As anyone who travels into Lansdale knows, our Borough was named for Phillip Lansdale Fox. He was the chief surveyor for the North Penn Railroad Company. Logically, Lansdale should have been named Jenkintown after the Jenkins family that donated the land for the train station, but there was already a Jenkintown further south. I can understand naming a town for someone’s last name, and to a lesser extent, I can understand naming a town for someone’s first name, but naming a town for someone’s middle name seems a bit odd. If I may allow myself a bit of creative license, I would like to imagine a few folks sitting around a table at the local tavern trying to figure out what to name this new outpost north of Philadelphia. Knowing that a drink or two helps prime the creative pump, I would also like to think that Mr. Fox lost a bet– or won a bet– and that his middle name was chosen. Quirky but not impossible. “Lansdale? Not a bad ring to it,” I can hear them laughing.
With a little extra time on my hands, I googled “List of American Places Named After People”, and I found two other towns named after peoples’ middle names, Adams Station, California named after Mary Adams Peacock and Birchville, California named after L. Birch Adsit (In this case, I think that Birch was the best choice, L-ville? Adsit? I can imagine the Abbott and Costello response to the question, “Where do you live?” “That’s it?” “No, Adsit!” “That’s it?”).
In addition to the list named above was another list of “Places Formerly Named After People”. A few of the places included Crumville, California which was later named Ridgecrest (very Stepford Wives sounding), Spoonsville, California is now Edgemont and Yanks, California is now Meyers– less goofy and more respectable names. A slightly different, but nonetheless interesting example of a name change was Halfway, Oregon which became Half.com in 1999 in order to attract investment from Half.com which was later bought out by Ebay. And in 2005, the town of Clark, Texas morphed into DISH in exchange for free DISH Network’s free satellite service for its 55 homes.
For the reader who may be lost here, this past Monday, Lansdale had North Star Branding Consultants present the results of their surveys and research on how people– residents, non-residents, competing towns, businesses–view Lansdale. The results were genuine and honest. In fact, it felt a little like a family intervention.
Taking the branding process a step further (all in jest, of course!), I would like to ask this question: If you could rename Lansdale and give it a fresh start, what would you rename it? I like Shazam! exactly as it is written in italics with an exclamation point. “Where do you live?” “Shazam!” Delivered with heartfelt conviction just like Billy Batson in the Saturday afternoon seventies show. And there are no other Shazams in the United States. Or in order to bring investment, which big corporation would you most like to see come into town? Krispy Kreme, Pennsylvania in exchange for donuts? Berkshire-Hathaway for stock options? The possibilities are endless.
“… That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.”