Here in this most national of cities, we're very used to streets that are named for states. It's our signature. It's what keeps us from being another Wichita.
Would downtown have the same ring of history if Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Connecticut avenues were renamed Broad, Market and Main? Would the waterfront sound quite so nautical if Maine Avenue were Fifth Street? Could anyone find Georgetown if the street that ran down its spine was called Front Street rather than Wisconsin Avenue?
Besides, streets named for states underscore the fairness of our system of statehood. Tiny Delaware has an avenue named for it, but it's no bigger or smaller than the avenue named for giant Texas. Maine has an avenue just like Florida. Both Dakotas and both Carolinas have them. Nevada of the west has one, just like New Hampshire of the east. Even Alaska and Hawaii, the new boys on the block, have them.
Shmequity, say the folks from the state of Washington.
They've drawn the short straw. Washington is the only state in the union without a street, road or avenue named for it in the Nation's Capital.
Even though there are no formal records to explain such an oversight, the similarity in names between our city and their state obviously has a great deal to do with it. George is the reason our city has its name, and he is also the reason the northwesternmost member of the lower 48 has its name.
According to sources in the House and Senate District Committees, when Congress informally urged the District government early in this century to give every state a street, they winked at Washington. "It would have been redundant," said one House District staffer.
Nevertheless, two efforts have been made in the last 22 years to give the state its asphalt due.
In 1959, the District government proposed that Reno Road NW. be renamed Washington Road. Residents of the neighborhood protested vehemently that "Reno" was more distinctive, easier to write and easier to pronounce. The District Building backed down.
In 1961, a Republican Congressman from Washington, Jack Westland, took to the floor of the House to urge that the Southwest Freeway, then being built, be called Washington State Avenue. As a glance at any map will tell you, he didn't prevail.
Part of the problem with naming a D.C. street for the state of Washington is that the weather hereabouts isn't exactly Seattle-like.
"It could never work," said Deny Prager, president of the local chapter of the Washington State Society. "To do the idea justice, you'd have to find a part of the city where it's foggy and rainy all the time."
Undeterred, I became so consumed with the idea of justice for Washingtonians of the West that I began scouting streets that could use a name-change. My list:
* Potomac Avenue SE (confusing, since it runs nowhere near the Potomac River).
Central Avenue SE (inappropriate, since the avenue isn't central to anything except downtown Landover, Md.).
* Sheriff Road NE (the only sheriffs around town these days are on the late movie).
But the senior senator from the state of Washington says that none of us should bother.
When he first heard that the Evergreen State does not have a street named for it, "I was offended and indignant," said Henry M. Jackson, in a formal statement. "How could the founders of the Nation's Capital forget the most beautiful, the greatest of all states in the Union?
"I immediately set the wheels in motion to introduce a Senate resolution demanding that the Congress act swiftly to right this grievous wrong.
"However, in the midst of drafting this resolution, it occurred to me that perhaps Washington State, the state containing the nation's most beautiful mountains and rivers and lakes, doesn't need a street named on its behalf.
"After all, the entire federal territory -- the Nation's Capital -- is named after our state. What more could we ask?"