Is It Avenue Or Street, Or Who Cares?

Allen-O'Neill Drive in Darien

The street sign designating the correctly spelled name of the street: Allen-O'Neill Drive, Darien, where I lived for several years in the 1970s. The street is named for Lt. Eric Allen Jr. and Ensign William T. O'Neill, both killed on Dec. 7, 1941.
The street sign designating the correctly spelled name of the street: Allen-O'Neill Drive, Darien, where I lived for several years in the 1970s. The street is named for Lt. Eric Allen Jr. and Ensign William T. O'Neill, both killed on Dec. 7, 1941. | Source

Part of Main Avenue in Norwalk

Looking north on Main Avenue, part of State Route 7, Norwalk, Connecticut -- coincidentally it's the exact site of my home on the Norwalk River in 1954.
Looking north on Main Avenue, part of State Route 7, Norwalk, Connecticut -- coincidentally it's the exact site of my home on the Norwalk River in 1954.

Charlie Chan: Master Detective

Actor Sidney Toler as Chinese Detective Charlie Chan. It would take a master detective like Chan to solve the Main Street-Main Avenue mystery.
Actor Sidney Toler as Chinese Detective Charlie Chan. It would take a master detective like Chan to solve the Main Street-Main Avenue mystery.

Some years ago I lived on a very short street in Darien that still runs from Noroton Avenue to Elm Street. It's roughly the equivalent of two blocks long. At the intersection with Noroton Avenue the street sign declared the name to be Allen-O'Neill Drive, at the intersection with Elm Street it was Allen O'Neill Drive.

Somewhere in that two-block area the hyphen was lost. Who cares? It's only a little old hyphen. Anyway, hyphens are out of vogue, along with spelling, reading and thinking.

With the hyphens, of course, Allen and O'Neill are two different people, as is the case in Darien. They were posthumously awarded the (Congressional) Medal of Honor.

Without the hyphen, Allen O'Neill could be one person.

Every time I see street signs, or traffic signs, that are confusing rather than helpful, it gets my dander up.

Carelessly Placed Signs

What makes it worse is when people make excuses for officials who carelessly put up signs that poorly serve the public, and sometimes create downright dangerous situations.

One of the most common is the sign placed on the far side of the highway exit rather than on the near side.

In Norwalk, there's one glaring example of bureaucratic carelessness with a road sign.

If you're an old-timer in Norwalk and its environs, see if you can answer this question correctly: Where does Main Street end and Main Avenue begin?

Before you answer, let me point out that this question does not involve South Main Street, North Main Street or West Main Street. It does involve Route 7 (the old one, not the new one.)

I have in my possession two street indexes published by the Norwalk Planning and Zoning Commission. One is dated May 1973 and the other July 1989. According to the earlier version, Main Avenue is located at J-8 on the map and, in parentheses, South of Merritt Parkway. In the 1989 index, the parenthetical notations were erased.

Playing Charlie Chan

The Main Street/Main Avenue issue has come up a number of times at The Hour and elsewhere, so I decided to play Charlie Chan to see whether or not I could solve the mystery.

I began by looking at some maps; some were vague, adding no clarity to the situation; some clearly show that Main Street ends at New Canaan Avenue where Main Avenue begins. Then I looked in the telephone book, but that only added to the puzzle. Finally, I walked along the stretch of road and visited some businesses.

Street signs between New Canaan Avenue and Broad Street proclaim "Main Street," including one strategically placed on the north side of the intersection of Ward Street and Main, thus indicating that Main Street goes all the way to Broad Street. Street numbers, I found, run consecutively from Main Street through Main Avenue (which is how the Fire Department knows where to go.)

Still puzzled?

Then try to figure this out: The shopping center at the corner of Main and Broad includes several businesses whose addresses are 235 Main Street. Nutri/System's address is 235 Main Avenue; CVS Pharmacy's address is 235 Main Street! They're all in the same building!

I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on April 29, 1995. I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages. To view my HubPages Profile Click Here

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Comments 7 comments

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 8 years ago from North America

Amazing isn't it? Many cities need a better method of street naming.


Isabella Snow profile image

Isabella Snow 8 years ago

Ohmigod, they didnt even HAVE street signs on 98% of the streets over here until after they joined the EU and had to do it. The signs are on the first building on the block - good luck spotting that whie you're driving! When there are street signs now, they are on the far side, and you still cant read them, they are about the size of a toy license plate. Awful! But great hub! :)


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thanks, Patty. The best of seen is around Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where large overhead signs at many intersections tell you what's coming up. There are a few similar signs on the side of the road in Long Island, N.Y. Isabella, I'd never find my way in your part of the world. Wow! No street signs? I thought the signing here was poor, but that's ridiculous!


Bob 8 years ago

Bill..........Now if they named it Broadway , it wouldn't be street, drive, avenue, place, or boulevard....End of problems.


compu-smart profile image

compu-smart 8 years ago from London UK

Crazy!!I have always loved the street system in new york..1st street, 2nd street 3rd street....... I think this concept should be incorperated everywhere!! I'm not sure if this would be viable!!


MrMarmalade profile image

MrMarmalade 8 years ago from Sydney

What I hate, is looking at night time for a street in the rain and the street makers or namers forgot to pot the name up.

I have had to survive many yeays of this bad management, as I always was visiting somebody at night time.

The time wasted. Oh Well!

Thank you


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y. Author

Thanks for the comments, folks. Broadway would be great, Bob. Compu-smart, I agree. I've always liked the way they do it in midtown Manhattan. MrMarmalade, it sure is tough trying to get where you're going in bad weather and at night -- and the poor street signs are little or no help!

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