Renaming Atlanta’s Streets

Yesterday, the Atlanta City Council voted 9-5 to refer back to committee a proposal that would have renamed two key downtown streets as “Xernona Clayton Way” and “John C. Portman Boulevard.”

I have nothing against Xernona Clayton and John Portman, but there are better ways to honor them. How about tearing down the “Peachtree Center Way” signs from what used to be Ivy Street and calling that “Portman Street”? It’s where most of his buildings are, and we could all use one fewer “Peachtree” on our maps. As a matter of fact, you could also rename Peachtree Way, Peachtree Park, Peachtree Drive, Peachtree Park Drive (they’re different!), Peachtree Court, Peachtree Circle, Peachtree Lane, and Peachtree Memorial Drive. Honestly, can you quickly and accurately point to any of those on a map? Can anyone? I was born here, and I can’t.

But, whatever happens, a plea for rationality and simplicity: if the renaming goes through, please make them just “Clayton Street” and “Portman Street.” Atlanta’s trend towards multi-word street names is crazy… they’re hard to communicate over the phone, over the radio when listening to traffic reports, or to your GPS unit. And don’t get me started on our overuse of the word “Boulevard”!

Maybe Martin Luther King, Jr. deserves special treatment (although everyone abbreviates it to MLK Drive). But think how much simpler Atlanta would be with

  • Aaron Drive
  • Abernathy Boulevard
  • Allen Boulevard
  • Dobbs Avenue
  • Hollowell Parkway
  • Holmes Drive
  • Lowery Boulevard
  • Marcus Boulevard
  • McGill Boulevard
  • Williams Drive (maybe Hosea gets a pass, too, just because I love his first name 🙂 )

I don’t think the heirs of any of those men would feel particularly dishonored by omitting first names and initials and suffixes from the street signs. It’s not a black-white thing… on that list, seven are black and three are white. If we’re going to rename streets, let’s rename those!


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Stephen Fleming and Kathee Williams. Kathee Williams said: “@StephenFleming: AcademicVC: Renaming Atlanta’s Streets” I'm all for bringing back the original names. […]