Magicians’ names are about to vanish from street signs at the Walnut Terrace development. A group of neighborhood leaders Thursday approved new names that would honor historic places and people in the area south of downtown.
Raleigh Housing Authority Director Steve Beam has drawn fire for renaming the public housing complex’s streets after obscure magicians – Beam has a side business developing card tricks. The agency had agreed to consider other names.
A group of 10 neighborhood leaders, public housing residents and retired Washington School educators met Thursday to vote on the names. They said their first choice is to keep the existing names, some of which have been on maps for a century.
Former Walnut Terrace residents “like the names that were there,” said Lottie Moore, who heads the housing authority’s resident advisory council. “It holds something for them. They might have been raised there.”
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The Housing Authority will now seek city and county permission to keep those names: West Lee, Holman, Walnut, Branch and Hoke streets. Walnut likely refers to the nearby creek, while Lee and Hoke likely honor the Confederate generals.
Allison Hapgood from the Housing Authority said that was the agency’s preference originally, but the old names were rejected, prompting Beam to submit magicians’ names instead.
“We have no problem keeping these names, but I’m not optimistic they’ll allow that to happen,” she said of city and county officials.
The new layout of Walnut Terrace also adds four new streets, so the group picked their top choices for those, including:
• Vernon Haywood, a Tuskegee Airman who lived in the neighborhood.
• J.W. Yeargin, the founder of Washington High School, the all-black school that’s now Washington Elementary.
• Fourth Ward, the former name of the neighborhood.
• Old Manly Street, a long-gone road that once connected downtown and Washington School.
Backups – in case the old street names are rejected – include Mount Hope (for the nearby cemetery), Little Blues (Washington’s old mascot) and Fayetteville Crossing.
The names of drug store founder James Hamlin and hospital founder Dr. Lewyn E. McCauley didn’t make the final cut.
Former and current Housing Authority residents favored geographical names, while the Raleigh Martin Luther King Celebration Committee endorsed a list of historical figures.
Bruce Lightner, who headed the committee for decades, also had suggested naming a street after Lorraine Hinton, a Walnut Terrace public housing resident who died of carbon monoxide poisoning in 1992 due to a faulty boiler.
That idea was dropped after Hapgood explained the Housing Authority’s plans to include a memorial garden for Hinton and her infant son at the new Walnut Terrace.
“It’ll be way better than what we had,” Hapgood said.
Walnut Terrace will reopen by year’s end as a mixed-income community, with public housing units alongside market-rate apartments and houses. Beam has said the decision to use magicians’ names on streets represented the project’s completion without federal funding – said to be “like magic.”