There are rankings that compare states for all kinds of things — what state has the best economy, is the most bike-friendly, whose residents are most miserable, has the best beer. Now, you can compare which states have the best avenues named for them in DC.
There’s a road named for each of the 50 states (and Puerto Rico) in the District. Matt Johnson explains the patterns behind where the avenues are located. You can also learn more about them with this video of someone biking them all.
To create a single ranking among state avenues, Michael Grass at Route Fifty tallied up scores on a number of criteria:
- How many quadrants the avenue passes through
- Whether the state is one of the 13 original colonies that formed the US
- If the road is in the original L’Enfant plan for DC
- If it radiates from the White House or Capitol
- How many important circles and squares it connects
- How many other state streets it crosses
- If it has segments missing or other interruptions along the way
- If it’s not an Avenue (California Street and Ohio Drive)
- If it extends to Maryland with the same name
- How long it is
There’s some overlap between #2, #3, and #4; Pierre L’Enfant assigned the streets radiating from the White House and Capitol to the states in existence at the time, most of which were original colonies, and all of those are naturally in the original L’Enfant Plan. But other original colonies, and states that joined soon after, got other diagonal avenues around the city, particularly on Capitol Hill.
There are exceptions, though: What’s now Potomac Avenue used to be Georgia Avenue until residents of Brightwood lobbied to rename Brightwood Avenue for the state. As Matt wrote, “They had hoped to curry favor with senator Augustus Bacon, but he promptly died, and never had a chance to affect the fortunes of these suburban pioneers.” Still, it helped Georgia Avenue get more points, since it now qualifies for points for going to Maryland, and for being really long, while losing out on being in the L’Enfant City (it’s 7th Street south of Florida).
Here are the results:
As a native of Massachusetts, I’m pleased that my state comes out on top, being really long, crossing a lot of other state avenues, passing through three quadrants and Maryland, being in the L’Enfant plan and an original colony, and topping the list of important circles and squares with a whopping 13 (Westmoreland Circle, Wesley Circle, Ward Circle, Observatory Circle, Sheridan Circle, Dupont Circle, Scott Circle, Thomas Circle, Mt. Vernon Square, Columbus Circle, Stanton Park, Lincoln Park, and Randle Circle).
California Street, on the other hand, is a four-block street in Adams Morgan that’s even shorter than nearby Wyoming Avenue and doesn’t even get to be an Avenue. On Matt Johnson’s post, commenter Mike (not Michael Grass) wrote,
California Ave. (previously named Oakland Ave. and, before that, Prospect Ave. [or St.; it depends on the map and subdivision you look at]) was changed to T Street in Oct. 1905 when the Board of Commissioners renamed the streets in section 1 of the Permanent System of Highways. Residents on the street complained, and it was changed back in 1906, but only to California St. because the commissioners felt it was not wide or straight enough to be an avenue.
The road’s stature definitely does not reflect the importance of the state with which it shares a name (being far less significant a street than almost any other state-named street, period). But Massachusetts definitely is the best.