City Council naming committee makes recommendations for new street names

City Council naming committee makes recommendations for new street names
Councilors (from left to right) Sarah Bagley, John Taylor Chapman and Alyia Gaskins are leading City Council on renaming efforts in the city. (File photos)

By Caitlyn Meisner |

The City Council Naming subcommittee motioned to rename and rededicate North Breckenridge Place; North and South Early Streets; Forrest Street; North and South Jordan Streets and Jordan Court at a public hearing on November 30. 

The subcommittee, which is composed of Councilors Sarah Bagley, John Taylor Chapman and Alyia Gaskins, listened to about 25 resident testimonies, asked city staff questions and discussed the options for each street. 

The meeting started with a presentation from Dana Wedeles, strategic initiatives officer for the city, that detailed a recent survey and outreach efforts from 156 residents. Wedeles prefaced the survey results by stating it was not scientific and the city does not know if all respondents are residents of impacted streets. 

Of those responding, 59% said they resided or owned a business on Early Street, with nearly 22% representing Jordan Street or Jordan Court. The survey included specific questions about which proposed name change – Benjamin Banneker, Sarah Gray, Harriet Jacobs, Ona Judge or other – was preferred. 

Questions about renaming Breckenridge Place and Early Street got the most responses from residents stating they did not want a change to occur. 

Many residents in the public hearing expressed a similar sentiment, many hailing from North Early Street and Jordan Street. 

“In the 20 years I’ve lived here, when asked to clarify the name of my street, it’s always been, ‘Early as opposed to late,’” Fran Vogel, a resident of North Early, said. “It’s never been, ‘Early, named for the Confederate Gen. Jubal Early.’” 

Vogel, among many other speakers, proposed a rededication of the street instead of changing the name of it completely. Some of these suggestions were Charity Adams Earley, James Early or Thomasina Jordan. 

“Never did I – or would I or did I even know – that it was Jubal Early,” Kathy Lloyd, a resident of North Early Street for decades, said. “I have emotional attachments to this, of course. I am for rededicating the street to another Early.” 

Lloyd also said reducing the impact on the community is best when handling these changes and hopes Council can alleviate the burden on the elderly and non-involved communities. 

“It may not seem like a big deal to some to just change a name, but there’s a lot of documentation that goes with it,” Lloyd said. “That’s your identity. You’re changing your identity, and it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not free.” 

After hearing public comments, the subcommittee moved to a discussion phase between them and city staff. Wedeles fielded questions about the cost breakdown and went back and forth with Councilors on how to use the funding if rededicating is chosen. 

As of now, according to Wedeles, the current $60,000 budget per year for this initiative goes to updated street signs, new park signage and changes in the emergency systems and maps. Gaskins asked when Council moves forward, if there will be any additional funds to use to support residents during this transition. 

Staff was unsure, but said before this goes to the full Council in January, a solid answer will be given. Gaskins also asked about the outreach to specific groups – namely senior groups – to assist them in changing important forms and documents. 

Bagley also asked about the potential to follow the flood mitigation model, where residents can get reimbursed by the city for any additional costs they may incur from having to update documents. 

The subcommittee then began discussing the options of names or rededications for each street. The guidelines Council has been following for each street is to have at least one business, have a mixture of many and few residences and update the name to reflect an important figure in Alexandria history and/or a woman/minority. 

In hearing public testimony, the subcommittee thought rededicating the Early Streets to the colloquial usage of “early” may be a good fit if enough residents express interest. This is similar to what the subcommittee moved forward with Forrest Street, which will likely be renamed “Forest” for wooded areas. 

Bagley, Chapman and Gaskins floated around the idea of utilizing just the last name of an important figure, but ultimately decided that these figures are too important and the streets should honor their contributions to history. 

The following motions – which are recommendations to be discussed by the entire Council – were passed by the subcommittee: 

• Recommendation to change North Breckenridge Place to Harriet Jacobs, an abolitionist who established the first free school for African American children in Alexandria. 

• Recommendation to change Forrest Street to Forest Street. 

• Recommendation to rededicate North and South Jordan Streets and Jordan Court to Thomasina Jordan. 

• Recommendation to change North and South Jordan Streets and Jordan Court to Hughes Street, in memory of the Hughes family. They lived in Foxchase while enslaved in the early and mid-1800s. Two members, David and Wilson, served in the Colored Infantry based in Alexandria. 

• Recommendation to rededicate North and South Early Streets to either James Early or Charity Adams Earley. 

• Recommendation to rededicate North and South Early Streets to the colloquial usage of “early.” 

• Recommendation to change North and South Early Streets to Sarah Gray, principal of Hallowell School for Girls, a school for African Americans. 

Some streets have multiple motions corresponding to their change because the subcommittee decided to allow the full Council to take into consideration the many different options available to them. 

The issue of renaming and rededicating these streets will be brought up at the January 9 legislative meeting and go for a public hearing on January 20.