Blue Creek in northeast Tuscaloosa County viewed from the Watermelon Road Bridge. Blue Creek in northeast Tuscaloosa County viewed from the Watermelon Road Bridge. Jim Ezell

In 2010, the National League of Cities published a list of the 20 most common street names in the United States. Tuscaloosa has streets with all these names or some slight variation. The three most common names in order are numerical designations—Second, Third, and First. Other popular names are those of trees—Oak, Pine, Elm, etc.  Also included are mundane monikers such as Main, Hill, Lake, and View. Washington is the only person’s name making the list.

In the first decade of the 20th century, most downtown Tuscaloosa street names were changed to numbers, plus those aligned north and south were designated as “avenues.” Earlier, many of these streets were named for Presidents (Madison, Monroe, etc.), trees (Walnut, Chestnut, etc.) or destinations (Huntsville and Greensboro Roads).

Like other cities, Tuscaloosa has street names that are anecdotal or relate to local history. The following paragraphs describe a few of these. 

Jug Factory Road originally began near Daniel Cribbs’ Mill and Pottery adjacent to Greensboro Avenue and extended southeast about 10 miles into the county. Cribb’s Pottery produced massive quantities of stoneware items and was noted for its whiskey jugs. As the city expanded in late 20th century, portions of Jug Factory Road were broken up and renamed. The portion beginning at Greensboro Avenue is now designated as the James I. Harrison Parkway.  

Many have been puzzled or amused by Rice Mine Road. Its origin is very simple indeed. The Rice Family operated a nearby mine. What came from the ground was not the cereal grain that feeds a large portion of the world’s population, but coal. 

Convent Street is narrow and just over three blocks long. It extends from Bryant Drive (formerly 10th Street) near Bryant-Denny Stadium to 13th Street and then transitions into Dearing Place. A convent and the Ursuline Academy of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church were located there in the 19th century. Neither the convent nor the school still exists, but the street name survives. 

Kicker Road is about three miles in length from Hargrove Road to 25th Avenue East near Jack Warner Parkway. There is no connection to sports but instead to the local Kicker family.

Buttermilk Road is one of the more amusing names bestowed upon local roadways. An anecdote by a local resident relates that one of her ancestors operated a dairy farm in the area. He was frustrated by the bumpy road and told others that his milk turned to buttermilk by the time he arrived at the old farmer’s market near the courthouse in downtown Tuscaloosa. The dairyman’s complaint was often retold, and the road became known as Buttermilk Road. 

Jaybird Road connects Buttermilk Road and Skyland Boulevard in Cottondale. It was probably named for the abundant and noisy blue jays that are often heard in the Tuscaloosa area. The word jaybird is an Americanism said to date from the mid-17th century.

East Margin Street extended along the original eastern boundary of Tuscaloosa and terminated at the AGS Railroad Station on Southside. In the late 19th century, it was renamed Queen City Avenue to commemorate the city’s position on the Queen and Crescent Line, a railroad route connecting Cincinnati, the original Queen City, and New Orleans.

Watermelon Road originally extended from Main Avenue in downtown Northport all the way to the Jefferson County line in the remote northeast corner of Tuscaloosa County, a distance of 26 miles or more. In the late 1960s, a section of the original Watermelon Road was submerged by Lake Tuscaloosa. A replacement section designed as New Watermelon Road was routed across the Lake Tuscaloosa dam thus connecting the severed portions. Later, the portion of Watermelon Road from McFarland Boulevard (U.S. Highway 82) to downtown Northport was renamed Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The name “Watermelon Road” is probably derived from farmers who raised melons along the route. Much of Watermelon Road is scenic, especially in spring or autumn.

The funeral for Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant was held at the First Methodist Church of Tuscaloosa on Jan. 28, 1983. After the service, a motorcade proceeded from the church along 10th Street passing adjacent to Bryant-Denny Stadium. Press reports estimated that the route of the estimated five-mile-long procession from the church to Elmwood Cemetery in Birmingham was lined with hundreds of thousands of mourners. Almost immediately afterwards, 10th Street was renamed Paul W. Bryant Drive in his honor. 

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Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.

 

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