Fake Names, It’s Gotta Stop

“Lower Westheimer” – This does not actually exist, it’s just Montrose. Or “The Montrose” if you wish to rebel against popular linguistic conventions without going full retard.

“Neartown” – This also does not exist, it’s just Montrose. This appears to have been an 80’s or 90’s era attempt to rebrand Montrose as something other than Montrose, and only appears on official documents. Even the Realtors don’t use it, and Realtors tend to be on the forefront of linguistic murderation (see: “Craftsman”). It should be scrubbed completely from the record.

“Washington Heights” – Again, this does not actually exist. There are legitimate grounds for nitpicking over what to call the small finger of the original Heights plat that extends south of IH-10, but this is a miniscule area – and in any event, if it’s part of The Heights, then it is simply The Heights. If you live off Washington, you live off Washington. If you live in an area covered by another historical name, like “Rice Military” or “Cottage Grove,” that works too – although I’ve always tended to look askance at people who use sub-neighborhood names. It’s as if they’re too elitist for general neighborhood or street names. “Oh you live in Avondale? Tell me more.” However, Washington Heights is right out.

“EaDo” – Seriously? No. No, no, no, no, no. The proliferation of faux New York City style names needs to stop, and it might as well stop here. You can say “Eastside,” or you can say “Third Ward.” There’s no other cutesy names to mine from (like “Cottage Grove”) because historically speaking, no one lived there.

Now, some might argue that this isn’t actually Third Ward. These people are wrong. If you want to see what is and isn’t the Third Ward, walk into Ninfa’s on Navigation and scope the map they’ve got hanging up front by the waitstand. Now find the area to the immediate east of Downtown. See what ward it’s in? Yep. You in the Tre, homie. You too, Eastwood.

“OST / South Union” – This is another one of those names, like “Neartown,” that appears to have been an attempt at top-down rebranding when the Super Neighborhoods were drawn up. But everything west of Cullen and south of Griggs is pretty clearly “Yellowstone” (or “The Yellowstone”), and with all the development focused on Palm Center this will probably end up being the default name for the Griggs/MLK intersection, which was originally part of the South Park plats. There is no other unclaimed land to apply this moniker to, so let’s throw it out along with the rest of ‘em.

“Houstonia” – No one had ever appended the suffix -ia to this city before some Pacific Northwest wedding magazine people tried to hawk their new rag as some sort of localized version of the Texas Monthly. This term is so fake that long-time domain squatters at Houstonia.com title their page “The Leading Houston IA Site on the Net.”

This might have been okay if the magazine turned out to be worth anything, but so far it hasn’t. Recent articles mix mindless fashion pieces (“summer season just became maxi season”) with baldfaced attempts at pandering (real Houstonians say San Fi-lippy”). And if the word “Houstonia” sounds a little twee to your ears, you’re not far off the mark. The overarching aesthetic of the magazine is to twee up everything, from a “humorous” map of Houston neighborhoods which named the area out towards Lake Houston “Atisket-Atasketa,” to a recent “top 25 neighborhoods” listicle which described one ‘hood as “Where the treetops glisten and home sales have risen.” Yes, someone actually wrote that. Let that sink in for just a moment.

36 responses to “Fake Names, It’s Gotta Stop

  1. CW McCullagh

    For Neartown, I agree, it doesn’t work for Montrose, but what about the areas east of River Oaks, but not quite Montrose (W. Dallas, Waugh, Dunlavy areas)? What do we call those? I used to live off of Allen Parkway, just west of Dunlavy and had a difficult time describing where I lived (Montrose? River Oaks? Neither really)

    As for Houstonia, there was a story that they were going to call themselves Houstonian magazine but The Houstonian hotel/resort/club objected. So they dropped the ‘n’.

  2. Ha, dead on with the fake NY names. In LA we are subjected to “SaMo” and “WeHo”…

    I would add one more fake name to your list, though I don’t know if you have it in Houston and it’s not neighborhoods per se… The use of airport codes for cities. PDX isn’t even shorter to say. I recently saw a place making banner that said “Startup PHL”… Really, Phila and Philly are too long? Three of my pet peeves in one package, awesome.

