Join 3,374 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


USA house name?
August 24, 2012 2:49 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone in the USA officially name their main residential house, along the lines of how some people name their houses in the UK?

I understand that the rich in the USA may name their estates and that many Americans name their summer cabin or their winter lodge, but is there a US neighborhood or city tradition where people refer to their main houses as a name?
posted by lstanley to Home & Garden (53 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I know people who name their primary residences (my mother calls her small house "Wit's End," for instance), but I'm not aware of any community where that's a norm, or where you could name someone's house to anyone else and that third party would be likely to have any idea what you meant or where it was.
posted by Alterscape at 2:54 PM on August 24, 2012


Okay, this is probably not what you're looking for, but activists and punks do this all the time. Sometimes it's just one group of people living together and the name is temporary; sometimes the name lasts through innumerable tenants. Sometimes the names are puns ("Hott House") sometimes they're serious (Kronstadt House); sometimes they're named for a thing that happened or a characteristic ("Dog Palace"). Sometimes they have some poetry (Red and Black House, First of May) and sometimes they're kind of yuck ("Shitkicker"). All these are made up but parallel to ones I know.
posted by Frowner at 2:56 PM on August 24, 2012 [9 favorites]


A lot of off-campus student houses in the town where I went to college would have names.
posted by bardophile at 2:57 PM on August 24, 2012


In punk and music subcultures (and probably others, too), yes, houses always have a name. I have lived at Shanghai City, The Borg Ward, and others which have names that totally escape me. I have played shows at houses with names such as Chez Puget, Barely Standing, and the simply named Larry's House, at which no Larrys actually lived.

So, yes, some of us do. I currently live at a house called Rare South... the other half of our band lives in Rare North.

It makes it easy to talk about where we're going when we don't have to say "Nick's house", because then you say "Which Nick? Nick B? Nick S? Nicky Nick?" and then you say "Nick B" and then they say "The Nick B from Lula? Or the Nick B from Olympia?" And so on and so on.
posted by special agent conrad uno at 2:58 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


My in-laws live in a retirement community in Florida, where most people live year-round. Most of the houses have very twee names.
posted by charmcityblues at 3:01 PM on August 24, 2012


In England it is common to see a house with a name (e.g. "Riverdale") and that is normally part of the mailing address, but I am not familiar with American towns at any level where that would be the norm except for estates.
posted by madstop1 at 3:02 PM on August 24, 2012


I know people who have retired to a small seaside town in Maine where they live in houses they've named. I think this was more common a hundred years ago, and these particular people may be just tapping into that old tradition (because their grandparents did it). Their houses are their sole residences, but are the kind of house that could have been summer houses under other circumstances. In some cases the house name persists through transfer of ownershop, in other cases not. But none of the names are postal-service-approved. (though these people all get mail at PO boxes anyway, not delivery).
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:03 PM on August 24, 2012


Beach houses, yes but other than that not commonly.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:04 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


My family estate has been called "Windy Acre" since my great-grandmother built it in the 1930s. It was always sort of a joke because it's not your typical suburban house, was built way before the rest of the area was developed, and can be sort of reminiscent to Green Acres. It's not the official address though, and it's the only house on the street with a name. We do refer to it by name though on invitations and such. (This is in California.)
posted by kendrak at 3:05 PM on August 24, 2012


This is interesting. A few years ago, I almost askd the exact same question, because this happens all over the place where I live in Virginia.
posted by 4ster at 3:05 PM on August 24, 2012


If I understand the OP, I think the question is about homes being officially named (not merely nicknamed among occupants, family/friends, or members of a local subculture) -- that is, the name itself becomes part of the location's address, so that letters could actually be delivered to (say) "scody, Weller Fields, Los Angeles" without having to give a house number and/or street, or that locals (whether part of a subculture or not) widely refer to the location by its name rather than its address ("oh yeah, that's the dog that belongs to the people over at Weller Fields").
posted by scody at 3:10 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


In my experience, this only happens when a home achieves landmark status, with a name related to the reason for its landmark status, but even then it might not be part of the official address. For example, I recently found out that I'm descended from the guy who built this house, and consequently from several generations who lived in the house, but you won't find it by that name via, say, Google Maps.
posted by davejay at 3:18 PM on August 24, 2012


