August 30, 2002
Ever so often someone asks: “Which is correct, Fir Street or Fir Avenue?” A lot of folks, including long-time residents here, are confused because both forms are used, even on some of the street signs still in existence. To answer the question directly, the legal, correct form is Fir Avenue, not Fir Street. The city council adopted that name ‘way back in 1928 to avoid confusion in answering fire alarms.
The council and Mayor H.H. Reynolds took that action at the urging of Perry firefighters who were concerned because the city was growing and some of the street names then in use could be confusing. All east-west Perry streets simply had letters of the alphabet as their names. What we now know as Fir Avenue was simply F Street. It was not easy to understand at the fire station if an excited caller was saying “A Street” or “Eighth Street.” Another name problem was “F” street. A caller might be saying “…fire at 801 F Street” and the firefighter on the other end could believe he was saying “801 First street.” The fire department first requested the change and the city council took its action on March 7, 1928. The ordinance has been on the books ever since.
The council action specified the official names for all city streets. Instead of single letters of the alphabet, named streets were renamed for trees (Elm, Cedar, Fir, for example) historical characters, county names and Indian tribes. More recent residential districts have chosen picturesque names. North-south streets retained their numerical designations. All our named streets in 1928 continued to be in alphabetical order and a few die-hards continued to use the old form, but for the most part we all use the correct form. That being said, you have to wonder why a large street sign at 15th and Fir calls it “Fir Street” instead of the correct form, “Fir Avenue.” Do our city officials not realize how wrong they are?
According to a newspaper account appearing in The Perry Daily Journal the day after the street sign ordinance was enacted, considerable thought was given to the best way to refer to the former “F Street.” The reporter who covered the city council meeting wrote:
“In selecting a title for F Street it was decided, due to the fact that it is part of state highways, that it should be known as an avenue in the future and it was re-named Fir Avenue.” No equivocating that.
Here’s a curious sidelight. According to the 1928 ordinance, G Street originally was to be known as Gum Street. I have not yet found when (or why) the change was made to Grove Street. We have had the 911 emergency phone system for several years but I wonder if the dispatchers ever have to calm down an excited caller long enough to get the address straight.
Anyway, that’s the story on the official names of Perry streets. I hope that one of these days all of us will start calling F Street by its real name, Fir Avenue.