  3. Washington Heights seems legit. Heights is splintered into all sorts of smaller communities, often with unique HOA rules which create a different feel for each neighborhood. Woodland Heights, Sunset Heights, Independence Heights, etc. We do need a name for a part of the original Heights that got separated by the freeway, and Washington Heights seems as good as any.

  4. I agree. The renaming of neighborhoods needs to stop. I grew up in 1st Ward all my life and now that condos are going up with a neighborhood makeover…..all of a sudden it’s it’s Sawyer Heights. Wasn’t Sawyer Heights when no one wanted to live there, so leave 1st Ward as 1st Ward!

  5. People can call the hoods that they live in whatever they want. Fascist.

  6. I live in Sunny Side Heights.

  7. I think it all started with renaming the Galleria area “Uptown”, a name that still makes me laugh.

  8. HoustonGeev

    Eado-Schmeado. However, Ninfa’s on Navigation and the neighborhoods east of Downtown are not in Third Ward – they are in Second Ward, or often referred to as “The East End.” Third Ward is across I-45 near UH and TSU. Also, the Neartown Association started in the ’60s, but yeah, no one calls it that. It’s just Montrose.

  9. CW: The area you describe (and where I live) is Vermont Common. We have an active Civic Association, streets feature our neighborhood name, and we even have a resident goat in our neighborhood named Jean-Paul Goatier. Here he is on our civic newsletter. https://twitter.com/katyalevin98/status/329380242340851712/photo/1

  10. juli graves

    why does it even matter?

  11. Some names will stick, others won’t, but the bottom line is the city and its neighborhoods are always changing, and these names will/should as well to reflect this constant evolution. It’s not a new thing. It’s inevitable. And it really isn’t a big deal, we just have to get over it. That’s said I dislike the faux New York City names as well. At least try to be somewhat original in the naming. I suppose it’s natural for everyone to fight over this, but at some point the names evolve and they just “are” for the next generation… that is until they fight over changing them yet again!

  12. You’re completely wrong about the wards. I don’t care what map Ninfa’s has hanging, Ninfa’s and Moon Tower Inn are in Second Ward as the ward maps were drawn. Harrisburg is basically the line that splits it.

  13. Vermont Commons doesn’t cover the entire area… I used to live in the North Montrose Community Association. My point is that neither of these names is particularily useful as they reference rather small areas that no one knows outside of the residents. That’s why I’m partial to Neartown, as it encompasses many of these smaller areas (including North Montrose, Vermont Commons, etc).

  14. Pingback: Inventing fake neighborhoods | DENSIFY

  15. For EaDo.. I think you mean 2nd Ward and not 3rd.

  16. Houstorian

    Grass roots/organic nicknames pass muster (Midtown since 1990s or Neartown since the 1970s for the small, non-Montrose but adjacent neighborhoods). Self-given or branded neighborhoods names always smell funny to Houstonians.

  17. Keep Houston Houston

    Of course Ninfa’s is in 2nd Ward. My point was that almost all of what’s sometimes called “EaDo” is in Third. The historical dividing line is Congress from Main to the RR tracks, southeast along the RR, then east along Harrisburg.

  18. CW McCullagh, you lived in the historic Fourth Ward. You were close to the Jewish cemetery that still exists there today; the area does not appear to have ever been subdivided and named like the neighborhoods around it.

  19. @rodrigo negative, nowhere near the historic Fourth Ward. That only goes as far west as Taft St. I used to live near a Jewish cemetary, but not the old one you’re thinking of (Congregation Beth Israel Cemetery is on W.Dallas in the Fourth Ward, I lived near Congregation Beth Yeshurun Cemetery on Allen Pwky. at Tirrell). “Fourth Ward” would have been as useful for where I lived as “near the Heights”

  20. Taco Truck

    I have heard “lower Westheimer” my entire life. Pretty sure that one is legit. It doesn’t mean Montrose (the neighborhood), it means Westheimer (the street) east of Shepherd.

  21. Cynicalhouston

    Lomax Wins.

    Fatality.

