By Bill Coady
According to the Herald, this week the city council will take up the contentious issue of whether or not to rename the section of Stewart Avenue from the freeway to downtown. First, let me say, that I have no direct interest in this issue, living on the east side as I do. In general I am not opposed to the name change and can see that it makes some sense. Having driven around a few cities in my time, two things I can’t stand are streets that seem straight as an arrow and yet change names every couple of blocks. The opposite kind of street, one that meanders all over the city and to every point on the compass but still retains the same name also bugs me. Stewart Avenue falls a little bit into this latter category. I can also see the point of people who either don’t want to change the name because of the inconvenience (having to order new letterhead and such) or because they like the historical character of the street name.For the moment, I will commiserate with the first group and leave that part of the question to those who would be directly affected. However, I think the second group has a good point. Gary Gisselman, was quoted in a Herald article as opposing the name change because the street honors one of Wausau’s founding fathers, Alexander Stewart. True, but there will still be a Stewart Avenue after the name change.
I am opposed to the name change at this point, because I don’t think “University Avenue” is a good name at all.
Meaning no disrespect to the fine folks at UWMC, having a two year campus of the UW system here does not make Wausau a “university” town. I think folks who were passing through from out of town could be excused if they got downtown and wondered where the heck this “University” was anyway. Let’s face it, Marathon Park makes a bigger impression to someone driving down Stewart Avenue. Heck, even John Muir school makes a bigger impression. I am just talking visually here, of course.
So, I don’t think that “University Avenue” as noble as that might be is quite right. But Gary Gisselman has a point. The street now honors our history and if it is to be renamed, I think that idea should be continued. Perhaps Gary in his encyclopedic knowledge of Wausau history could come up with some suggestions for people who were important in the history of our city, but do not yet have a street named for them. There must be a few. But I don’t have that knowledge, so I will go a different route (as it were) for my suggestion.
My first thought is “Workers Compensation Way.” Wisconsin was the first state to require employers to compensate people who were injured on the job, and it was right here in Wausau that insurance workers compensation was born. It even has a nice alliterative ring to it.
Oh, all right, maybe it is boring, lacks zing and could be controversial. It was just a suggestion. I do have another one.
It is both historical and alliterative. It has some zing, I think. Here goes…
“Bull Falls Boulevard.”
I suppose you could make it “Big Bull Falls Boulevard” to be totally accurate, but that seems to be just a bit too much. Considering that this section of Stewart passes the park that explains Big Bull Falls, I think it fits pretty well. It will look great on the freeway sign. Yes, changing letterhead is expensive, but it might be worth it.
Oh, alright, if you have a better idea, throw it in the comment box!