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Cornering the spelling, punctuation of street names. OH Really?

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At the corner of Lorain Ave. and Rocky River Drive, this clock proclaims the neighborhood to be 'Kamm's Corners.' Is that correct?
Google Maps
At the corner of Lorain Ave. and Rocky River Drive, this clock proclaims the neighborhood to be 'Kamm's Corners.' Is that correct?

We've recently heard from listeners who wanted to know about the origins -- and correct spellings -- of certain street names in Northeast Ohio. In this edition of "OH Really?” the search for answers leads to even more questions.

A previous question explored why a third of the communities in Cuyahoga County have the word "Heights" in their name. But a listener wrote in to ask about two streets named as "Heights," and whether those were also intended as city names. John Grabowski is a Senior Vice President for Research and Publications at the Western Reserve Historical Society and a history professor at Case Western Reserve University. He says Euclid Heights Blvd. was essentially named to be a ritzier, higher-elevation version of Euclid Ave., also known as “Millionaire's Row.” But the origin of Lakewood Heights Blvd. is more complex.

“It seems like -- if you look at the elevation, which I did on the map -- it's pretty steady almost all the way through from where it starts to where it goes. But, you have to look north from it, because when Lakewood was being planned, a lot of Lakewood was on the lakeshore. And so the lakeshore is lower, and this is the main drag of Lakewood that is on a higher level. It's not that much higher, but it's higher than the lakeshore. So, it’s Lakewood Heights Blvd. It’s kind of been superseded now by the interstate that’s been dug by the edge of it; but the interstate’s down in the valley and Lakewood Heights Blvd. is still in the heights,” according to Grabowski.

Kamm’s Corner(s)
Staying on Cleveland's West Side, what about Kamm's Corners? Is there an apostrophe? Is ‘Corners’ supposed to be plural? This is something we have talked about a lot in the newsroom.

“The Kamm’s Corner question comes up a lot," Grabowski said. "It's named after Oswald Kamm, who had a multi-purpose store there. The building is still there, and it was actually the area where the post office was. So, the letters that were sent to or from the area were stamped 'Kamm’s Corner.' Now I don't know if that's with or without the apostrophe. If you look at the city maps -- because it is an official city neighborhood -- it is ‘Kamm’s Corner.’ But in another map, I saw ‘Corners,’ so I really don't know. We're looking at two things: with or without apostrophe, and with or without the plural."

As for Grabowski, he "would vote for ‘Kamm’s Corner’ because that's where the store was: on the corner. But then, in the parlance of the time, the intersection of streets would be called ‘corners,’ in plural. So, I can't bet on that one way or the other. But I think the important thing is that it's one of official neighborhoods in Cleveland, that has a personal name.”

Along the lake shore
Others include Cudell -- named for Franz Cudell -- and Fairfax, named for Florence Bundy Fairfax. And speaking of the post office, that's the genesis of our last question: Lake Shore Blvd. The post office and the street signs don't always agree if it's one word or two. Someone who lives on the street asked because she doesn't know either!

Grawbowski has looked at older maps of Cleveland "and the first one I found where that area is named, it is ‘Lake Shore,’ two words. So that may have been the beginning. The other thing, and this is a very vague and perhaps not correct hint: the first major artery along the lakefront, if you will, was a railroad. And that railroad, in the late 19th century, was known as the Lake Shore – two words – and Michigan Southern Railroad. So it may have been a repetition of that. In looking at contemporary maps, I've seen where sometimes it's just the Lake Shore as two words. If you Google map it, it's ‘Lakeshore’ all the way through [one word].”

Is that an homage to Lake Shore Drive -- two words -- in Chicago?

“It could be, ‘let's be like Chicago’" Grabowski said. "Indeed, the part of Lake Shore Blvd. that really outdoes Chicago is in Bratenahl, going past all the summer cottages, the mansions that were built in the late 1800s, and that is sort of Cleveland Newport, if you will.”

Postal support
Grabowski’s information often points to the post office as the authority on street and community names and their spellings.

“I think the interesting thing about old names is not only to investigate which one’s are right or wrong, but as we've been discussing -- what are their meanings? Who ascribes the meaning to them? What authority can we look to as the ultimate authority for naming them? And I think the argument here, I think it is the Postal Service. We have to remember that, for many years, carried post was the critical feature of getting information back and forth. That is why the government ran the post office: because it was so critical to communications within the new nation.”

And according to the post office, it’s Lake Shore Blvd. and Kamm’s Corner with one apostrophe, no plural, and endless debate.

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Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.