There is Something in a Name

Bill CoadyBy 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!

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8 responses to “There is Something in a Name

  1. I don’t agree . I think University Ave. is a good name for the street. The University of WI is a great resource for Wausau – we should recognize this fact – for starts – wonderful Theater and Arts programming not to mention all the students who started their higher education on campus. UWMC has been part of our Wausau history for over 80 years. I’d say that is worth some recognition and it’s impact on community is just as significant as Mr. Stewart. Stewart Park and the commercial part of Stewart Ave. would retain his name, correct?

  2. I think Lisa makes some great points and in a political vacuum, those arguments would carry the day. The world would little note nor long remember if we made the change and a couple of years from now, everyone would be living their lives just as before.

    But if life was really logical, then MEN would have been the ones riding sidesaddle, right?

    There is surprising depth and emotion in the opposition to this change. While I’m sympathetic and supportive of the proposal, I’m not sure how much political capital most council members should be willing to spend on this one. Good idea or not, it isn’t s0mething worth falling on one’s sword over.

  3. Dr Rent’s first post will demonstrate my thoughts on the issue

  4. I think that as we look back at the beginnings of our fair city, and the early choices to pass on the 4 year institution…it was a great time for the city fathers, and it is a great bit of research.

    Jim…have you seen those papers? I worked with Mr. Geisl(I might be spelling that wrong) reading the early Wausau documents. Many of us did. It was really cool.

  5. Dino – Do you mean Bob Geisel?

  6. Yeah, sorry.

  7. I think that renaming Stewart Ave to University Ave is a great idea. While UWMC doesn’t have much of a presence on Stewart Ave yet, I am sure that in a few years that will be changing. UWMC has the funding for a new theatre building, all they need is a location, and no matter which of the 2 remaining locations is picked, the building will have frontage on Stewart and it will increase UWMC’s presence on Stewart. I think it is important to promote UWMC, because while it may not be a 4 year campus, it is one of the largest of the two year campus’s, and what I consider to be the most likely 2 year campus to have a chance at becoming a 4 year campus, something a growing metro like Wausau needs. By changing the name of Stewart Ave to University Ave we are demonstrating to visitors and people across the state that we value our small campus, and that we have an interest in education. It is a very low cost way for us to visually demonstrate our commitment to higher education.

  8. How about “Pinery Parkway.” This celebrates Wausau’s history with a tongue in cheek reference to the ill fated sculpture that stood across from the Associated Bank Building. The city took the sculpture down about 10 years or so and has it in storage somewhere.

    I think the name change is a good idea. Then we would no longer need to refer to Stewart Avenue as Stewert Ave for the the portion from the river to 18th and Old Stewart Ave for the section that runs from 18th to 72nd Ave.

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