A house name doesn't have to be part of the official address. If it's a commonly used name in the community it's very likely that the USPS would get it there anyhow -- they're actually quite good at what they do.
posted by imagineerit at 3:21 PM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Naming houses is a reasonably common practice in the kinds of cultures people have said, but I don't think they're ever official in the way that I gather they are in the UK. The postal service will, in my experience, always have a street name and number by which they refer to that destination. Even for large university campuses (with almost no street grid, and all buildings referred to by name) or corporate/industrial/transshipment campuses ("Assembly Building 14"? "Loading Dock E-44"? "Pier 108"? What street is that on?) there is at the least a mail-stop number for addressing. (Usually the entire campus has one address from the USPS's point of view, come to think of it, and internal delivery is done internally.)

The USPS will attempt to deliver to non-canonical addresses, so I'm sure there are plenty of cases where you could write a letter to Bob Smith, Whatevertheheck Manor, Smalltown, ME and it would arrive promptly, but I'm pretty sure that's treated as an exceptional condition by the USPS. You wouldn't put those addresses in a presorted bulk mailing, for example, in which the rates you pay depend on having sufficiently accurate addressing.
posted by hattifattener at 3:25 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is a house in Southern Canada named Swan's End, that is supposed to be nice.
posted by Danf at 3:29 PM on August 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


It may be a warped sample, but I find that Foursquare has helped this phenomenon, at least in my circle of friends. Our house is "Dali's House" (our dog); there's "Mittens' Place" (a friend's chinchilla) and "Kerrigan's Landing" (a Starcraft-enthusiast couple's cat), "Castle Guy de Lombard", "The Model Home".

Plus there's famous houses, either for their architechture (Fallingwater, Taleisin West) or stateliness (Biltmore Estate), or history (Monticello).

Also, as St Alia mentioned, all beach houses that I've seen have cheesy or punny names.
posted by supercres at 3:36 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would guess that mail addressed to "The White House, Washington, DC" will get there.
posted by madcaptenor at 3:39 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Probably a holdover from the UK, but virtually all low-/mid-rise apartment buildings are named especially if they were built in the 60's-70's.
posted by porpoise at 3:41 PM on August 24, 2012


I think the question is about homes being officially named

Yes, that's my reading. I don't travel in upper-class circles, but I have known of one prestigious (or possibly just pretentious) place that was addressed like this. It was a big house that had been converted into apartments, and none of the dwellers knew the actual street address. No number was obvious, but mail sent to Wychwood House arrived there. Now I'm wondering what they would have told the Fire Department, if there'd been a fire.
posted by Rash at 3:45 PM on August 24, 2012


I don't think Scody's example is a good one because she's in LA and not providing a ZIP code in her address. One or the other is required to make house names work.

In times gone by in a village residence, such as Miss Marple's, the address would have been:

Jane Marple
Danemead
St Mary Mead
Downshire

The house simply had a name instead of a street and number; other particulars of the address are as usual. The key is that traditionally, the village is small enough to make that practical.

In the modern world, the specificity of the post code system continues to allow this to work:

Jane Marple
Danemead
St Mary Mead
Downshire DW5 3PX

In practice, you can address a letter in the UK to Jane Marple, DW5 3PX and it will arrive, assuming it is a single-family detached house and therefore not a building sharing a postcode among multiple households. Outside of cities, as in St Mary Meade, this is very likely.

In the US, you can similarly address a letter to:

Barack Obama
Camp David
Frederick County, VA
21788

and it will get there. It will also, thanks to the ZIP system, arrive if you just put his name and the ZIP (I am not sure of the +5, but I think Camp David actually has the whole code.)

So it actually makes no difference if the house has an official name or not; it matters that the population is small enough for the postal carrier to know all the residents, or that you have a very localised postcode system.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:52 PM on August 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Like bardophile, many of the off-campus student houses in my college town had names. I don't think a postman would have delivered to them if addressed to the name rather than the street address, but certainly most students knew what you were talking about if you referred to "Banana House" or whatever.
posted by insectosaurus at 4:00 PM on August 24, 2012


Well, one of my hippie neighbors has named their house "Casa de Paz" so we of course refer to ours as "Das Krieg Haus".
These are urban homes, not second houses or estates.
In the neighborhood we also have The Cistern House and a few others.

