Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lindbergh St. or Lindberg St.?

In December 1926, a prominent local farmer named Edwin Duryea sold his 35 acre farm bounded by Woodfield Rd. and Hempstead Ave. to the east and west, and Bedell Terrace and Chestnut St. to the north and south, to a development company that was to build the homes and businesses upon that parcel. Edwin Duryea had lived in West Hempstead for years and was instrumental in the formation of its public institutions such as its fire dept. and school district. The new development would come to be known as Plymouth Colony, a commemoration of the 300th anniversary of the famed settlement of that name, celebrated only a few years earlier. (The colonial home off the northeast corner of Spruce St. and Hempstead Ave was originally built as the headquarters of the development, and for a time the developers showcased some artifacts from the original Plymouth Colony at that location).

The main street cutting through the new tract would be named Plymouth St. and a cross street would be called Colony St. To honor Edwin Duryea's maternal grandfather, William B. Bedell, who also lived nearby and tended the farm, the street forming the northern border would be named Bedell Terrace. The names of the four remaining streets running east-west would be taken from existing roads which the new cross-streets would be extending; Sycamore, Linden, Spruce and Wilson (Chestnut St. already ran through from Hempstead Ave. to Woodfield Rd.)

Then in May 1927, as the Plymouth development began selling off individual plots to prospective buyers, an incident occurred which changed aviation history. An army reserve pilot named Charles Lindbergh became the first man to fly solo, non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean, taking off from nearby Roosevelt Field, Long Island, and landing 33 hours later in Paris, France. The feat instantly made Lindbergh a huge American hero. In the days and months following the flight, Lindbergh was showered with parades and honors throughout the country.

In West Hempstead, the Plymouth Plan developers were so enamored by Lindbergh's accomplishment that they took the street they designated as Linden St. and decided to name it Lindbergh St. instead. On June 26th, a crowd of 2,000 people came out on a Sunday afternoon to witness a dedication ceremony in honor of Lindbergh at the corner of Plymouth St. A bronze propeller upon which Lindbergh's name was engraved was erected at the intersection, while an airplane made a special flyover to scatter rose petals over the street and the neighborhood .

Fast forward to today. If you look at the three street signs for Lindbergh St., you will notice something peculiar - the 'h' at the end of the name 'Lindbergh' is missing. In fact, the official spelling for the registered name of the street both at the County and the Postal Service is 'Lindberg'. Two of the street signs indicate that there was once an 'h' but that is was rubbed out (look closely at the picture below of the sign at the intersection with Plymouth St.). An examination of the County's property cards of homes along the street indicates a split - some of them have it Lindbergh while others have it Lindberg.

What happened to the 'h'? Here are two possible theories.

1) In a choice between Lindbergh and Lindberg, the more common and intuitive spelling is Lindberg. After time, people simply no longer identified the street name with its namesake and so the 'h' was eventually dropped.

2) It is well known that much of the luster of Lindbergh's reputation was tarnished in the 1930's after he made known his pacifist and protectionist views. His controversial statements, his frequent trips to Germany, his belief in Eugenics, and his resignation from his commission from the US Armed Forces made him considered by many as a Nazi sympathiser and by others as downright anti-Semitic. He was a leader of the America First Committee, which advocated that the USA stay out of the war in Europe. After Pearl Harbor, when the US was drawn into WWII, Lindbergh somewhat changed his tune and sought to reinstate his commission as Colonel in the Army Air Corps. But it was too late. The Roosevelt Administration denied his request, questioning where his true patriotic sympathies lied. (FDR once remarked to a cabinet member that, "if I should die tomorrow, I want you to know this, I am absolutely convinced Lindbergh is a Nazi.")

Though he still had many fans, it's clear that by the time WWII rolled around, Charles Lindbergh fell out of favor with many Americans. Perhaps neighbors who lived on the WH street named after him no longer wanted to be associated with the famous aviator, and so the 'h' was dropped.


HDS said...

Surly if the spelling of the street name was officially changed at some point, there would be official records to that effect?

Jacob said...

HDS, I would agree with you. That's why I don't think it was ever officially changed, but just rather evolved into Lindberg.

HDS said...

But as you say, the registered spelling is different than the famous pilot's name. Might there be a record of that change? What ever happened to the propeller?