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What’s in a Name? Maple Lane in Elm Grove Having an Identity Crisis

Beverlie Wolf of Maple Lane in Elm Grove consoles her pup, Olivia, about the fact that the mailman won’t be making any deliveries there. Wolf rents a Post Office box to receive her mail because for years, deliveries were often lost because of an odd overlap of identical house numbers on Maple Lane in Bethlehem, which shares the same 26003 ZIP code. The city of Wheeling is taking action to change the name of Maple Lane to Lydia Lane to help resolve these kinds of issues. (Photo by Eric Ayres)

WHEELING — A road by any other name would be sweet, if you ask most residents who live along the sidewalk-sized “street” in Elm Grove known as Maple Lane.

The size of the “street” is not the problem in this neighborhood, where the “front” of the homes situated along Maple Lane actually face not a public road, but a long stretch of sidewalk that runs between the houses on either side. The dilemma stems from the fact that the address has a twin in another nearby town — Bethlehem — and that town has the same ZIP code as Wheeling: 26003.

This situation has turned this peculiar pathway into somewhat of a wormhole magically transporting mail and other deliveries to and from a neighborhood 3.7 miles away.

After months of logistical red tape with issues that have been lingering for years longer, Wheeling city leaders — with the help of many of the affected residents and some Ohio County officials, too — are closing in on a final resolution.

“We approached Bethlehem — since they use our ZIP code — to change the name, and they would not,” Ward 6 Councilman Dave Palmer said. “So we took it upon ourselves to change this.”

Maple Lane in the Elm Grove neighborhood of Wheeling may soon be getting a new name. The odd city street address — complete with street signs and street lights — is actually a sidewalk, and since the neighboring city of Bethlehem shares the same Zip Code as Wheeling, mail delivery and other complications related to the twin addresses have been the source of headaches over the years. (Photo by Eric Ayres)

The process was not as easy as it may seem, Palmer said. The logistics were as challenging as expected. Making sure it was a democratic process made it somewhat of a bigger challenge — especially during a global pandemic.

“Technically as a city, we could have just gone in and called it ‘Palmer Place,’ but we didn’t want to do that,” Palmer said. “We wanted to make sure all of the affected residents were part of the process.

“It’s their property. They’re the stakeholders, here.”

Initially, some residents of Elm Grove’s Maple Lane were not warm to changing the name. When your street name changes, you have to go through the headache of basically changing your identity as it relates to your address. Every utility bill, your checkbook, various personal accounts, your driver’s license — everything with your old address on it has to be changed.

Officials with the city and the Ohio County 911 system held a socially distanced informational meeting with affected residents this winter. Not all attended, Palmer noted, but all were invited.

Maple Lane in Bethlehem is about 3.7 miles away from Maple Lane in Elm Grove, but both neighborhoods share the same name, houses with the same address numbers and same Zip Code. The twin address scenario has caused problems for many years. (Photo by Eric Ayres)

“One of the biggest complaints was people were not getting their proper mail or package delivery,” Palmer said. “That’s an inconvenience. But what if someone was having a heart attack, and the ambulance went to the wrong Maple Lane? Seasoned dispatchers who know about this issue would know to ask which Maple Lane, but do you really want to risk this over a name?”

Residents not only have online shopping orders delivered to the wrong address, but some also have medication not shipped to the correct address in time.

Palmer commended Theresa Russell, director of Ohio County 911; Dave Weaver, Ohio County Planning Officer and GIS Coordinator; and Tom Connelly, the city of Wheeling’s Building and Planning director, for their work in the renaming effort. Officials helped residents understand that public health and safety concerns make it a vital issue.

“It’s been a concern for years — the number ranges are identical to the Maple Lane in Bethlehem,” Russell said, explaining that pinpointing the exact location of a 911 call can hinge not only on what the caller says, but also on whether or not a landline or wireless call is being placed, and whether or not the service provider’s information about that location is correct.