  22. Those neighborhood names might be new, but why is it something to get all in a tizzy over?
    .
    The bigger thing is: why do neighborhoods get new names? It’s not just random. Often the new names are chosen as part of a conscious effort to shake old preconceptions and reputations. Tell someone you live in Montrose and they might answer “oh, that’s where the gays live… Um, are you gay?” Tell them you live in Lower Westheimer and the response is different. That’s a fairly mild one. Large portions of Alief are being rebranded as the International District. It’s important because the negative connotations of Alief were scaring away investment. The International District always had international flair, but nobody could see past “Alief”
    .
    This isn’t a new phenomenon, nor is it limited to Houston. The South Bronx in New York is transforming itself into SoBro, hoping to capture artists – and in fact some are coming!

  23. My rule is that if it shows up on Google Maps, and/or you can type it in and have a boundary drawn, then it’s legitimate. For the record, South Union has signs welcoming people to…South Union.

  24. The problem with using the historic reference for Wards to describe current boundaries is Super Neighborhoods.

    Houston has what are called “Super Neighborhoods”. There is a “Greater Third Ward” Super Neighborhood as well as “Greater Fifth Ward” and “Second Ward” (not sure why it isn’t greater, but whatever).

    What marketing people call EaDo, and everyone else calls Near East End does not geographically fit within any of the boundaries of any of the super neighborhoods named after the classic Wards that they were a part of.

    EaDo fits within Super Neighborhood 61, which is Downtown.

    To verify this, you can go to houstontx.gov/superneighborhoods

  25. Before were called ‘Wards’ they were called ‘Prairies’. Neighborhood names changes are inevitable.

  26. Pingback: What’s In A Name, Part Deux | Keep Houston Houston.

  27. El segundo barrio

    Thank you HoustonGeev! Ninfas on Navigation and Eastwood are definitely 2nd Ward. Perhaps the boundaries from that old map of the Houston wards at Ninfas is a bit outdated, no?

  28. Pingback: Fake Houston neighborhood names have got to stop - City-Data Forum

  29. CW, I was referring to the old maps of Houston available on Wikipedia which show the wards extending out to the city limits, wherever those were at the time. In 1913 it appears to have gone to Yoakum, and in 1920 all the way to Shepherd or Greenbriar. I looked at the subdivision names of homes listed on HAR in your old area and none show a consistent subdivision name (e.g. “Montrose” or “Hyde Park”). Ergo, it would just be Fourth Ward.

    Call your neighborhoods what you like, draw your imaginary lines where you want. The limits that matter today are the ones that define who we pay taxes to and what schools our kids are zoned to, but only a bit moreso than the ones we can fudge in an attempt to boost our social standing or separate our homes from those of undesirables.

  30. Rodrigo, by your logic, I might as well describe my house as in Mexico. Or in John Austin’s Land Grant. The fact is now, folks descibe the Fourth Ward rather narrowly (http://www.4thwardhouston.com/fourth_ward_ra_website_013.htm) and using that to give directions to where I live wouldn’t be very helpful.

  31. Additionally, the city stopped using wards in 1915, well before where I lived was in city limits. Does this mean the Galleria is in the Fourth Ward?

  32. Just give me the address! I’ll get there, it doesn’t matter what it’s called.

  33. Pingback: What’s in a neighborhood name? – Off the Kuff

  34. I agree with Jared. Neighborhood names come and go, whether you like or hate the name. If the people there want to designate their area that way, so be it. A lot of these names are just meant to convey a sense of community more so than full geographic correctness.

    What’s a more worse issue is attaching extra names to roads/freeways. Like how a portion of 1960 from 249 to Aldine Westfield Road has somehow become “Cypress Creek Parkway” as if it’s so important to distinguish this section of 1960. I gave a friend directions to go on Beltway 8, but he missed it because he only saw or thought of it as the Sam Houston Tollway.

    Honestly, it’s best to use the actual numbers as the freeway names, as well as not break up chunks of the road for some silly name designations. Those get way more confusing than some neighborhood branding in my opinion.

  35. Pingback: The Internet Is For Haters | Keep Houston Houston.

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