The vague aspirations of one neighborhood's street signs

Five months ago, I discovered a townhouse subdivision of sorts called "the Magnolias," when I moved to a spot nearby. In the months since I've lived in the area, I've wandered bemusedly around the neighborhood, growing more bewildered with each passing street sign. Anyone living in the United States is familiar with the "Pine Groves" and the "Terrace Hills" and insert-generic-nature-term-here subdivisions that plague areas developed in the last several decades. I find them terribly boring, non-distinct from each other, almost comical. But having never really researched it thoroughly, I don't know many of the details about street names inside those neighborhoods. Do they follow the same theme? Are they based entirely on nice-sounding and emotionally inspiring concepts? Do they simply draw names from hats? The answer is out there somewhere. I can only shed light on one example, the Magnolias in Cherokee County, Georgia, and the answer for this case may be all of the above.

Thirteen roads needed to be named in the Magnolias. A fourteenth "road" was given a name as well, though, so that anyone who pulls into the neighborhood drives gloriously down 200-foot Plantation Parkway. The grand parkway is all of the length of an extra-long dog leash. Which begs the question, who decided this span of concrete even merited a name different from the main road in the subdivision, and when that person won his case, who let him call it a parkway? Doesn't that imply lots of traffic, busy sidewalks, or even a state highway? For whatever reason, Plantation Parkway is there, and if you use Google Maps to obtain directions, it shows up in the list of left- and right-turns.

The main road is Magnolia Leaf, which sounds normal to an unknowing stranger or newcomer to the 'hood. Take a left on the next intersecting road however, and things start to digress. That's Society Way, which begs an air of I'm not sure what, but definitely sparks pretension in my mind. What political message is trying to make its point on Society Way? I'm not sticking around to hear it.

After that you can walk down any of the surrounding streets and feel the confusion build: Market Place Dr., Breeze Lane, Blossom Way, Lantern Lane, until you arrive at the other end of the neighborhood and land on Antebellum Place. This is the first helpful clue to the theme the street-naming council was going for, with its clear reference to a historical time period. So, they're thinking Southern atmosphere, let's stir ideas of the weather, the plant life, lack of electricity, a pre-Civil War society...

The effect for someone who doesn't really study history is mostly confusion. The effect for someone who does is... still confusion. Vague references to serene southern images rest on some streets, while parallel names proffer concepts like the plantation and the South during slavery. Whitefield Way provides another clue, but only to people who are really paying attention: Georgia Whitefield was a preacher from Charleston, South Carolina. That is probably Whitefield they meant, as Charlesstone Court lay a few streets over. Another tiny connecting road, Battery Way, makes reference to the Battery in Charleston, a main road and historical thoroughfare there. Cotton Gin Drive again provokes images of the Old South. My personal favorite is Rocking Chair Court which, while indeed related to the Antebellum South, must have been pulled from a hat when the committee realized they were one street name short. In keeping with the random selection, Bay Overlook Drive does not pass by any water, except the neighborhood pool; maybe any type of water represented a bay in this case?

After some thought, it can be roughly deduced what theme the developers were going trying to provide. Most people who use these roads will give it little thought at all, or will give it the least amount of thought. Perhaps the developers were going for a nostalgic Charleston theme. Introducing a confusing selection of South Carolinian and Old South terms to a neighborhood in a neighboring state can stir images of those things for drivers-by, whether or not their imaginations are accurate . So perhaps in this sense, they have created the mood they were going for. For others who put together the strange relations between the words and the historical references of each, the message becomes even more vague. Are we trying to recall this era in southern history in grand terms, by mixing traveling preachers with cotton gins and breezes, and adding a little nod to southern society by naming one road that very general "Society Way"? Are we pairing rocking chairs with "antebellum" because it will make the subject more approachable? I don't think people want a history lesson in their neighborhood street signs; and if they do, let's attempt to make it a bit more clear than the one presented here. There's already enough trouble reconciling today's South and the antebellum era of slavery. We don't need to exacerbate the issue with vaguely related street names drawn from a hat.