Where the Streets Had Old Names: Road Street

This edition of Where the Streets Had Old Names, GM is tackling one of the oddest old street names in Georgetown: Road Street. But sadly he couldn’t get to the bottom of it.

Road Street is what is now known as R St. It became R at the same time the other streets changed over in the 1890s. (Although starting in the 1880s, it was already getting called R St. occasionally.)

But what an odd name. Road Street. What could explain this redundant name?

The first thing to note is that it was called Road Street seemingly from the very beginning. There is an act of the City of Georgetown in 1808 referring to the roadway with this name:

That’s notable because being such a northern street for Georgetown, it was very much the backwoods of the neighborhood at the time.

The earliest maps of Georgetown only have the streets near to the river:

But as early as 1814, a map of Georgetown goes all the way up to Road Street:

The point to take from this is that from early days it had a redundant name. GM speculated that it was perhaps called something-something Road before the town built up to it and it was redubbed a street.

He was given some hope that perhaps there was a deeper name when he read an article from 1934 describing a home near the corner of R and Wisconsin:

If Road Street was originally called North High Road, it would possibly explain the odd name. The problem, however, is that this is the only reference to North High Road that GM could find anywhere. And the fact that Wisconsin Ave. was called High Street, he wonders if the invention of North High Road was simply born out of confusion.

GM’s one hope was to find an old article doing exactly what he’s doing right now, except having been written long ago that the oral history of the street name might have informed it. Sadly, he found none.

The only thing he can offer is just a theory. The term road was often used for byways in the country, particularly when then linked one town to another (think Old Georgetown Road). Street has connotations of city life. Road Street was on the outer edge of Georgetown at the time it was named. While it did not lead out to another town, it was surely more a dusty path than developed street. The name Road Street could possibly have been chosen to convey its country character.

Just a theory.

This one will probably continue to bug GM for a long time. If an answer ever emerges, he will happily share it.


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