By Jerry Kronenberg
You know that Washington, D.C., is named for America's first president, but did you know that Harrison City, Pa., (population 134) honors ninth president William Henry Harrison? Or that Pierceton, Ind., (population 1,015) memorializes 14th president Franklin Pierce? "You can find towns named after [obscure presidents] all over the place," says Grant Smith, an expert on "toponymy" (the study of how places got their names).
Smith, an Eastern Washington University professor and past chairman of the American Name Society's Toponymy Interest Group, says that presidents who are lesser known today often got communities named after them thanks to the intervention of supporters of their own time. "People who were in the right place at the right time and had the authority to name their communities often named them after someone they thought was a good president," he says.
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Smith -- whose forefathers helped name Blaine, Wash., after failed 1884 Republican presidential candidate James G. Blaine -- says many U.S. leaders little remembered today had plenty of contemporary fans. "A lot of people must have admired [1920s presidents] Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge -- who didn't do much -- because they wouldn't have gotten elected otherwise," he says. Still, Smith says the golden age of naming towns after presidents ended in the late 1800s, when newcomers for the most part filled in the last unsettled parts of our country.
He doesn't expect any future Obamavilles or Romneytowns, as builders who create today's "planned communities" are too afraid of offending any would-be buyers. "Today's developments tend to have idealized names like 'Sherwood Forest' or 'Mill Creek' -- names that are comfortable and will attract suburbanites," Smith says.
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Here's a look at real estate in five communities across America that are named after some lesser-known U.S. leaders. Median home prices and 12-month net changes for each town are courtesy of market tracker Zillow.com and reflect estimated values for all local residences (not just those on the market) as of Dec. 31. Population and income figures are from the U.S. Census Bureau.
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