The Curious Case of Quentin(e) Road

This is the tale of how Brooklyn’s Quentin Road was originally called Avenue Q but almost became Quentine Avenue. Bear with me.

When the Town Survey Commissioners of Kings County laid out the streets of Flatbush, Flatlands, New Utrecht, and Gravesend in 1874, in advance of the eventual expansion of the city of Brooklyn, they kept simplicity in mind:

The disadvantages of giving, over so large an area as this, ordinary street names, were so obvious, and the convenience, in the future, of a more simple and regular system was so evident, that the use of names, except in local cases, was rejected, and numerals or alphabet-letters substituted.

The streets and avenues in South Brooklyn [i.e., today’s Red Hook and Gowanus neighborhoods] being known by numbers, these were continued southerly and easterly, down to 113th street at Fort Hamilton and out to 28th avenue. Along Gravesend Bay the streets are respectively “Bay First,” “Bay Second, &c., up to “Bay 50th.” For the central and eastern section, West street [i.e., Dahill Road] was taken as a starting point, and the streets named “East First,” “East Second,” &c., up to “East 109th” ; the avenues being named “Avenue A,” &c., southerly to “Avenue Z.” In this way we avoid an endless confusion of names; we furnish a convenient key to find the relative location of a given street or avenue; and we simplify very much the future house numbering, so long a vexed problem in Brooklyn.

[Town Survey Commission of Kings County. Report of Samuel McElroy, C.E., Superintendent of Survey. Submitted, October 31st, 1874 (Brooklyn, N.Y. : Rome Brothers, 1874), 12-13. View a copy of the accompanying map in the collections of the New York Public Library.]

We have lived with that run of alphabet-avenues ever since: Avenue P, Avenue T, Avenue X, Avenue Z. Most names bestowed by the Town Survey Commission survive unaltered. Some, though, have been gussied up over time: Wouldn’t you rather live on “Albermarle Road” than plain old “Avenue A?” Or the tonier-sounding “Glenwood Road” instead of “Avenue G?” How about “Quentin Road?” That’s surely an improvement over “Avenue Q,” which sounds like a sneeze!

Deed Realty Company advertisement for 2216 "Avenue Q." [Collection of Joseph Ditta]

Deed Realty Company advertisement for “2216 Avenue Q.” [Collection of Joseph Ditta]

Real estate developers were behind most of those English-inspired name switches (“pip pip, cheerio, and all that rot”), but those of us in southern Brooklyn have heard, repeatedly, how “Avenue Q” was renamed in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt’s youngest son, Quentin Roosevelt (1897-1918), a World War I pilot shot down over France on Bastille Day, 1918. Few know that the idea to change “Avenue Q” to “Quentin Road” was afloat as early as 1910, when Quentin Roosevelt would have turned 13 years old! Back then, members of the Flatbush Board of Trade suggested giving “real” names to all the letter avenues: not only would “Avenue Q” be called “Quentin Road (after young Roosevelt),” but “Avenue R” would become “Roosevelt Road.” (For a full list of their proposed changes, see Daniel Frazer’s story at Ditmas Park Corner, which comes from a report in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle of February 16, 1910).”

One might guess that after Quentin Roosevelt’s death a proclamation went forth from the City Fathers (sound the trumpets!) that HENCEFORTH, the street formerly known as Avenue Q, in the Borough of Brooklyn, would hereby be called Quentin Road in honor of our fallen hero. But one would be wrong.

Postcard view looking north up East 21st Street to "Ave. Q," now Quentin Road. The house behind the trees is still standing at 2023 Quentin Road. [Collection of Joseph Ditta]

Postcard view looking north up East 21st Street to “Ave. Q,” now Quentin Road. The house behind the trees is still standing at 2023 Quentin Road. [Collection of Joseph Ditta]

The official switch to “Quentin Road” came about far more prosaically. On January 22, 1922, Francis P. O’Connor of Brooklyn petitioned Alderman Cox on behalf of the residents and property owners along “Avenue Q” (he lived at no. 2215) to change the name of the street between East 16th Street and its eastern end at Jamaica Bay to “Quentin Road.” The reason for the request, O’Connor explained, was that the letter “Q” was so hard to write and equally difficult to decipher that mail addressed to “Avenue Q” constantly went astray. And, to bolster his argument, he added that some of southern Brooklyn’s crosstown avenues had already dropped their alphabetical monikers for fuller names: Avenue C = Cortelyou Road; Avenue F = Farragut Road; etc. Alderman Cox referred O’Connor’s petition to the Committee on Public Thoroughfares for consideration. [1]

The Committee met on March 1, 1922 and resolved “That the name of Avenue Q, between East 16th street and its easterly terminus at Jamaica Bay, in the Borough of Brooklyn . . . is changed to and shall hereafter be known as ‘Quentine [sic] avenue [sic].'” Yes, Quentine Avenue! A simple typo, surely, but it gets better. The resolution was laid over until the Board of Aldermen next met. [2]

