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Nov. 26, 2022

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Clark Asks: Revealing the history of ’hoods

Neighborhood names can help tell the story of area, open a window to the past

By , Columbian Staff Writer
5 Photos
Local historian Pat Jollota admires one of the few remaining scarlet hawthorn trees on Franklin Street in the Hough neighborhood. The trees were planted in 1941 after residents formed a neighborhood group because they were upset the city knocked down older trees while widening Franklin Street. Jollota said things like the two remaining hawthorn trees and neighborhood names are important to preserve so there is a connection to local history.
Local historian Pat Jollota admires one of the few remaining scarlet hawthorn trees on Franklin Street in the Hough neighborhood. The trees were planted in 1941 after residents formed a neighborhood group because they were upset the city knocked down older trees while widening Franklin Street. Jollota said things like the two remaining hawthorn trees and neighborhood names are important to preserve so there is a connection to local history. Photo Gallery

Pat Jollota’s love of names started while she was living in Los Angeles.

She was fascinated by the city’s original name: El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciúncula, which roughly translates to “the Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of Porciúncula,” according to the city’s official website.

Jollota was unsure about the word “Porciúncula,” and anytime she asked, she was told it was the name of a nearby river. She wanted to know why the river was named that, and eventually learned that it was where St. Francis was born, and it translates to “small piece of land,” she said.

Jollota and her husband moved to Vancouver in 1982, because they were disappointed that Los Angeles wasn’t preserving its history.

“We were looking for a place where there was history,” she said. “I was looking for work preserving that history.”

Since coming to Vancouver, Jollota has worked at the old museum at the Grant House, the Clark County Historical Museum, was elected to Vancouver City Council and was named Clark County’s First Citizen in 2012. She also kept up with her love of names.

“(Names) tell you the history,” she said. “People will name things after themselves or where they came from.”

In our most recent round of Clark Asks voting, 66 percent of you wanted us to answer Mary Elkin’s question: “Where do the neighborhoods get their names? Image Neighborhood, I learned, and it was interesting! Almost no one in our neighborhood knows.”

Perhaps no one in the county could help answer that question better than Jollota. She literally wrote the book on names around Clark County. She wrote the first edition in 1993 for the county historical museum’s booth at the Clark County Fair, and an updated version in 2002. She said she has another updated version of the book, but no publisher to put it out.

Naming neighborhoods

As for the Image neighborhood, Jollota said there’s a story about how residents wanted it named that to help improve the image children in the neighborhood had of themselves.

“That’s utter nonsense,” she said.

As Jollota tells it, the name stretches back to Lewis and Clark, who saw a Native American canoe with the images of a man and a bear carved onto the canoe, which was at what is now known as Hayden Island. They called the island Image Canoe Island, and the nearby community was referred to as Image, which stuck, even if Image Canoe Island didn’t.

Her favorite neighborhood name is Bennington, although Jollota has some bias there: she named the neighborhood.

“I pat myself on the back,” she said. “It’s a pretty name. It’s a classy name.”

Jollota said the original plan was to name the area something with “Fisher” in the name, and she was sick of names with Fisher in them. She did some research, and discovered the area was homesteaded by two brothers from Kentucky named Bennington. She learned they built a stockade for neighbors to hide in case of an attack.

“What more neighborly thing can you do than build a shelter for your neighbors?” Jollota said.

Another favorite is Felida. According to Jollota and The Columbian archives, the name Powley was suggested to honor local resident, F. Powley, and the post office denied that name and suggested “Polly.” C.C. Lewis, the postmaster, thought that sounded like the name of a parrot, so he suggested they name the neighborhood for his cat, and submitted the names Thomas, his cat’s name, as well as Tomcat and Felidae, which is Latin for cat. From that point, one version of the story is that post officials simply spelled the word wrong, while another goes that post officials just liked the name Felida.

While not named for a cat, Arnada is another neighborhood with a unique name. According to Jollota, the neighborhood was originally called Vancouver Heights, but that was changed by a developer, who came up with Arnada by taking letters from the names of a few friends and creating a word.

Residents in Minnehaha have The Columbian to thank, or blame, for their neighborhood’s name. Columbian editor S.D. Dennis used the name, meaning “laughing water,” to describe Burnt Bridge Creek as a reference to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “Song of Hiawatha,” according to The Columbian archives. Local legend says that Burnt Bridge Creek was formally Bridge Creek until the bridge burned down.

Some names have stuck for decades, even after original plans for those areas fizzled out. Sifton is named for a dentist who hoped to build a major city, perhaps even larger than Vancouver. Dr. John Sifton came from Portland and had it platted in about 1910, but ended up losing “a lot of money,” as he told a patient in 1920, according to Columbian archives. Bagley Downs was named for Bert Bagley Jr., who built a race track on his dairy farm at Fourth Plain Boulevard and Falk Road, where the Clark County Fair was held until 1928. The fair moved, but Bagley continued to race horses and eventually dogs.

Names for landmarks

Current Clark County Historical Museum Executive Director Brad Richardson said it can be hard to pinpoint just exactly when a neighborhood was named and why it got that name, as residents in a community usually started calling their neighborhood by a name long before it was officially recognized by the government. Around Vancouver, a lot of neighborhoods take their name from nearby landmarks.

“Schools have influence,” he said. “Agricultural references are really prominent.”

That’s how the city got neighborhoods such as Carter Park, Columbia River and Fruit Valley. Neighborhoods are also frequently named after early settlers or developers, such as DuBois Park, as the neighborhood and park were named for 1950s developer Robert DuBois, who donated land to the city for the park, according to The Columbian archives.

