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Ray Charles refuses to stop serenading this evening, so in sharing the impetus, perhaps I can move on to another track. (all due respect for his talent, much love and may he rest in peace).


 

Georgia Street is on my mind as I attempt to understand why anyone would want to change the name of (what’s left of) a thoroughfare that’s been part of this city since it was still heavily forested and freshly platted in 1821. It’s common knowledge that Mississippi and Tennessee Streets were changed to Senate and Capitol Avenues, respectively—but that was back in the 1890’s. Why are we going to excise one of the original square mile street names as we near our 200th anniversary?

 

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Above, a circa 1890 map from my collection, showing Georgia Street, south of Maryland Street. 

I’m not unreasonable—in many instances, I would be inclined to take a Shakespearean view: “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But we aren’t talking about fragrance here. We are talking about a fairly small tourist walkway, conveying the inebriated masses to and from a game where men in tight pants throw a ball around to each other on a big grassy patch in an attempt to make it to what I mistakenly called “touchdown land” in a recent conversation. And I’m guessing rosy aromas are far from what you’ll encounter.

Other than the organization driving this idea, who believes this address was in need of redress? What I see: these few blocks are now going to be hyper-touristy looking with some abbreviated imitation of 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica or unsheltered version of “Fourth Street Live” in Louisville. The afore-mentioned street names may be a snooze, but these places aren’t defined merely by their name; they are defined by what they offer and where they are—and it doesn’t get more ‘authentic’ than those names, which are part of their history. Regardless of name, I’m sure we may anticipate a cleaned up and well-lit, pedestrian friendly walkway. That’s nice. But let’s face it: a street destined to be replete with drunken football fans who don’t give a rip what the street is called (so long as it leads the way to the game) doesn’t really merit a name change. Evidently, Julia Watson, a V.P. at Indianapolis Downtown Inc., has a different view. Her side:

 

“To refer to that premier, attractive and compelling place to visit as some other place seems counterintuitive. It’s not Georgia. It’s Indianapolis and we need a name that’s more authentic and relevant for Indianapolis,” she said. (8/3/2011- WTHR)

 

Hold on a second, now… Would this also mean when I’m on Kentucky Avenue, I’m not really in Kentucky? You’re saying I’m still in Indianapolis? WTH? You are messing with my understanding of the time-space continuum! Or is that time-space convergence? Ugh…this is really making my head hurt.

 

Watson said the move was nothing against Georgia, but “you’d understand why Wendy’s wouldn’t want to be on McDonald’s Road.” (8/3/2011- WTHR)

 

Uhhhh…? And if I lived on Kennedy Street and my name was Ballard, what would I do? Immediately abandon the house and all my worldly possessions?  

I believe this may be a brilliant, but sneaky publicity stunt and one of the oldest tricks in the book: reverse psychology. Insist in a name change, but don’t know what it will be; seek input from residents, prompting outcry and outrage after a wave of press fans the flames. Then be the hero, swooping in to rescue the townspeople from the nemesis you invented. That’d be some pretty clever marketing.

Find the links and share your thoughts about this name change after joining the facebook page “Keep the historic name Georgia Street.”

p.s. after Kevin’s comment about “Georgia on My Mind” being written by Hoosier, Hoagy Carmichael (which I’d forgotten, thank you, Kevin!) the real answer is: finding a potent, meaningful connection or association to the word ‘Georgia’ here and letting that be part of the story rather than changing the name of the story.

 

 

 

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