Thursday, March 3, 2011

DC's Letter-Named Streets (I and Absent J)

DC's system for naming its streets is distinctive. Streets running east-west take letter names (A, B, C, etc.) and streets running north-south are numbered (1st, 2nd, 3rd, and so on). In addition, diagonal avenues are named after US states (for a guide to navigating DC streets, see here). Above, two ways of rendering I (Eye) Street in Foggy Bottom. I've seen many people write addresses referring to "Eye Street" rather than "I Street" - I suppose order to avoid any confusion with the numeral 1 (one).

Why is there no "J Street" in DC, you ask? I've heard people say it's because the I/J distinction was difficult to discern (or non-existent) in 18th-century typography. Others claim that DC lacks a "J Street" because Pierre L'Enfant (the Frenchman who planned the city) disliked Chief Justice John Jay - but this is apparently an urban legend.

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