On March 7, 1922, a member of the Board must have noticed that the language of the proposed resolution applied only to the eastern length of Avenue Q; the section between Stillwell Avenue and East 13th Street would continue to be called by its old name, so far as anyone was concerned. So the Board recommitted the resolution for correction to the Committee on Public Thoroughfares. No one had yet caught the “Quentine Avenue” goof. [3]

Deed Realty Company advertisement for 2118 "Avenue Q" (house at right). [Collection of Joseph Ditta]

Deed Realty Company advertisement for “2118 Avenue Q” (house at right). [Collection of Joseph Ditta]

At the Committee’s next meeting, on March 14, 1922, the resolution was amended to correct the omission of the western half of Avenue Q, and switch “Quentin[e] Avenue” back to “Quentin Road”: “[T]he name of Avenue Q, running from Stillwell avenue to East 13th street and thence from East 16th street to Flatbush avenue, in the Borough of Brooklyn . . . shall hereafter be known and designated as ‘Quentine [sic] Road.'” Now the entire three-mile-plus length of the street would have one name. The wrong name, mind you, but one name. This decision, too, was laid over until the Board of Aldermen next met. [4]

On March 21, 1922, the Board voted to adopt the resolution “That the name of Avenue Q, running from Stillwell avenue to East 13th street and thence from East 16th street to Flatbush avenue, in the Borough of Brooklyn . . . shall hereafter be known and designated as ‘Quentine [sic] Road.'” Still, no one had caught the “Quentine” typo. “Avenue Q” was now officially “Quentine Road.” [5]

Finally, at the meeting of April 25, 1922, the resolution was amended “by striking out the letter ‘e’ at the end of the word ‘Quentine.'” [6]

At last! Quentin Road! Not Quentine Road. Not Quentine Avenue. (Are you dizzy yet?) Just Quentin Road, as we’ve come to know it these past 90-odd years. Note, though, that in all the preceding red tape, not once was the word “Quentin” linked to “Quentin Roosevelt,” the supposed namesake of the change.

We can only hope the residents of the former “Avenue Q” have been receiving their mail regularly since. They might not be, especially if their letter carriers have relied on the map of Brooklyn below; originally issued in 1911, it was hastily updated in August 1922 to reflect the newly renamed street. The publishers got it wrong, of course. Note the circled “Quentine Rd.” Sigh . . . .

Quentin.Road.map.1922

Detail from Map of Borough of Brooklyn (Williams Map and Guide Co., 1911; corrected August 1922; issued as a supplement to the Brooklyn Eagle Almanac for 1923. [Collection of the Library of Congress: http://www.loc.gov/item/2005625362/]

(Many thanks to Lisanne Anderson for bringing this map to my attention!)


Notes.

[1]​ Proceedings of the Board of Aldermen of the City of New York From Jan. 2 to Mar. 28, 1922, vol. 1, p. 117, January 24, 1922, No. 144, “Residents and Property Owners — Petition for Change of Avenue Q to Quentin Road, Borough of Brooklyn.”

[2]​ Ibid., p. 439, March 1, 1922, No. 144 (G. O. No. 11), “Report of the Committee on Public Thoroughfares in Favor of Adopting Resolution Changing Name of Avenue Q, Borough of Brooklyn, to Quentin Road.”

[3]​ Ibid., pp. 494-495, March 7, 1922, Int. No. 144 (G. O. No. 11), “Report of the Committee on Public Thoroughfares in Favor of Adopting Resolution Changing Name of Avenue Q, Borough of Brooklyn, to Quentin Road.”

[4]​ Ibid., pp. 519-520, March 14, 1922, No. 144 (G. O. No. 29), “Report of the Committee on Public Thoroughfares in Favor of Adopting Amended Resolution Changing Name of Avenue G [sic], Borough of Brooklyn, to Quentine [sic] Road.”

[5]​ Ibid., p. 550, March 21, 1922, G. O. 29 (Int. No. 144), “Report of the Committee on Public Thoroughfares in Favor of Adopting Amended Resolution Changing Name of Avenue Q, Borough of Brooklyn, to Quentine [sic] Road.”

[6]​ Proceedings of the Board of Aldermen of the City of New York From Jan. 2 to Mar. 28, 1922, vol. 2, p. 177, April 25, 1922, No. 477, “Resolution Amending Resolution Changing the Name of Avenue Q, Borough of Brooklyn, to ‘Quentin Road.'”

[Published copies of the Proceedings of the Board of Aldermen of the City of New York were consulted at the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library of the New-York Historical Society.]


Copyright © 2016 by Joseph Ditta (webmaster@gravesendgazette.com)

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3 responses to “The Curious Case of Quentin(e) Road

  1. Pingback: HIGHLAWN AVENUE, Gravesend | | Forgotten New YorkForgotten New York

  2. Pingback: LANES OF KENSINGTON | | Forgotten New YorkForgotten New York

  3. Pingback: Don’t Blink! | The Gravesend Gazette

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