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The Political Pressure behind Renaming Georgia Avenue in DC

Discover the political pressures behind the renaming of Georgia Avenue in Washington, DC. From Senator Augustus Octavius Bacon to Senator John Coit Spooner, learn about the grand plan of L'Enfant and the objections of the local communities.
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Okay, it’s not a huge mystery why some of our major streets are named after states in the Union. This was part of the grand plan of L’Enfant, to have grand boulevards at diagonals, all across our city.

Georgia Ave. street sign
Georgia Ave. street sign

What you probably didn’t know is that the location of some of these avenues have changes over the years due to political pressures from members of Congress representing those states. You may be surprised to find out that Georgia Avenue is one of these.

In the early 20th century, Georgia Avenue was down in Southeast and Southwest Washington, the road we now call Potomac Avenue. Senator Augustus Octavius Bacon from the Peach State (probably related to Kevin “six-degrees of separation” Bacon) was horrified at the terrible conditions of the road and the surrounding area that he pushed to have the name removed and affixed to a street more befitting his state’s image.

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1903 map of Georgia Avenue intersecting Pennsylvania Avenue in SE
1903 map of Georgia Avenue intersecting Pennsylvania Avenue in SE

In 1906, he pushed for Brightwood Avenue (also known as 7th Street Extended) to be renamed Georgia Avenue. His proposal did not pan out.

In 1907, the Senator from Wisconsin, John Coit Spooner, again proposed changing the name of Brightwood Avenue to Georgia Avenue, but faced opposition from residents in the neighborhoods of Park View and Brightwood. below is a short article from May 3rd, 1908, covering a community meeting, protesting the name change.

The Park View Citizens’ Association held its regular meeting on Friday night at the hall of the Whitney Avenue Christian Church, Park road. There was a large attendance. An emphatic protest was made against the change of name of Brightwood avenue to Georgia avenue, and the officers were directed to present objections to the committees of the House and the Senate.

Nobody likes change. Remember when Rep. Bonilla from Texas tried to rename 16th St. Ronald Reagan Boulevard? Wow. Crisis averted.

Eventually, Congress passed the 1909 appropriations bill, and sufficient lobbying efforts succeeded in having the name change included. Amendment 112 would officially change the name of Brightwood Avenue to Georgia Avenue and the old Georgia Avenue would become Potomac Avenue.

Georgia Avenue in 1911 (old Brightwood Avenue)
Georgia Avenue in 1911 (old Brightwood Avenue)
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