What's in a name? Plenty when it comes to Haverhill.

How many things in Haverhill can you think of that are named after people -- perhaps even people you have known?

Longtime Haverhill people might think of the park at the top of Washington Avenue just outside of downtown as Mount Washington Park, but in the year 2000 it was renamed in memory of Walter "Budger'' Wysocki. He was a well-known leader of The Boys Club well before it became The Boys & Girls Club.

Naming the park for Wysocki was a no-brainer. Much of his life was devoted to giving inner-city kids from areas like Mount Washington a place to go to get off the streets.

Did you know the parking deck on Merrimack Street is technically named the Herbert H. Goecke Jr. Parking Deck after the late city councilor? Most everyone calls it, simply, the parking deck, not the Goecke deck.

Then there's Haverhill Stadium — excuse me, Trinity Stadium — which has a treasure trove of names.

Let's start with Trinity, as in the local Trinity ambulance service. A few years ago, the city placed the Trinity name on the stadium after the ambulance company agreed to pay $25,000 a year for maintenance of the complex. It's one of several ways the city makes money for stadium upkeep. Others include businesses paying to display signs there, and schools outside Haverhill paying to use the stadium for practices or games.

Other local names, well-known ones, are also associated with the stadium. There's the public entrance named Gobbi's Gate after the late Dante Gobbi, longtime popular caretaker of the complex. Then there's Pike's Peak at the highest spot in the bleachers, where the late Bill Pike, a city councilor with a voice made for radio, would announce Haverhill High football games.

And, of course, there's McNamara Field, named for the late Harry McNamara, a longtime Hillie football coach. Who could forget Harry at practices, putting players through their paces as he whisked around the field on his golf cart. He had lost the use of his legs in as car crash when he was a young man, but that didn't stop him from career as a coach and educator.

Everyone knows Swasey Field, the big park on Mount Washington, whether for its million-dollars of improvements including the addition of a water park to keep kids cool in the summer, or for its gang-related shootings in recent years. But did you know its original name was Passaqua Playground?

The name "Washington'' is big in Haverhill, as it is in many other American communities. There's Washington Street, Washington Square, Washington Avenue — all named, presumably, for our first president.

The thing most recently given the Washington name in Haverhill, as best I can recall, is George Washington Landing Park. Where is that, you might ask. Not too many people know the location, or even why it is so named. It's a small playground built a few years ago next to Crescent Yacht Club in Bradford. The playground is named for George Washington because that spot, according to local historians, is where he landed after crossing the Merrimack River during a visit to the area. 

Did you know the area at the intersection of Primrose and Main streets has a name? It's Duston Square — likely after Colonial figure Hannah Duston or her descendants — and there is even a small park there, a very small one.

Other squares in Haverhill have generic names. Take Monument Square, for example. These days, many people don't notice the monument in that square. The statue, in the image of a Civil War soldier, is on a traffic island that the statue shares with traffic lights.

You might hear the area across the street from the public library referred to as GAR Park, but do you know what the letters stand for? It's short for Grand Army of the Republic, a defunct fraternal group that was created to support Union Army and Navy veterans of the American Civil War.

How about names that have disappeared from the city? Take Macy's, as in the popular store that was founded in downtown Haverhill by Rowland H. Macy in 1851. He brought his store here to serve mill industry workers. The store is long gone from Haverhill, but is alive and well elsewhere as Macy's stores thrive in other communities.

Or how about Woolworth's, as in the department store chain that was a fixture in the eastern end of downtown Haverhill until about 1970. The store closed then, but the name remained on the vacant, crumbling building that became an embarrassment to the city until it was demolished a couple of years ago. That's one name locals were happy to see gone.

There are unofficial names for certain places in the city. There is a spot along Little River between St. James Cemetery and Hilldale Cemetery that we, as kids in the 1970s, used to call "the pipes.''

It got that name because large utility pipes were indeed there, giving us something to walk across so we could get over the river without having to go all the way to Lafayette Square. The pipes were a handy way for kids from the Acre and other neighborhoods in the area to get home from the high school quickly if they stayed after school and missed the bus.

There are also fictitious names associated with Haverhill. Consider the name Riverdale — do you recognize it? It's the title that cartoonist Bob Montana gave this city in his "Archie'' comics, which were based on Haverhill and his classmates at Haverhill High in the late 1930s.

The list of names attached to Haverhill places and things goes on and on, too many to list here.

The granddaddy of them all, you might say, is the name Haverhill itself. It comes from Haverhill England, after which our Haverhill was named.

But that's a column in itself, one that will have to wait for another day.

Bill Cantwell is editor of The Haverhill Gazette.

 

This Week's Circulars