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Major Ogden streets have presidential ring

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Washington Boulevard in Ogden is named for George Washington. Seventeen of the city's streets are named for U.S. presidents.

Washington Boulevard in Ogden is named for George Washington. Seventeen of the city’s streets are named for U.S. presidents.

Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News

OGDEN — History buffs have no problem getting around Ogden.

After all, some of the major streets in Ogden have a presidential flair.

Seventeen of Ogden's main north-south streets are named after U.S. presidents. Knowing them — and their order — can help you find your way around town.

We're talking Washington Boulevard as the city's center thoroughfare. Going east, the full block streets advance in order to the 15th president, James Buchanan.

Drop back down to west of Washington Boulevard and there are two more presidential streets, Lincoln and Grant.

"We have had people comment about our streets being named after the presidents and generally people think that's kind of cool," Ogden Mayor Matthew Godfey said. "I'm not sure how much it helps people find their place around because that requires a knowledge of the presidents in their order, and I don't know of many that have that ability. I think its worked in the reverse for many of us that live here. The street names help us learn who the presidents were in order."

Juanita Taylor, 81, is a lifelong resident of Ogden and lives on her namesake street — Taylor Avenue. "I recall memorizing the presidents when I was young," she said. "That's stuck with me."

She said it still helps her find her way around town and occasionally her grown children, who also learned the names, too. But she's not so sure the rising generations know anything of the legacy of Ogden's streets, like she did, when he was in school.

Ogden isn't alone in presidential street-naming. Other U.S. cities, including Kennewick, Wash., Hollywood, Fla., Trenton, N.J., Alcoa, Tenn., and others also have it in place. But it's a rarity in Utah.

Noticeably missing from Ogden's streets is a Johnson Avenue, for the 17th President, Andrew Johnson. Why he's absent is not made clear in the history books. However, perhaps it was because Johnson was appointed, not elected president and/or because he was the only president to be impeached.

Also, no continuation of presidents after Grant have been added to Ogden's streets over the years.

But Ogden's presidential streets weren't always named after the top American leader. Originally, some of Ogden's north-south streets were named after prominent leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormon pioneers settled Ogden, and like Salt Lake City, LDS names dominated.

For example, Washington Boulevard was originally Main Street. Lincoln was Franklin Street, for Franklin D. Richards; and Grant Avenue was Young Street, for Brigham Young. Also, Jefferson Avenue used to be Smith Street, for Joseph Smith, the founder of the LDS Church.

Why did the name changes happen?

It was an attempt to "Americanize" Ogden, according to "A History of Weber County," by Richard C. Roberts and Richard W. Sadler. The first non-Mormon mayor, Fred J. Kiesel (1889-91), convinced the city council to rename Ogden's streets at a meeting April 5, 1889.

The focal point was likely the rivalry between the Mormons and non-Mormons in Ogden at the time. Ogden had a bigger power struggle going on then than Salt Lake City did, because of its "Junction City" status as a railroad hub that attracted many more non-Mormons to the area.

However, even some non-LDS oriented names were changed. Spring Street, Pearl Street and Greer Street also vanished and were replaced by presidential titles.

The only north-south street name left intact was Wall Avenue. It was named for the wall of an 1855 pioneer fort that existed there and extended east to today's Madison Avenue and went from today's 21st to 28th streets. The wall was 8 feet high and cost $40,000, to its end of being just half-complete.

In later years, the city added Pierce and Buchanan as the city's roads extended to the foothills.

Kiesel also got the City Council to allow for more city growth and re-number the east-west configuration at the same time. Previous to 1889, First Street ran along the north side of the LDS Tabernacle block and Second Avenue was on the south.

These boundaries were greatly extended and the original First Street became 21st Street.

Kiesel cared about roads, though, and set up a poll tax that required all men aged 20-50, to work one day a year on the streets or else pay a $3 fee.

He also started Ogden's first uniform house numbering system and required all builders in town to have permits. He was keen on a separation of church and state and got a law approved that made it illegal for any city residents to use a church meetinghouse and a school building, building too.

Ogden's Grant Avenue and 24th Street were both essentially bogs. In the mid-1880s, loads of gravel were brought in to improve Ogden's streets.

The city's first concrete sidewalks came in 1889. The first Ogden street paved was 25th Street, from Washington to Wall, in 1893 at the cost of $100,000.

E-mail: lynn@desnews.com