So, yes, some people do name their houses and other people are jackasses.
posted by Seamus at 4:16 PM on August 24, 2012


I'm not sure what you mean by "officially," but the only US examples I know of private residences with names (other than when people living in a particular residence give it a name that's used among friends and family--f'rinstance, my apartment is named The Breadbox, and I once lived in a communal house called the Laughing Buddha Technical Institute) are:

-Beach homes
-Famous architecture: Such as Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater
-Plantations
-Other big, historic landmark-type estates: Biltmore House, many Governors' mansions, and Presidents' homes

I don't know if there are any places in the US where regular folk generally name their residences such that everyone refers to them by their names.
posted by rhiannonstone at 4:17 PM on August 24, 2012


When I lived in DC, my perception was that a lot of apartment buildings (particularly higher-end ones, though not exclusively) had names. One year I rented an apartment in a building called the "Post Massachusetts" (it was on Mass Ave.)
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 4:18 PM on August 24, 2012


Not homes, but here in Denver pretty much every multi-unit building of a certain age has a name.
posted by FlamingBore at 4:20 PM on August 24, 2012


It was a big house that had been converted into apartments, and none of the dwellers knew the actual street address. No number was obvious, but mail sent to Wychwood House arrived there.

Was that in Wychwood Park in Toronto? Because that is such a monied/historied area that it wouldn't surprise me if most of the houses had names!
posted by kate blank at 5:02 PM on August 24, 2012


Yeah, when I was growing up, our summer house had a name that you would could address mail to and the mail would arrive there successfully.
posted by elizardbits at 5:12 PM on August 24, 2012


Echoing Darlingbri, I'm in Canada and named my century-old workers cottage in my small town when I moved in a decade ago. I have had the same postman since I moved in. My postal code applies to only three houses on a short street. Multiple times I have had mail within Canada and from the UK successfully delivered when solely addressed as:

House Name
H0H 0H0

I have also received mail with the wrong occupant's name,wrong number and street name but right postal code. So I believe the postal code is all they look at unless the postal code is wrong too.
posted by saucysault at 5:12 PM on August 24, 2012


In L.M. Montgomery's works of fiction, houses and farms are always named: Green Gables, Ingleside, Windy Poplars, New Moon, etc. This was likely the custom back in the day in villages and farms because there wasn't a formal system of street names and numbers, and the name would have been commonly used by the community and would very likely have been used as part of the postal address because there was no other address, i.e., Miss Emily Starr, New Moon, Blair Water. These days in North America house names aren't official in the sense that they are registered anywhere or known to the post office. They are just something for family and friends to use. You can put the house name on a plaque outside your house or on a letter if you want, but the postal workers will only look at house number and the street address written below the name.

I know farm owners in Ontario have to have a registered corporation name that can use the farm's name, but often these names are very corporate and unimaginative, i.e., Joseph Smith Farms, Ltd. When my father had to come up with a name for his farm corporation back in the '80s it was a farm name but we never used it to refer to the farm. And business letters that came to "Swanfields Farm Ltd." also included the mailing address.
posted by orange swan at 5:14 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I understand the OP, I think the question is about homes being officially named (not merely nicknamed among occupants, family/friends, or members of a local subculture) -- that is, the name itself becomes part of the location's address, so that letters could actually be delivered to (say) "scody, Weller Fields, Los Angeles" without having to give a house number and/or street, or that locals (whether part of a subculture or not) widely refer to the location by its name rather than its address ("oh yeah, that's the dog that belongs to the people over at Weller Fields").

You could also get vanity addresses:

1 Prudential Plaza
Chicago, IL

They have (reportedly) refrained from adding more because it apparently confounds the fire department's systems when someone calls in a fire at 1 Melody Place when it is really 1256 S Normal Street.
posted by gjc at 5:41 PM on August 24, 2012


I believe the practice of naming one's residence is still going strong in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.
posted by namret at 5:47 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is very common for people who own horse farms.
posted by lalala1234 at 5:56 PM on August 24, 2012


A lot of people's hunting and fishing camps have jokey names, at least down south, and you can usually use that as the mailing address, if only because they've been there forever and the mail carriers recognize the name.

