Saturday, August 19, 2023

Still Life with Robin: August 25 Is Your Deadline to Vote! (in the Rename Dave Thomas Circle Election)

by Peggy Robin

OK, so it's not a vote for statehood. Or for a Congressional representative who is anything more than a non-voting delegate. Or for anything of any consequence whatsoever. But here in DC we don't get a lot of chances to vote for things that matter, so we must take what we can get. And right now you are being asked to pick your favorite among the five proposed names for the newly created traffic islands -- three related but unconnected green spaces -- around the intersections of New York Avenue, Florida Avenue, and First Street NE. It's the confluence of streets that used to have a Wendy's sitting alone in the center and was therefore commonly, and jokingly, referred to by the name of the fast food chain's founder, as "Dave Thomas Circle"

Sound familiar? Maybe it's because I wrote about the renaming contest back in April, when members of the public were invited to submit nominations for renaming the redesigned space. That column has all the rich details, the history, the drama....blah-blah-blah -- see:

Now we're down to the heart of it. Five names have been chosen as the finalists. For more about the history and background, go to:

You can vote for....
  1. Douglass Crossing – Survey respondents suggesting this name emphasized the important contributions of Frederick Douglass, social reformer and abolitionist, who was a District resident;
  2. Mamie “Peanut” Johnson Plaza –This name pays homage to the first woman to ever pitch in the Negro Leagues. She was a longtime resident of Northeast DC, a graduate of Long Branch High School, and a youth sports advocate;
  3. People’s Plaza – This option invokes the name of the adjacent, still-standing former warehouse for the DMV-headquartered People’s Drug Store, predecessor to CVS, and is also a double entendre, emphasizing the fact that this new public space belongs to the people of the District;
  4. Three Stars Plaza – This option emphasizes the three stars that are prominent in the DC flag and also reflects the three separate, green public spaces that will be delivered through the intersection redesign project;
  5. Tiber Gateway – Tiber Creek, now diverted underground, ran near First Street NE and was important to the early development of DC. Referencing the creek in this name would help connect DC back to the natural characteristics and resources that made its very existence possible.
[These descriptions are copied from the NoMa BID website at ]

Having a hard time making up your mind? Would you like a Voter's Guide? You've come to the right place! Here's my quick take on the five candidates:

1. Douglass Crossing. Haven't we got enough Douglass references in DC already? He's got his house turned into a National Museum, he's got a wowser of a bridge named for him, he's got his statue in Statuary Hall in the US Capitol, and then there's the plan to turn DC into a 51st State called Douglass Commonwealth. The man doesn't need these three strips of grass, on top of all that! On the other hand, the designation of these three separate strips as a "Crossing" makes a lot of sense. So if you believe there's no such thing as too much Frederick Douglass, or if you just want to call this place a "Crossing," vote for #1.

2. Mamie "Peanut" Johnson Plaza. That's some mouthful! Realistically, who's going to call it that, if this choice wins? You just know it will be shortened to "Peanut Plaza". Perhaps if they put up a statue of Mamie "Peanut" Johnson in the largest of the three strips of grass, people would learn a little baseball history. But my vote would be to give the lady a statue at  the new NLB Museum in Kansas City, MO. As for the second part - calling these three discontinuous parcels of land a "plaza" -- nope!

3. People's Plaza. Anything that reminds us that the giant corporate entity called CVS was once a nice little local chain of drugstores named "People's" has got to be viewed as a good thing! Even though it's tied to that not terribly accurate noun "Plaza," there's a lot to like about the "People's Plaza" name -- unless, of course, you can't help thinking about all those Soviet-era bureaus and puppet governments that used call themselves, "People's" this or that -- when they were anything but! I could go either way on this one, but fortunately, I think the next option presents a better choice.

4. Three Stars Plaza. "Three Stars" stand for the three stars on the DC flag, and they stand for the three patches of land that make up this non-"Plaza". It's easy to remember, not too cutesy, nothing cringe-y about it. It's got my vote!

5. Tiber Gateway. Not sure who would go for this one, or why. There's no evidence of Tiber Creek at this location anymore, and what would it be the Gateway" to?. It's a big "Huh?" I have a hard time understanding how this random name could have made the top five. 

Now are you ready to vote?

I will be back to report the winner once the voting closes and the results are in!

Update: The winner is: Mamie "Peanut" Johnson Plaza.

Still Life with Robin is posted on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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