Greater Greater Washington

Preservation


Maryland's systemic streets

Last year, I mapped Washington's street-naming system and state-named avenues. But the logical organization of street names doesn't end at the DC line. The alphabetical and numerical naming of streets continues into Maryland (and Arlington).

Washington's numbered streets run north-south and increase in number as distance from the Capitol increases. The highest numbered street in the District is 63rd Street, near Capitol Heights. But the numbers continue to increase well into Prince George's. The numbering system eventually gives up the ghost a few blocks from the Seabrook MARC station, where one can find Lanham's 100th Avenue.


Note: this is a revised version of the original.

Several communities have independent street numbering. Just north of Silver Spring, Woodside's low numbered avenues intersect DC's 16th Street. Glenarden and Lanham also stand apart with their non-DC-based numbered streets.

In the District, east-west streets are given non-numeric names. In most cases, streets increase alphabetically with increasing distance from the Capitol. This system is repeated in certain parts of both Montgomery and Prince George's counties. The alphabetical march of streets stretches from Oxon Hill to Beltsville, admittedly with quite a few gaps.

With nothing more than an arbitrary political boundary dividing Maryland from the District, the street grid continues across the DC line unabated in many places. As a result, places like Chevy Chase and Mount Rainier see direct continuations of DC's "alphabets". So the pattern of the alphabetical progression is easy to pick out.

In Hyattsville and the neighboring communities, many of the street names are very similar to those found in DC, with the same progression of names in many cases. In both Hyattsville and Northwest DC, Hamilton is followed by Ingraham, Jefferson, Kennedy, and Longfellow.

But other neighborhoods have unique progressions. In College Park, universities lend their namesin alphabetical orderto streets. Further north, the streets of Berwyn Heights and Langley Park use Indian names. A trip up Rhode Island Avenue reveals names like Apache, Blackfoot, Cherokee, Delaware, and Erie.

Yet, unique names aren't the only uniqueness in street naming. Capitol Heights hugs the District line. There, streets parallel to Southern Avenue increase alphabetically as distance from DC increases. But the perpendicular streets also use an alphabetical system, increasing with distance from East Capitol Street.

However, the alphabetical and numerical streets aren't the only thing that Washington bequeathed to her suburbs. Several of the state-named avenues continue into Maryland as well. Georgia Avenue in Montgomery and Pennsylvania Avenue in Prince George's stretch the farthest. Both roadways keep their names all the way to the Patuxent River.

Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Connecticut are all major arteries to the suburbs. Massachusetts and Rhode Island are also important links across the border. Rhode Island is discontinuous and skips around across northern Prince George's, following an old streetcar route.

Rounding out the bunch are Nevada and Kansas. Chevy Chase, Maryland is home to 2 short blocks of Nevada Avenue. And Kansas Avenue changes its name to Kansas Lane when it crosses Eastern Avenue in Takoma Park.

Author's note: The original version of this article included a map showing the numbered streets which inadvertently left out the numbered streets in Cabin John, Maryland. A revised map has now been inserted. The original can be viewed here.

Matt Johnson has lived in the Washington area since 2007. He has a Master's in Planning from the University of Maryland and a BS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech. He lives in Greenbelt. Hes a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is a contract employee of the Montgomery County Planning Department. His views are his own and do not represent the opinion of his employer. 

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i absolutely love how georgia and new hampshire meet twice, 20 miles apart.

by IMGoph on Sep 2, 2010 3:29 pm • linkreport

Addressing also continues into Maryland, equating to the number of blocks north/south and east/west of the Capitol Building. From ~5500 Wisc Ave NW in Friendship Heights to 21121 Frederick Rd (355/Wisc Ave) in Germantown.

by filbertkm on Sep 2, 2010 3:38 pm • linkreport

I grew up in Hyattsville, and it wasn't until I was in my 20s did I find out that Hyattsville had an extension of the DC street grid naming system.

by Paul C on Sep 2, 2010 3:40 pm • linkreport

And always neat to know Georgia Avenue goes from 7th & Maine Ave SW, across the National Mall, and all the way north to and ends in Gettysburg, PA. Though, it's no longer called Georgia Avenue in Howard County, and it runs along MD 140 for a short distance in Westminster. (there's the Old Westminster Pike, the historic route of Georgia Avenue through there). Definitely my favorite way of driving up to central Pennsylvania.

by filbertkm on Sep 2, 2010 3:46 pm • linkreport

Fun with GIS! But really, this is very cool!

by Tim on Sep 2, 2010 3:48 pm • linkreport

I'm not sure about other Maryland communities, but in Hyattsville, the streets were renamed - despite public outcry - in 1941. Park and Planning insisted that we conform to the pattern. Apparently residents had to give both their old and new addresses for years, until everyone made the switch!

by Abby on Sep 2, 2010 3:59 pm • linkreport

I always wondered where Cheverly got it's weird numbered streets. Nothing more confusing than living next to 59th Place and not being able to figure out where 58th or 60th Places are.

by Brian on Sep 2, 2010 4:06 pm • linkreport

There are some numbered streets in Cabin John, MD, too, and of course the street numbering conforms to the grid through much of MoCo.

by Tom on Sep 2, 2010 4:08 pm • linkreport

This is an old argument that me and Matt have had for a while now, but I have always held the line of thinking that Wisconsin Avenue turns into Rockville Pike at Woodmont Avenue just north of downtown Bethesda, a couple miles south of the Beltway interchange.

