Friday, October 08, 2010

preserving what?

This has to be the most ironic street in Knoxville. "Historic Preservation" Drive is a little one-way collector road that goes parallel to the biggest waste of space in Downtown (James White Parkway) and goes by the loading dock of the Coliseum. Scenic right? Right through the part of town that was completely destroyed for "urban renewal" in the 60s. Is the name some kind of joke? I heard a rumor that it was an Ashe era up yours to preservationists. Does any one know the story about it? It's rare to see something so utterly mismatched, so I thought I'd put here here for you, dear readers, to find out what the hell is going on.


Kevin said...

Preserving sprawl? Preserving suburbia? Preserving pavement?

The Modern Gal said...

It preserves Victor Ashe's history of ridiculously renaming roads.

Anonymous said...

It was an Ashe-era jibe, proposed by Ashe himself. It wasn't intended to be an up-yours to preservationists, but to be exactly as you first stated -- ironic. It's like the work of that smart-ass Mapquest mapmaker (you know, the one who put made-up streets around Knoxville (like Contumacious Drive [I'm serious]), but this one's for real. Not only was it proposed by the Mayor, though; it also had to be approved by Council.

The double irony of Historic Preservatioon Drive is that it intersects Hall of Fame Drive, which until the Ashe era was called, as it historically was, Mulvaney Street. To me, this fits in one of the three categories of stupid ways to rename a street, all of which were Ashe favorites:

A) Rename a street after something it happens to go by. E.g. apparently, no one would ever be able to find the Hall of Fame unless the street going by it were renamed "Hall of Fame Drive." Granted, this is not an entirely modern phenomenon (e.g. Church Street), and we do have some utterly confusing examples like University Avenue, which doesn't go by the University, but when the Mulvaney Street of Nikki Giovanni's childhood is renamed after a silly building with a giant orange ball on top, one wonders whether we still have a decent grasp of what is important, and what is transitory kitsch.

B) Rename a street something that a fourth grader would think was clever. E.g. Peyton Manning Pass, anyone? PMP used to be Yale Avenue, which was sort of a meaningless fancy-name street from the once-fancy Circle Park neighborhood, but it was tolerable.

C) Rename a street in honor of someone, but with such precision that the name is ridiculously long. E.g. Vice Mayor Jack Sharp Road. No judgment as to whether VMJS is worthy of a road, it's interesting to note that a hundred years ago "Heiskell Street" was a perfectly acceptable name in honor of Mayor Heiskell. That is to say, it would not have occurred to anyone to name it "Vice Mayor Jack Heiskell Street." It would have been too cumbersome, and the specificity of the honorific was not deemed to be more important than the trouble caused all the poor people over the next hundred years who would have had to deal with writing that whole mess out every time they needed to provide an address.

Anyway -- back to my point. Names have history as well. It never made sense to poke fun at a particular location's complete lack of historic context while concurrently systematically obliterating street names in the same areas, when the street names themselves were the last remaining ties to the historic context. It's like not realizing that you're parodying yourself. Ah, Victor.