Down here in Texas, a lot of the ranches have a name.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 6:24 PM on August 24, 2012


My sister-in-law lives in Naomi's House of Whigs.
posted by henry scobie at 6:50 PM on August 24, 2012


When we vacationed in beach-side North Carolina, all of the houses had names proudly displayed. Many were the vacation property you exclude, but quite a few were people who lived there year-round and named their houses just the same. These were nice places, but not any kind of estate or castle that would otherwise be named.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 6:55 PM on August 24, 2012


The USPS will attempt to deliver to non-canonical addresses, so I'm sure there are plenty of cases where you could write a letter to Bob Smith, Whatevertheheck Manor, Smalltown, ME and it would arrive promptly

This can work for things other than house names too. ISTR that letters addressed to simply "The Biggest Liar in the World" successfully arrived at the offices of Ripley's Believe It or Not.

I'm not sure how much sense it makes to think about "official" addresses in the US, except maybe for the legal description of the parcel. At the extreme, USPS addresses can have a different city or even state from where someplace is actually located if that address is served by a neighboring post office. And ISTR for a while rural homes might have different addresses to the USPS and emergency services.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:05 PM on August 24, 2012


In the (not particularly swanky) Northern Virginia neighborhood where I grew up, there was one big old house with a little sign in front that said "Shadow Lawn." Looked like it had been there for quite a while. So I don't know if you can officially name your house, but a few people definitely try.
posted by ostro at 7:32 PM on August 24, 2012


Nthing "only landmark type houses and beachhouses", but just throwing in a few more examples -- The Newport Mansions, which you can tour (thus, a landmark, in my book) -- The Breakers and Marblehouse (both belonging to the Vanderbilts), for example.
posted by jorlyfish at 7:35 PM on August 24, 2012


Large buildings in US cities often have names. So in New York, you have "The Dakota" and "The Ansonia" and "The San Remo" and so on. Most of these are ultra-fancy but not always.

Still, the proper address for those buildings is their street number, not their name.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:36 PM on August 24, 2012


Carmel-By-The-Sea does indeed have a tradition of naming their houses, you can see a neat map here.
posted by nerdcore at 7:46 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


In Canada even the Prime Minister's residence is known by its address: 24 Sussex Drive, Ottawa. The residence for the Leader of the Opposition, however, does have a name: Stornoway.
posted by orange swan at 7:46 PM on August 24, 2012


in the UK, you can often address a letter to the name of the house in a particular village and it will get there, but that won't happen in the states unless it's a famous bldg.

that said, some ppl do unofficially have names for their houses. i actually do. i also have a name for my car. but that's just me.
posted by violetk at 9:30 PM on August 24, 2012


Where I grew up (Westchester, NY) many houses had names that were their addresses. It was not unusual. I think with the the 911 requirement for standard street names and house numbering it is less common. Our house did not have a number, it had a name. About 20 years ago it was given a number.
posted by wandering_not_lost at 9:31 PM on August 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Follow up: one would address a letter to the house:

Ms Pixie Fluflu
Fluffy Woods Cottage
Moonglow Lane
Futzville, NY 06477
posted by wandering_not_lost at 9:33 PM on August 24, 2012


Relatively common in Virginia. I've lived in The Church (which was not a church), The Professor, The Clay, and currently in a house eponymous of the street it sits on— though none of the others on the street share the same name.

These were all single family homes, btw; it is far more common for apartment buildings of any scale to have a name, eg The Dallas, The Continental, The John Marshall.
posted by a halcyon day at 11:04 PM on August 24, 2012


my perception was that a lot of apartment buildings (particularly higher-end ones, though not exclusively) had names

That's pretty common around here also (not just higher-end ones; there's an apartment I go past occasionally named The Undre Arms that's about as seedy as you'd expect from the name). But so are commercial buildings; it's common to see "The Johnsmith Building" carved into the front of a building above all the more-ephemeral awnings and retail store signs. Presumably the building was built for the Johnsmith Company originally, etc. But in all of these cases, it's very rare for anyone to refer to the buildings by name, except occasionally as part of the description ("Turn right on 15th, go half a block, and it's a large white building on your right— says ‘The Royale Aparttmentes’.")

I'm not sure how much sense it makes to think about "official" addresses in the US, except maybe for the legal description of the parcel.

