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Why is it The Alameda and not Alameda Street? Here’s how the Baltimore road got its name

In this episode, we look into the origin of the Baltimore street The Alameda. What is an Alameda, and why is there a 'the' in front?

Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series of occasional articles inspired by readers’ curiosity. What do you wonder about the Baltimore area that you’d like us to investigate? Tell us at baltimoresun.com/ask.

Why is it “the” Alameda, and not Alameda Street or Alameda Boulevard?

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It’s all in the name.

The meaning of the Spanish word “Alameda” — and a hint at how the name likely was chosen for the tree-lined road from Harford Road to the county line — was published The Sun in 1931 in an excerpt from Mayor Ferdinand C. Latrobe’s memoir that explained the origin of Mount Royal Avenue.

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An “alameda” is “a wide street with grass plots and trees in the center,” Latrobe wrote in the 1905 memoir, crediting cities in South America with the original design.

Latrobe, who served as mayor from 1875 to 1895, recalled a visit to the future site of Mount Royal Avenue with the landowners, a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad executive and a Mr. James Partridge, “who had been minister to some South American republic.”

“They suggested that it would be most desirable to have a wide boulevard (or alameda, a wide street with grass plots and trees in the center, such as Mr. Partidge had seen in South American cities) extending from Hoffman and Cathedral streets to the North Avenue entrance of Druid Hill Park,” Latrobe wrote.

Both Mount Royal Avenue and the Alameda, boulevards with tree-lined medians, fit that description.

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It also might explain why the Alameda isn’t called “Alameda Road,” “Alameda Street,” or “Alameda Boulevard.” It would be redundant, sort of the equivalent to naming Broadway “Broadway Way."

The “the" could be compared to the one in “the Boardwalk" in Ocean City, or the one many in Baltimore casually use when referring to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on downtown’s west side: “the Martin Luther King" or “the MLK.”

Opened in 1908 and later extended to the Baltimore County line, the Alameda was part of a grandiose planned boulevard system intended to link all of Baltimore’s public parks.

While development limited the build-out of the boulevard system envisioned by the Olmsted Bros., the famous architects who designed Baltimore’s park system, the Alameda became a key thoroughfare that carried traffic to and from the old Memorial Stadium in Waverly and between the county and the city.

The curved road that became the Alameda is laid out on maps drawn by the Olmsted Bros. as part of the firm’s 1904 report to the city, said Sandy Sparks, founding president of the Friends of Maryland’s Olmsted Parks & Landscape.

Nearby Harford, Belair and Hillen roads are labeled in the maps, but the Alameda isn’t, Sparks said.

“The boulevard was proposed," she said. "But it didn’t have a name.”

By 1922, the Alameda had become so popular among neighbors that 100 or more of them attended a City Council meeting “ready to fight anything or anybody” to stop streetcar tracks from being laid on the road, The Sun reported at the time.

A brawl nearly broke out in the council meeting after a streetcar opponent accused one of the proposal’s supporters of not “speaking the truth” about a rumored plan to build tracks along the entire boulevard, The Sun reported.

The headline: “Alamedans Storm Council Chamber.”

Baltimore Sun researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

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