Monday, July 20, 2009

How Renaming Iconic Places
Is Much Harder Than It Looks

Did you know that Chicago's Sears Tower has just been renamed, to the Willis Tower? Sorry, but I won't be calling it that, nor will many others, apparently. The same goes for Cleveland's Terminal Tower (which has supposedly been part of Tower City for years) and Jacobs Field (officially renamed Progressive Field after the naming rights were sold). And quick, Clevelanders, what's the name of that shapely skyscraper at the east end of Public Square? It's officially known as 200 Public Square, a name which has barely pierced the public's consciousness. To me and most others it will always be the BP Building. Okay, enough about my stubborn refusal to update with the times. We'd love to hear about your favorite places with new names you refuse to recognize. Double credit for stories from those who live outside the region.

20 Comments:

At 1:06 PM, Blogger Jeff Hershberger said...

I have an example of a building that actually was renamed, but not in the intended way. Comiskey Park, in Chicago, is the home of the White Sox. In 2003 it was renamed "U.S. Cellular Field", which tripped off the tongue like a loose tooth.

Some Chicagoans took to calling it "the cell", but my favorite name was "the Joan". You may recall that Joan Cusack was the spokesperson for U.S. Cellular, but you might not have known that the Cusack family are Chicago natives. Unintended consequences....

 
At 1:11 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

That made me laugh. But it's a great example of how no one with a brain wants to call any otherwise beloved place by the name of a soulless corporation. The idiots who sell these naming rights should understand that. I know not everyone (and quite understandably) liked the name Jacobs Field, because it was named for a rapacious (and recently deceased) real estate developer who happened to own the Indians. But at least it was a person's name. And it had rather a nice ring to it, especially after nearly everyone shortened it to The Jake. Just seemed to fit the place and the town.

Anyway, since you live in this region but have supplied a nice example from another, I'd say you're due for triple credit, Jeff. Or perhaps I'll spring for your first beer next time we meet in a pub.

 
At 2:22 PM, Blogger Kim said...

I never did embrace the "Gund Arena" (always sounded like something I would prefer to not catch), so I suppose "The Q" is a welcome change. But I suspect you refer to older more iconic places. BP you say? I'm thinking the Sohio Building, myself.

 
At 2:27 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Funny you mention Gund, because that's a similar dynamic to its next-door neighbor. Like Jacobs Field, it carried the name of the team's owner, and was later changed to the name of a corporation. So I feel the same way about that one. And thanks for mentioning what I should have stipulated: that the BP building was actually erected before BP became Sohio (short of Standard Oil of Ohio, and one of the remnants of the Supreme Court's 1911 decision to break up the Standard Oil empire into 34 companies). You're a hardy--even venerable--Clevelander if your memory goes back that far. Good for you, Kim.

 
At 2:29 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Sorry, this was a reminder that I should always first hit preview before posting any comment. I meant to say before Sohio became part of BP America, not the other way around. And also meant to say "short for Standard Oil of Ohio..."

 
At 3:22 PM, Blogger Kim said...

I actually had just moved back to Ohio when they were building the tower that would eclipse the Terminal Tower... the Sohio building. It remains one of my favorite memories of returning to the town I called home with the exception of a few years in HS.

 
At 3:32 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

In my mind, nothing can ever eclipse the Terminal Tower, not even the Key Tower, which is considerably taller and came later. And just to clarify for non-Clevelanders and non-architectural/Cleveland history buffs, the Sohio/BP building was initially going to be taller than the Terminal, but after much sturm & drang and soul-searching, its developers decided to keep it just a pinch below (about 50 feet shorter), bowing to sentimental feelings of folks who loved the older landmark (a fairly rare thing for developers, no?). But some years later, Society Tower (later renamed Key Tower) blasted through that barrier, and is about 200 feet taller. This great website (which I believe I've mentioned in the past) is pretty authoritative on this subject:

www.clevelandskyscrapers.com

 
At 6:17 PM, Blogger Kim said...

There was a man I met as a child, who built an entire model out of balsa wood of the Terminal Tower, Higbee's building and Stouffer's (but it was called something else then?) He also made his own violins. He was a friend of my father's friend sort of thing. From that afternoon on, I was entralled with the cityscape of my hometown. (If I recall he was at one time featured in Ripley's Believe it Or Not). If dad was computer literate, I would ask him to scan the photos. I may still try.

