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Corpus Christi History by Murphy Givens
Corpus Christi History is published Wednesdays. Murphy Givens also sits on the Caller-Times editorial board and can be contacted at email@example.com
Wednesday, June 30, 1999
Corpus Christi's street names
Last week I wrote about the origins of some of Corpus Christi street names. Many of the downtown streets were named by the city's founder, H.L. Kinney, who laid them out in 1852, the same year he held the Lone Star Fair in Corpus Christi.
Kinney liked animal names, in Spanish and English. Some of the first streets he named were Leopard, Buffalo, Antelope, Lobo (wolf), Zorro (fox), Oso (bear), Mestina (mustang). There used to a Tiger Street, which intersected with Leopard on the bluff, but it was later changed to North Broadway. Kinney named streets after Texas Indian tribes - Carancahua, Tancahua, Comanche, Lipan, Waco, and even a Midwestern tribe, Winnebago.
He named a street after a longtime friend who had served him as a spy during the Mexican War - Chipito Sandoval. There is a note in the diary of Ethan Allen Hitchcock, Zachary Taylor's chief of staff, about Chipito. "C.C., 7th Sept., 1845: Yesterday I called on Colonel Kinney with General Taylor, and as I left them I met Chepeta, Kinney's spy, just in from the Rio Grande. He has heard that 3,000 Mexican troops are approaching Matamoros - will reach there in a week.''
After the Kinney street-naming era, officials began naming streets after mayors and prominent businessmen. There was Neal Street, named for the city's first mayor, Benjamin F. Neal, who later served as a Confederate officer during the Civil War.
Doddridge Street was named for Perry Doddridge, the city's first banker and a former mayor. He was the first popularly elected mayor after the Civil War. Staples Street is named for W.N. Staples, who owned a grocery store on Chaparral and was also a co-owner of the big beef packing house on the island at Packery Channel. (There was another large packing house on North Beach - Hall's Packery.) In the 1870s, Staples sold his store and moved to Alice.
Staples south of Six Points, past the outskirts of town, was once called Dump Road. This name is connected to the Ropes Boom. In 1889 and 1890, Col. E.H. Ropes - a developer and self-described "medium of unlimited capital'' - came to Corpus Christi with ambitious plans. Among his many enterprises, he planned to build a railroad to South America, the Corpus Christi and South American Railway Co. The beginning of that rail line was an embankment where ties and other equipment were dumped - hence, Dump Road. The name was changed to South Staples. Santa Fe Street was originally called Alta Vista Road, named for Ropes' 125-room hotel on Ocean Drive, the Alta Vista.
Alameda was once called Last Street.
Some street names were changed and later changed back. In 1912, the City Council changed Tancahua to Pleasant Street and Carancahua to Liberty Street. A year later, the council changed the names back.
Greenwood Drive was once Rabbit Run Road. Some believe Rabbit Run got its name from the era when trolleys operated several lines, or "runs.'' There was a North Beach Run and a Camp Scurry Run. Rabbit Run was located in the area past Morgan, South Port and Segrest where, I guess, there was mostly brush and rabbits. I'm not sure there was a streetcar line out there. The name was changed in the 1960s.
There was long a debate about where Shell Road (now UpRiver Road) got its name. It was thought for many years that it was named after World War I soldiers stationed at Camp Scurry were enlisted to spread oyster shell on the road in 1916 or 1917. But the name goes back further than that, as historican Bill Walraven discovered.
Walraven found an item in the Corpus Christi Star, in 1848, written by John H. Peoples (for whom Peoples Street is named). Peoples wrote that one of the most beautiful drives around could be found "by going up the beach to the old headquarters of General Twiggs, turning at the Rincon, and coming down midway between the hills and the beach. The road, though a natural one, is a little raised above the general surface by a bed of shells and gravel . . . It richly pays to drive over it and view the beautiful bay on the one side and the green hills on the other. The road from New Orleans to the lake cannot compare with it.''
Several street names were changed to accommodate our high schools, such as Battlin' Buc Boulevard, which had been Fisher Street. I used to think we could "blame" (or "credit,'' if you prefer) Ray High School for starting the trend. Ray boosters lobbied the City Council to change Minnesota Street to Texan Trail in 1970. But other schools were first, starting with Tiger Lane for Carroll, Mustang Drive for King, Trojan Drive for Moody and Bear Lane for West Oso.
South Padre Island Drive (a name that makes no sense) originally was Lexington, to go with Saratoga and Yorktown. It would have made more sense to call it Padre Island Drive, but then we would have PID instead of SPID.
(Murphy Givens can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 886-4315. His previous columns can be found on-line at caller.com/mgivens.)
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