By Jonathon Mason Why is it so important to identify ourselves with the names of places? Does the name of a neighborhood shape the condition we live in or is it something outsiders perceive we live in?
A neighborhood in Duluth is going through an informal change of name. With all of the name pockets in Duluth, it can be difficult to know where you are. Lifelong residents refer to areas much differently than people who are new to the area and through many influences, the West End is becoming known as Lincoln Park.
“Words alone, used in an appropriate situation, can have the power to render objects, formerly invisible because unattended, visible, and impart to them a certain character: thus a mere rise on a flat surface becomes something far more- a place that promises to open up to other places- when it is named,” said influential geographer Yi-Fu Tuan in a piece called “The Language and the Making of Place.”
Tuan would suggest the name West End refers to Duluth ending at that point. This was true in the past, but Duluth has stretched throughout the years and there is more to offer further west of the West End.
“It’s just a little confusing,” said recent Duluth resident Patty Peters. “The well known Lincoln Park name fits this area geographically better because this area isn’t the end anymore.”
“It’s just not the same neighborhood anymore,” said Charles Sharp. Sharp has been living near Harrison Park for 44 years and has seen business that used to flourish disappear and the entire area change. Most of his neighborhood is young people now, said Sharp.
“The area has changed a lot since my childhood,” said Beverly Rientala. Rientala has been living in the area off and on for around 80 years and thinks Lincoln Park is a nice name. “Things are changing and Lincoln Park sounds nicer,” she said.
“Naming the area after a park seems much more natural,” said Darla Larson. Larson is fairly new to the area, but she thinks it is more suitable to today’s efforts toward environmental friendliness.
Rodger H. Johnson, longtime Duluth resident, said he doesn’t like the West End being called Lincoln Park. “It’s been called the West End for so long, it should stay that way,” Johnson said.
Pat Heali said she has lived in the West End for close to 70 years. “For those of us who have lived here our whole lives, it will always be the West End,” Heali said. She believes the city is taking the easy way out through this move. “It’s an easy way to try to gussy up the area of blight instead of cleaning up the blight.".
Some residents feel strongly about this issue, while some don’t have much of an opinion and would like to know what others think. Names can be powerful, so it is important for residents to voice their opinions on what they want their neighborhood to be called.
Tuan said it can be difficult to change the name of an area because it takes the right people. “The idea behind taking such a step is not only that a correct label should be affixed to a new entity, but also that, somehow, the new name itself has the power to wipe out the past and call forth the new,” Tuan said.