 
At 6:23 PM, Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

This is not really a comment about renaming things as a comment about how the public often refuses to acknowledge a name in the first place. A few years ago they built a new bridge across the Clyde and before the thing had been even completed the public had christened it the "Squinty Bridge" and that's what it will be forever more. I had to google "squinty bridge" to find out what it's real name is, apparently it called the Clyde Arc.

 
At 6:59 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Kim, I like that story about how you absorbed a love of the cityscape as a kid. That's the source of most of our great loves. And Jim, that's an amazingly wonderful example of what I'm talking about. You've gone me one better, in fact, by pointing to how average citizens gave their own name to a landmark from the beginning. I'm going to give some thought to similar examples from this region and this country, but none come to mind immediately. Please don't hesitate to provide help, anyone.

 
At 7:31 PM, Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

There's also 30 St Mary Axe in London known as "The Gherkin", the Clyde Auditorium, again in Glasgow, known as "The Armadillo" and the Monument of Light in Dublin known simply as "The Spike".

 
At 9:11 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I like The Spike, and had never come across it. Not sure it's like anything I've seen anywhere, which is unusual. It makes me want to visit Dublin that much more.

 
At 4:46 PM, Blogger Britta said...

On the sports arena front, Candlestick Park was changed to Monster Park. Coming in to San Francisco in a taxi, I thought it was some sort of kids' attraction, but the driver set me right with the dot.com sponsor reference. They pulled their money, however, and now it's Candlestick again.

In college, our dining halls were run by Marriott food services, but every student still called it Saga, which was the former, lower quality food servicer whose reputation was truly apocryphal ... I think they had not been the vendor for the university for at least a decade. And the freshman week edition of the newspaper taught everyone new on campus what slang like Saga meant and encouraged them to keep using it.

 
At 10:12 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Boy, did your mention of Saga as a college cafeteria contractor bring back memories, Britta. They were also the provider at my college, and thus naturally the butt of a billion jokes (such as the ubiquitous bathroom graffiti: "flush twice; it's a long way to Saga"). Unlike most of my friends, I didn't mind the food, though, and was just thrilled by the chance to return several times for another helping of ravioli, or whatever they happened to be dishing up that night. And in any event I was also probably more focused on our prime sport (girl-watching) than I was on the food. My male buddies were in the habit of all sitting on the same side of the table, facing toward the optimal scanning field, and one guy would even pretend to be reading a newspaper, except that he had cut two large holes in it for female-gazing. Ah, the good old days...

 
At 11:33 PM, Anonymous jase said...

With no disrespect to Martin Luther King Jr. MLK will always be Liberty Blvd. in my mind. It is the best piece of road in Cleveland.

 
At 10:59 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I've heard others say the same thing, Jase. It just depends on what you grew up with and got comfortable with in terms of names. By the time I was aware of that street, the new name was already in place. It does remind me of an earlier and much larger round of street name changes in downtown Cleveland, which took place in the early 1900s, when the north-south streets were numbered. Thus Erie St. became E. 9th, Bank St. became W. 6th, Case St. became E. 40th, etc. I'm quite sure there was an uproar over that at the time. But after a few decades (to say nothing of an entire century), almost no one would remember the earlier names. Time has a way of winning out in the end.

 
At 12:20 PM, Anonymous Sherri Henkin said...

OK - I don't live outside the region, but the reference is outside Cleveland. NY: After JFK was killed, Idyllwild Airport was renamed JFK Int'l Airport. (OK, so I'm dating myself; so be it!)

 
At 12:23 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Hell, if you don't date yourself, Sherri, who will? Funny you mention that one, because I happened to be watching the movie The Right Stuff the other night, the one about the early NASA program, and was reminded how Cape Canaveral became Cape Kennedy. Has it now switched back? Someone help me out there...

 
At 8:15 PM, Anonymous Sherri Henkin said...

Yes, John, it's now Cape Canaveral. And we can even view the launch schedule: http://www.nasa.gov/missions/highlights/schedule.html!

 
At 9:35 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Sherri, the only thing cooler than having you as a friend and valued reader is now having your input as a volunteer researcher. I happened to post that last comment at a moment when I couldn't take the extra minute or so to double-check that fact. Thanks for helping me out. Much appreciated.

 

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