IME the legal description of the parcel tends to involve ranges and sections and the names of centuries-old plats and deeds which nobody except surveyors have ever heard about. A parcel might have multiple buildings or none, or multiple mailable addresses or none. It's really a description of a chunk of land rather than a place in human terms that one might go to or send mail to. I think the closest thing we have to a notion of an official address is what the USPS will deliver to. Though wandering_not_lost's point about 911 addressability is a good one.
posted by hattifattener at 11:30 PM on August 24, 2012


nerdcore has it - you're looking for Carmel, California. Via wikipedia:

The one-square-mile village has no street lights or parking meters.[32] In addition, the businesses, cottages and houses have no street numbers. (Originally, the early artists who were the first builders of the homes in the town, named their houses, rather than having numerical addresses.) Due to this situation, the Postal Service provides no delivery of mail to individual addresses. Instead, residents go to the centrally located post office to receive their mail. Overnight delivery services do deliver to what are called geographical addresses, such as "NE Ocean and Lincoln" (Harrison Memorial Library) or "Monte Verde 4SW of 8th" (Golden Bough Playhouse). The format used for geographical addressing lists the street, cross street, and the number of houses from the intersection. For example, in the case of "Monte Verde 4SW of 8th", the address translates to a building on the West side Monte Verde Street four properties south of the 8th Ave intersection.
posted by LionIndex at 12:26 AM on August 25, 2012


Punk houses
I do know that mail could addressed to
Hellarity House
Oakland, CA

and
Hellarity House
Berkeley, CA

and it would arrive there.
posted by gally99 at 2:09 AM on August 25, 2012


Certainly in the UK you have to register the house name with Royal Mail (My partner's mother bought a house that had been registered with the council/Royal Mail as "Gucci Manna" [hidden number] blah blah street, blah, bla 123 - lolwhut! - and she immediately de-registered that back to [number] blah blah street as soon as she had the access.) I currently get my mail delivered to work on a Uni campus, so it goes to a building and then our internal postroom work out where I am from there (I did email them and give them a heads up...) but ultimately it comes down to the postcode so I suspect that if you could get the mail carrier to register a name, it could be done as they would just use the zipcode.

in the LM Montgomery example above, they would have got their post delivered to a central post office for pick up, much like the set up in Carmel, mostly because it was a small community but also because some of the farms were quite far away from the community and people did swing past the post office while in town to buy seed etc.
posted by halcyonday at 3:00 AM on August 25, 2012


When I was younger and living in Austin, I lived in the Gay House and in the Rail House. The Gay House had a sign/mural labeling it as such and was named while I was living there by a smelly crusty punk who lived in our shed out back - he felt us three boys who lived in the house proper were hopelessly effeminate. Believe it or not, it was named in endearment.

Many of my friends' houses held such names as well. I can remember the Punker Bunker, Dreamland, the Graveyard, MLK House, and in Dallas the oh-so-imaginatively named Yellow House, Glass House, Bike House, and Annex House, and I had a girlfriend who lived in the Funhouse, so named because it was a messy, unsafe pile of add-ons and extensions - windows divided rooms, doors opened to nowhere, rooms with few to non 45 degree angles. It was vaguely reminiscent of the infamous Winchester House (another named estate!) if the Winchester House had been built by hobos. It ended up collapsing, if I remember correctly.

There were countless other houses with monikers that I came across, both in Texas and in my travels all over the place. Looking back, it almost seemed like the shittier a place was, the more likely it'd have a name. Maybe it was because those places had a lot of character (and tended to be inhabited by characters), and character asks to be named. Paying $125 rent had its definite upsides and it was fun always having interesting people around who'd likely be down for anything you could think of, but these days I take a certain amount of pride in knowing that my living situation is stable, there won't be smelly, identity uncertain trainhoppers to step over in the morning, and I don't have to worry about contracting lice from my own sofa.

Mark Maron, he of the podcast WTF among other accomplishments, calls his house the Cat Ranch.
posted by item at 7:09 AM on August 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Was that in Wychwood Park in Toronto?

No, it was College Park, Maryland.
posted by Rash at 1:48 PM on August 25, 2012


Ahhh! I read this question out of idle curiosity, and ended up having a problem unexpectedly solved: my husband has some mail he's been trying to send to an acquaintance in Carmel and has had no luck because of the no-street-names thing - thanks to that map nerdcore linked to, now we know their house name and hopefully we'll have better luck reaching them. MetaFilter knows all.
posted by illenion at 11:01 AM on August 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


For no other reason than that I am watching it, here is a screencap of mail as addressed to Miss Marple in the BBC's Pocketful of Rye.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:26 PM on August 28, 2012


« Older On purchasing a hand built bic...   |  What meal-replacement solution... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.