One of the more well known neighborhoods named for a historical figure is the Hough neighborhood, named for Paddy Hough, a teacher who worked across the region and saved up money over the course of his life to create a scholarship fund. Hough is remembered presently not only through the neighborhood name, but also through the Hough Foundation, which supports educational programs and projects, and the annual Paddy Hough Parade. In 2003, the entire neighborhood was placed on the Washington Historic Register, the only such neighborhood in the county with that honor.

Residents pick names

Neighborhood names are chosen by residents, according to Judi Bailey, neighborhoods coordinator for the city of Vancouver.

“The process for coming up with a name is different with each association, and ultimately the neighbors will come up with several possibilities and vote on the name that they feel is the best fit,” she wrote in an email. “Some choose identifiers within their neighborhood like Fruit Valley, formed in 1978, or Old Evergreen Highway, (formed in) 2004. Some choose names that identify where they sit in relation to the city, like Northwest, (formed in) 1984, and Vancouver Heights, also formed in 1984.”

There are 67 recognized neighborhoods in Vancouver, Bailey said, adding that the first official neighborhood association in the city was Arnada, forming in December 1976, followed closely by Shumway in January 1977. The most recent addition to Vancouver is East Mill Plain, which was recognized in 2017.

There were neighborhood groups before the city recognized neighborhood associations. Jollota said one of the earliest groups she researched was a group in what is now the Hough neighborhood that formed over anger at the city after the city cut down some trees while widening Franklin Street in 1941. The group got the city to plant scarlet hawthorn trees along Franklin.

A recent walk down the street showed that two of the trees are still standing on the 2400 block of Franklin. Jollota couldn’t believe they were still there. Neither could Joe DeLong, who lives in a house near the last two standing hawthorn trees. His family bought the house in the early 1970s, and he remembers the trees, which are known for pink flowers that eventually fall and cause a mess, running along both sides of the street. About 20 years ago, he started seeing the trees come down, and the two he lives near are nearing their end, he said. He sometimes prunes the top of them to be safe, as he’s worried a heavy snow or ice storm could topple the old trees.

Jollota said she’s driven by the two trees probably “thousands of times” and never once realized that those must be the trees from the 1941 story. She was thrilled at the discovery and couldn’t stop smiling. For Jollota, the trees are another connection to Vancouver’s history, just like all those neighborhood names she has spent decades documenting and preserving.

Things like that are key to understanding the city’s history, Jollota said.

“Listen to names,” she said. “They’ll tell you what happened.”

Bear Gulch and Pucker Brush among names that weren’t meant to be

While there are plenty of neighborhoods, parks and communities around Clark County that have had the same name for more than a century, the county’s history is full of names no longer around.

Some names were changed, some never formally adopted, and some were communities that disappeared over time.

Here’s a look at some of the lost names of Clark County:

Hazel Dell was almost known as Bear Gulch. In 1886, the local school sponsored a contest to name the area north of Vancouver, and out of the two favorites of Hazel Dell and Bear Gulch, residents went with Hazel Dell, according to The Columbian archives.

After the Civil War, Union soldiers settled in the area now known as Ridgefield. To show their loyalty, they called the area Union Ridge, which is now the name of an elementary school in the city.

Settlers found rolling hills and mighty trees in this spot north of Battle Ground in the early 1880s, and when they went up to one of the trees, they realized it was swarming with bees, thus giving the area its name: Bee Tree. The neighborhood had a school, which was eventually absorbed into Battle Ground.

Grass Valley in Camas used to be known as American Valley, according to some files in the research library of the Clark County Historical Museum.

The intersection of Northeast 132nd Avenue and Northeast 249th Street, Battle Ground, was settled by Irish immigrants and named Dublin. According to The Columbian archives: “It took years for the new Dubliners to save $380 toward the construction of their own church, the Sacred Heart of Mary Immaculate, in 1877. And even that was $75 short of the total construction cost, a whopping $455, leaving the assigned parish priest to cough up the difference out of his own pocket.” The road segment that bends northwest toward 254th Street at that intersection is now known as Dublin Road.

Strawberry fields might be forever, but the area in Camas that was called Strawberry Knoll had its name changed to Prune Hill in 1883 after the planting of 350 prune trees, according to The Columbian archives.

While there has been some disagreement over the years just who exactly the Burton neighborhood was named for, we can definitely say the neighborhood is not known as Pucker Brush, one of the original ideas for the neighborhood name. Burton won out over Pucker Brush by a vote of 15-14, which is just another reminder on the importance of voting in local elections. “That’s another one I regret losing,” said Pat Jollota, former Vancouver city councilor and local historian. “I would’ve loved to have people come to council and complain about traffic on Pucker Brush Avenue.”

When Adolph Sauvie opened a store and bus depot at 219th Street and 10th Avenue, north of Vancouver in 1930, he was told by the bus company the area needed a name. He decided on Duluth to honor his hometown of Duluth, Minn.

There was a historic community founded on the south bank of the Lewis River known as Etna. While the community didn’t last, there is still a Northeast Etna Road in Woodland.

The Livingston area near Camp Bonneville was sometimes referred to as Shanghai, according to files from the county history museum. The Livingston Cemetery was once known as the Shanghai Cemetery, named for nearby Shanghai Creek, according to The Columbian archives.

Bachelor Island might sound like a reality dating show, but it got its name for the three unmarried men who owned the island, which is now part of the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge. According to Jollota, the later-named Lady Island was just a coincidence, as it was named after a local family.

While it can feel like an accomplishment to get to Hockinson, you wouldn’t be the first person to say, “Eureka” upon arriving at the area southeast of Battle Ground. Eureka was the original name for the town.

Columbian Staff Writer

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