Also, I know Cabin John has some numbers in the 70s and 80s well to the west of the extent of the first map. Wonder why they aren't included?

by Reza on Sep 2, 2010 4:19 pm • linkreport

Fascinating, thanks!

by charlie on Sep 2, 2010 4:20 pm • linkreport

I thought I heard the call of the nerd alert. Wow!

by Jasper on Sep 2, 2010 4:22 pm • linkreport

@filbertkm

The addressing is broken up however when MD 355 passes through the incorporated towns of Rockville and Gaithersburg, they use their own numbering.

by Reza on Sep 2, 2010 4:22 pm • linkreport

@Reza

There's totally no argument. Wisconsin Avenue turns into Rockville Pike at Woodmont Avenue, as seen on Google Street View. There's even a street sign.

I'm looking to learn about 75th through 83rd streets in Cabin John, but everything else here is comprehensive enough that I shouldn't complain. And they say GGW doesn't focus enough on Prince George's County!

by dan reed! on Sep 2, 2010 4:44 pm • linkreport

@Dan,

You're exactly right, and that street sign is what I go by, but the exit sign on the Beltway is for MD 355/Wisconsin Avenue. Depending on what file or document you're looking at, the two names seem to be used interchangeably along this stretch.

by Reza on Sep 2, 2010 5:05 pm • linkreport

@Reza, @dan reed!:
You are correct. The original numbered street map inadvertently left Cabin John off the page. I have replaced it with an updated version showing those streets.

Thanks for noting the error and alerting me to it.

by Matt Johnson, Assistant Editor on Sep 2, 2010 5:19 pm • linkreport

Also, I didn't mean to include the "Assistant Editor" bit. That was left over from a different comment thread when I had to moderate the debate.

by Matt Johnson on Sep 2, 2010 5:20 pm • linkreport

To settle where Wisconsin Ave ends, the HLR confirms it's at Woodmont Ave / Glenbrook Pkwy:

http://www.marylandroads.com/Location/2009_MONTGOMERY.pdf

...Though I never noticed that NH Ave actually ends at Georgia; I'd always thought it ended where it changes at Greenbridge. Learn something new everyday!

by Bossi on Sep 2, 2010 5:36 pm • linkreport

You forgot Branch Ave, Naylor RD, Riggs RD, Wheeler RD, River RD, Macarthur BLVD, Piney Branch RD, Sargent RD, & Central Ave.

Many streets also pick back up after a few blocks, miles with the ending changed such as road, lane, street, drive, etc.

Anyone know why Central Avenue is 332 at first then changes to 214

by kk on Sep 2, 2010 6:49 pm • linkreport

@kk-

I don't think the article was focusing on every street continuing across the line; just the State-named roads & those following the alphanumerical patterns.

As for your 332/214 question:

While both share the Central Ave name at some point, MD 332 is the Old alignment... MD 214 is actually the continuous roadway. Here's where they diverge:

http://maps.google.com/maps?t=h&hl=en&ie=UTF8&ll=38.886573,-76.900402&spn=0.00608,0.009624&z=17

It's just easier to keep the through route posted as 214, and then post the road that people have to actually turn onto as the different number; despite the shared name.

Hope that helps clear it up-
Cheers!

by Bossi on Sep 2, 2010 6:59 pm • linkreport

I think I remember reading that the reason some of these street numbers continued on into adjacent counties is that the Post Office (federal agency precursor to the quasi-governmental Postal Service) serviced the non-incorporated areas out of the Washington Post Office ... but didn't service those incorporated areas (such as Rockville) where because they were incorporated they had their own systems.

by Lance on Sep 2, 2010 7:00 pm • linkreport

@Bossi:
Thanks for the info about Wisconsin/Rockville. Funny thing is that while NIH lists its address as "Rockville Pike," the National Naval Medical Center lists its address as "Wisconsin Avenue."

@kk:
I'm not sure where you got the idea that Branch Avenue or the rest should have made the list. The map is of "Washington's State-Named Avenues in Maryland."

by Matt Johnson on Sep 2, 2010 7:29 pm • linkreport

@ Matt Johnson

This is titled "Maryland's systemic streets"

Branch Ave and the rest fit into that.

by kk on Sep 2, 2010 8:23 pm • linkreport

Virginia's "systemic" technique involves naming every road either Glebe or Lee. Had they added a road named "Gleebe," anarchy would break out.

by monkeyrotica on Sep 3, 2010 7:14 am • linkreport

There's also parts of Maryland with fairly dense sections of other state names that don't seem to have a direct connection to the D.C. state streets. Perhaps the close MD suburbs planned to include another series of state-names roads?
For example, Here's Maryland & Kentucky in Bethesda:

View Larger Map

The following map includes, Maine, Michican, Kansas, and Washington Ave:
View Larger Map

Searching for a few more state names, Andrews Airforce Base also uses state names.

by Dan on Sep 3, 2010 10:03 am • linkreport

Very cool maps - thanks!
There is one 'hidden' addition to "Maryland's Numbered Streets" - hidden because the name was changed and it's no longer a number, so it may be too obscure to bother with. that is "Yorkville Road" which used to be 53rd Ave (or Place); it was changed in the early 1980s I believe. This is in Camp Springs (Prince George's County); Yorkville Rd intersects Old Branch Ave just SW of the intersection of Branch Ave and the Beltway. I grew up not far from there and always wondered about the randomly numbered street. Even 23rd Parkway which was not too far away made more sense!

by ZZinDC on Sep 3, 2010 5:11 pm • linkreport

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