Banished history) aside, a succinct name like Richmond Highway works in the text-and-Siri age. “Jefferson Davis” is also a mouthful to business partners and visitors for whom English is a second language.
When, in contrast, a residential street changes names, private citizens bear the burden of informing state agencies, banks and acquaintances of their new yet geographically identical address. Such is the talk in Hollywood, Florida, where city leaders are discussing renaming two suburban streets. In recognition of this challenge, local Lee Highway and Beauregard Street; also named after prominent Confederates, will retain their nomenclature for the foreseeable future.
Another, slightly more southern segment of US Route 1 changed names sometime earlier. It occurred as a recently-country road was being upgraded to a thoroughfare compatible for the burgeoning national security and defense industries surrounding Fort Belvoir and Quantico. Street names are dynamic in the exurbs, where old roads designed to serve agriculture (literally, Farm-to-Market roads in Texas) are repurposed for office parks and residential cul-de-sacs. Motorists most likely noticed shorter backups well before they noticed a sanitized road name.
* This is my second blog post about Crystal City. Several years ago, before Jeff Bezos put the close-in suburb on the map, I pondered new uses for the transit-accessible, yet fading, neighborhood.