If I said “Tara”, there’s no doubt most people would have Scarlett O’Hara and/or Rhett Butler on the tips of their tongues; perhaps even “Drogheda” would bring to mind the Australian setting of my one-time favorite novel, “The Thorn Birds.”
For ease of identification, for sentimental reasons, or for a touch of class, many people like to give their homes or cottages some name other than a street address with a number, a combination of same plus letters, and often a string of separating dashes. I believe that giving one’s abode an actual name somehow makes it more one’s own.
In Britain, of course, one might have three or four lines of an address including a string of intriguing names, with never a numeral in sight until that final directory of the modern age, the postal code. My best example is, “Broadacres, Forest Green, Hollyport, Berkshire, with that last name the only word giving a reasonable clue of its spot on the planet.
North America, and particularly some provinces seem to be enamored with numbers as a more precise method of pinpointing a home. Take my son whose three-number, two-dash address somewhere in Alberta is one I have to forever look up to be sure of the right arrangement of digits. No romance or history in directions like that.
Admittedly some numerical monikers do conjure up a picture; think 24 Sussex Drive, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., or 10 Downing Street … we all know who lives behind those numbers, and mystery fans may even be acquainted with the owner of the numerical/alphabetical combo of 221B Baker Street.
But give me a home with a name that has some meaning, memories, or play on words, a name that has taken some thought, has made some connection with a dream, or come as a flash in the night.
A friend and her husband, both avid and successful flower gardeners from across the pond, after years of prodding their yard into the profusion of bloom that satisfied them, finally ordered the plaque for their door: “Phloxtrot Cottage” … a little corny, but it fit and they were proud of it.
When my late husband and I had chosen some hilltop property on an island in the strait we started planning what we named “The Aerie” … until the deal fell through when the property owner decided he could ask more than originally stated. But when we self-published my husband’s book, we carried the name and an eagle nest logo to our little publishing company. Years later, I brought the name to my own front door, where I love it still — memories of hopes, dreams, and accomplishment.
About the same time, we started up our own little advertising company, whose ‘office’ was in a tiny cabin moved from the beach to the edge of our backyard. Hmmn… what to call that entity? We decided on sticking to its tourist cabin designation, and the business became “Studio 5A”, it’s number plainly painted on the door.
Probably the most succinct home and cottage names I remember are these:
A cabin in which I almost stayed for a week on the Island’s west coast, was built over an old well … its name? What else but “The Cistern Abbey?”
And finally puffing up near-vertical pathways to a home where we’d been invited to dine on Cortes Island we heartily agreed with the designation “Cardiac Castle.”
— Nancy Whalen is a local columnist for The NEWS.