Still, I heard from many proud North Bethesdans last week, angry at me for my column grousing about plans to change the name of the White Flint station to North Bethesda.
What really irritated NBers is when I said the neighborhood’s name was created by developers, more eager to have the cachet of Bethesda than of Rockville. These readers point out that it isn’t Rockville, not in a legal way. That area may always be part of the “greater Rockville” of my memory, but there is an actual incorporated Rockville, and the intersection of Rockville Pike (emphasis added) and Nicholson Lane isn’t in it.
They pointed out that North Bethesda is a census-designated place. Okay. Fine. But that doesn’t mean you have to name the station that. I’m only thinking of the tourists innocently riding the Red Line — in either direction. “Are we in Bethesda yet?” they ask. Well, sort of.
I admit that the link between “White Flint” and “Bethesda” goes back further than I thought. In 1957, a builder named Briggs began advertising homes in a new development called White Flint Park. The ads didn’t include the name of the place the homes were in, simply noting they were “Just off Rockville Pike Abutting White Flint Golf Course.”
A year later, ads did mention the area. They called it Bethesda.
But a lot happened between 1958 and 1968, mainly the Beltway, which severed this newly minted Bethesda from the original one. In 1977, a glittering mall opened. It took the name White Flint, the name of a golf course that had been there since the 1930s. Seven years later, the White Flint Metro station opened. Eventually, it will be called something else.
“I don’t understand the push to change the [station’s] name,” Kathy Canzona told me. She’s taking the name change personally. Kathy lives in Annapolis but she’s descended from a family that at the turn of the 20th century owned a farm along Rockville Pike that she says was called White Flint Farm.
They were the Flack family. Kathy says her grandmother told stories about taking the streetcar out from the District and deep into Montgomery County. In 1919, the Rambler columnist in the Evening Star visited the Flack house, walking along railroad tracks through what was then farmland and wilderness. He mentioned passing a settlement called Montrose, which, come to think of it, would be a good replacement name for the White Flint station.
Montgomery County isn’t the only place playing the name game. Fred Rednor, who says he lives in “Central” Arlington, Va., noted that “The East Falls Church station is in Arlington County. The West Falls Church station is in Fairfax County. So why shouldn’t the station in the south end of Rockville be called North Bethesda?”
Mark Graham of Hyattsville, Md., is among those shaking his head at the proposed new name for the Prince George’s Plaza station: Hyattsville Crossing.
“Not quite as bad as North Bethesda, perhaps, but pretty lame,” Mark wrote.
Wrote Mark: “I favored the name ‘Nine Pond,’ in honor of an old structure — still there, if overgrown and in ruins — on the former Heurich farm that occupied the area where the shopping center and the newer University Town Center now stand.”
How about East Hyattsville, since it’s just east of West Hyattsville?
Philip Quarrier of Columbia, Md., feels anyone traveling on an unfamiliar transit system should be able to navigate it. To that end, he proposes that Metro lines have a letter ID — R, G, B, Y, for example — and that Metro stations be numbered sequentially from one end of the line to the other: R1, R2, R3, etc.
Wrote Philip: “You could get on, see on the map that you are going to station G5, and see signs approaching every station: G9, G8, G7, G6.”
I pointed out that an alphanumeric designation doesn’t have the romance of, say, Elephant & Castle on London’s Underground, but Philip said the coded markings would be in addition to the names in use now.
As for the name in use at White Flint, Alan Kogan points out it’s a misnomer. He became curious about the name because he lives in a condo across the street.
Wrote Alan: “The common boulders that served as the basis for the White Flint name are actually white quartz. Geologists say there is no such thing as white flint rocks.”
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/john-kelly.