Is It Avenue Or Street, Or Who Cares?
Part of Main Avenue in Norwalk
Allen-O'Neill Drive in Darien
Charlie Chan: Master Detective
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.)
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.