While doing some research on tiny former vice district Collins Street for an upcoming performance piece, I found this 1876 letter written to the editors of the Atlanta Constitution protesting its possible renaming. I couldn’t help but think of the recent controversy surrounding the renaming of Harris Street to John Portman Boulevard. It’s creepy how history repeats itself…read and laugh.
EDITORS CONSTITUTION: At the last meeting of the city council we noticed with surprise, that a committee to whom the matter had been referred, reported in favor of changing the name of Collins street to North Washington Street. We noticed with still more surprise that the council adopted the report of the committee and directed an ordinance be drawn making the change.
This action we think was hasty and premature, and should be reconsidered. The proposed change of name is wrong. Many years ago Washington street was known as Collins, and was change to Washington for the reason that there was no connection across the Georgia railroad. For no other reason. Mr. James A. Collins after whom said street was named, was one of the pioneers of Atlanta. He was an enterprising and worthy citizen, a good merchant and business man, respected for his virtues by his fellow townsmen, who at that early day saw it fit to name the street for him. The name is short and euphoneous. It is blended with the early history of Atlanta, and is designated on the maps of the city, and also upon the records both of the city and county in such a way that it is unwise to make the change at this late day.
Besides, if our city council encourages this changing of names of our street when and where will it stop. With equal propriety they may change the names of Calhoun, Ivy, Loyd, Pryor, Peachtree, Whitehall, and a host of others, at the suggestion of fastidious gentlemen who might imagine himself shamed at the obscurity or low origin from whence the names of said streets sprung. Let council reconsider.
So basically the arguments against street renaming are the same: it erases Atlanta’s early history, it’s a nuisance to change maps, signs, and records, and it sets a bad precedent. Also, it’s ironic that all of the “endangered” streets listed in the last paragraph have indeed been changed since the letter’s penning. Calhoun Street = Piedmont Avenue, Ivy Street = Peachtree Center Avenue, Loyd Street = Central Avenue, part of Pryor Street has been changed to Park Place, and Peachtree was extended to encompass Whitehall Street.