I have found that much of a town’s history is written in the names of its streets, buildings, and sections of town; and much is written on land on which we now stand. Certainly this is true of the Town of Pulaski. A look at the town map reminds us that we are deserving of the name often given our town; that being the Gem city … because so much of the past had to do with mining and minerals..
The first name to come to mind is Pico Terrace because the word Pico is the abbreviation of Pulaski Iron Company. From that, early developers got the name for Pico Terrace School, and a street that leads to it. There is no iron furnace to remind us now, but at one time Dora Highway ran past Dora Furnace. It was one of two large iron furnaces once located in eastern Pulaski – the other being Pulaski Iron Company Furnace that occupied a tract of land now used as a scrap metal yard.
Bertha Street was the main street running through land of the Bertha Mineral Company, and the site of the Bertha Zinc Company, one of the town’s first industries. Bertha Street, on the hill south of the Zinc Plant was for many years known as Dude Hill, because on this street lived the big “dudes” that operated the plant. That name is slowly going out of use, but the few old timers who are left still refer to it as Dude Hill. Just south of the old zinc plant was a large lot on which the president or manager of the plant lived. This location must have given him the opportunity to look down and observe the operation of his dominion.
Altoona Road is built on the old railroad grade that led to the first coal mines in the area, mines that furnished coal for the operation of the zinc plant. Magazine and DuPont Streets tell us that powder storage buildings once occupied portions of the streets. Pierce, Martin, and Watson avenues were named for the early landowners – as well as McGill Village, Lottier Bottom, Kersey Bottom, and Brown Addition. Claremont School and all of the various subdivisions carrying that name are all on the former General James McGill farm that was known as Claremont.
In southwest Pulaski there once was a body of water called Lake Sumpter. A street ran right through the lake, and was called Lake Street. That area was later filled in, and citizens lost their place to ice skate. The next street from Lake ran over a cliff, so it was no surprise when it was named Cliff Street.
Pulaski has always had good mayors. A couple of the earlier ones were Mayor Baskerville and Mayor Loving, There is a Baskerville Street, but Loving never received the honor, However when the airport north of town was built, it was named Loving Field, after Mayor John T. Loving. One mayor served 27 years, and I never heard anyone say a bad word about Mayor Ernest Calfee. I have never known of a Calfee Street, but we all are aware of the fact that our historic athletic field, Calfee Park, was named for him.
Bob White Boulevard was not so named because of an abundance of partridges flying around in the area, but because for many productive years, Pulaski had a Vice Mayor named Bob White, who was honored by the street naming.
I was glad to see the council name First Street Park, Jackson Park as an honor to the memory of former Mayor C. V. Jackson. And I was also pleased when the name Gatewood Dam and Reservoir was so named for former Director of Public Works Andrew Gatewood, who served the town for many years.
It’s good to know that people who have served the town well down through the years are not forgotten.
Lloyd Mathews is a retired land surveyor and a historian who lives in Pulaski