I drive on 16th Street NW on my way to and from work each day and pass by Nineteenth Street Baptist Church. I am guessing that it used to be on 19th Street, but can you expound more about the discrepancy in street numbers?
Marc LeGoff, Washington
Places of worship leapfrog across our area, as congregations ebb and flow. The story of Nineteenth Street Baptist Church starts in 1802, when a group of worshipers founded what eventually was called the Baptist Church in Washington City on the southwest corner of 19th and I streets NW.
Whites and blacks worshiped there, although African Americans were confined to the balconies. As the neighborhood became more African American, white worshipers moved out. The congregation split, with black members staying at the original site. In 1839, this congregation became First Colored Baptist Church. In 1870, it changed its name to Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, and in 1872 it built an attractive red-brick worship space. By 1975, the church had run out of room. There was no space for a day-care center or recreational activities.
The congregation sold the structure to Pepco for $850,000 and went looking for a new home. What it found was a synagogue at 4606 16th St. NW that had been vacated by B'nai Israel when that congregation moved to Rockville.
"Of course the argument came up: 'What will be the name of the church?' " said the Rev. I. Benni Singleton, associate pastor and editor of the church newsletter, the Epistle. Some members wanted to rename it Brooks Memorial Baptist Church, after a longtime pastor. Others wanted to name it Nineteenth Street Memorial Baptist Church.
"But because of its historic significance, the vote was to retain the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church name," Singleton said.
He said the name works pretty well from a "public relations perspective," too. "I'll be somewhere in the country and say I'm with the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church, and they'll say, 'Oh, that's the Nineteenth Street Church on 16th Street.' "
Singleton joined the church in 1957, and its move on Jan. 26, 1975 -- the congregation driving in a caravan from 19th Street to 16th Street -- was bittersweet. "For me, it was a very touching and moving exercise," he said. "There was the excitement of going to the new, but at the same time there was the sadness of leaving the old and the memories there."
In fact, just three weeks ago, Singleton and his wife happened to find themselves driving downtown. "I said, 'Let's go by 19th Street.' " The old church was torn down long ago, replaced by another building, but the Singletons drove by anyway, "just for nostalgia purposes."
What is the longest continuous street within the District of Columbia? I'd place my money on Massachusetts Avenue or 16th Street, but can't say for sure.
Nate Macek, Arlington
Bill Rice at the District's Department of Transportation said the longest uninterrupted ribbon of pavement in the city is Seventh Street/Georgia Avenue. It's 10 miles long.
You could argue that Seventh/Georgia isn't one street but two, since it changes its name. The longest street without a name change is 14th Street. Bill said it's 7.1 miles from end to end, one at the 14th Street bridge over the Potomac, the other at Aspen Street just south of Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Answer Man wondered what the shortest street in the District is. He was convinced it was either Corregidor or Bataan Street, two puny thoroughfares on either side of Scott Circle that honor the U.S. relationship with the Philippines.
At 280 feet, they're short, but not as short as Plattsburgh Court, near Wisconsin Avenue and McLean Gardens. It's just 89 feet long.
There'll Always Be an England
Last week in his column about how new addresses are determined, Answer Man made the most fleeting of lighthearted references to two oddly named English towns: Leighton Buzzard and Chipping Sodbury.
The ever-alert Amy Williams, a deputy news editor with GWR, a British radio conglomerate that has a station serving the greater Leighton Buzzard area, happened upon the column. Like all good journalists everywhere, Amy hoped to stir things up, so she interviewed Answer Man, gently poking fun at him for poking fun at Leighton Buzzard. She also asked Leighton Buzzardians (Buzzardiers? Buzzardites?) if they thought their town had a silly name. Surprisingly, they said no.
After Amy's story aired, the e-mail began, if not flooding in, then dripping in. Richard H. Goodchild, town mayor of Leighton Buzzard (and descendant of Sir Gaulter de Somervill, first Earl of Whichenour, A.D. 1066) wrote to say the town was founded by Saxons in the 5th century AD and takes the first part of its name from the Saxon word leactun, meaning a kitchen garden. The suffix "Buzzard" first appeared in 1252.
"It seems likely that this can be linked to Theobald de Busar, a former prebendary and parson to the town during the reign of King Richard," Richard wrote. Answer Man is going to take his word for it.
Then Mark Reynolds wrote in to say that he not only plays for the Chipping Sodbury Cricket Club but was born at the Chipping Sodbury Cottage Hospital, the same hospital where author J.K. Rowling was born.
It is a small world after all.