Takoma Park residents debate renaming of streets named after Civil War generals

WASHINGTON — What’s in a name? Controversy, if it’s the name of a Civil War general.

The city of Takoma Park, Maryland, is considering getting rid of the street names of Civil War generals who fought on both sides. Residents are being asked to weigh in on the merits of Grant, Sheridan and Sherman avenues, as well as avenues named for Generals Lee and Jackson.

At a public hearing, many residents stepped to the defense of Union generals while calling for expunging the names of Confederate generals.

“I feel fine about having a Grant, Sherman and Sheridan Street. I feel quite unhappy about having a Robert E. Lee Street in this town,” said Bob Gulden, who lives on Willow Avenue.

Other residents told a city panel — the Commemoration Commission — that it would be a hardship for residents who live on the streets whose names would be changed. They would be forced to change land titles, tax and medical records, in addition to postal addresses, residents said.

“I think it would be a terribly unfair burden to the people who live on these streets,” said Martha Feldman, who lives on Jackson Avenue.

Other residents stood in opposition to changing any of the names.

“Changing the street name feels like whitewashing history,” said Justus Swan, a resident of Sherman Avenue and a student at Takoma Park Middle School. “Embracing our past is how we grow as a nation and sustain our democracy.”

Some residents dismissed concerns about any inconvenience the name changes might cause or the loss of history.

“Changing historical names happens all the time. I spent a bunch of time in Russia, and there are a lot of streets there that used to be called Stalin Avenue and Lenin Avenue,” Gulden said.

The Commemoration Commission is expected to make a recommendation about street name changes to the City Council in February, and the council could take up the matter in March.

Takoma Park residents are invited to continue submitting public comments online.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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