Misdirected Deliveries

Maple Lane in the Elm Grove neighborhood of Wheeling may soon be getting a new name. The odd city street address — complete with street signs and street lights — is actually a sidewalk, and since the neighboring city of Bethlehem shares the same Zip Code as Wheeling, mail delivery and other complications related to the twin addresses have been the source of headaches over the years. (Photo by Eric Ayres)

Elm Grove Maple Lane resident Beverlie Wolf will not be one to complain about having to change her address labels or information on her driver’s license if the pending street name change comes to fruition soon.

“I’ve been working on this for about nine years,” Wolf said. “I’ve never had a warm pizza, and I’ve never gotten a Christmas package on time.”

Wolf commonly sees her pizza delivery orders and Amazon packages end up either in Bethlehem or just simply lost. On the flip side, she has benefited from some unforeseen perks to her address — including a cordial relationship with residents of her twin address up on the hill. The address doppelgangers occasionally get in touch with each other to exchange misdirected package deliveries that they didn’t order.

“One year, I received three Magic Meatloafs,” Wolf said, explaining that the resident of the house with her same address in Bethlehem kept placing orders and complaining to the company when she never received them. “Eventually, they sent her a third one for free. I ended up getting all three, and I hand-delivered them to her. She was very nice, and insisted ‘Honey, you can keep one!'”

Wolf said having to exchange misdirected mail so often had gotten so maddening, she eventually resorted to paying for a Post Office box just to make sure she at least receives her regular mail.

Wheeling City Council is taking action to officially change the name of Maple Lane in Elm Grove to Lydia Lane. (Photo by Eric Ayres)

Sidewalk Folklore

While residents and city officials could not confirm its specific origins or explain exactly why Maple Lane ended up as a sidewalk, there is some feasible folklore floating around.

“It is odd,” Palmer said. “I don’t know how far it goes back or what the full story is. But there is an interesting story.”

All parties involved today seem to have heard the same tale dating back when the area was sprawling farmland.

“They say on the original farm, the family that owned the plat eventually gave it to two brothers,” Connelly said.

The newly proposed name for Maple Lane in Elm Grove will be Lydia Lane in honor of local historical figure Lydia Boggs Shepherd Cruger, shown in this portrait. She lived to be 101, was present during the siege of Fort Henry and was part of a wealthy and influential family credited for bringing National Road through Wheeling and to the edge of their family estate, now known as Monument Place in Elm Grove. (Photo Provided)

“Back in that day, they wanted to build an access road to the creek through here,” Wolf added. “They apparently asked each brother to give up five feet of their land so they could have 10 feet to build the road, but only one brother agreed to do it, and the other brother said ‘no.’ So the story goes, they only had five feet of public access to use.”

Today, Maple Lane appears as the only sidewalk in the city that boasts its own street sign.

The Democratic Process

As director of Wheeling’s Building and Planning department, Connelly does not typically deal with too many issues dealing with conflicting street names.

“The Planning Commission has a rule, but generally that’s limited to when someone is putting in a new subdivision,” Connelly said, noting that city leaders have to make sure proposed names for new streets don’t conflict with existing city streets. “That’s when they would have to approve or deny a street name.”

Nonetheless, Connelly worked closely with the Ohio County 911 office and the residents of Maple Lane, who ended up casting votes on multiple occasions as those involved worked to fairly come up with a new name.

“There are only 17 properties involved, so it wasn’t all that complicated to poll them,” Connelly noted. “It was manageable.”

What did become slightly complicated was the fact that residents of the Maple Lane in Bethlehem somehow got roped into the conversation, leveling their protests via calls and messages to Connelly against any name change. Still, some in Wheeling assert that the Elm Grove Maple Lane was established before Bethlehem’s Maple Lane, so Wheeling technically should have had first dibs on keeping the name.

There were thoughts to have each house on Maple Lane have its address changed to an address on the abutting access road in the “rear” of each residence — Lawrence Lane or Williams Lane between Kruger Street and Rhine Street. But that was an even more complicated proposal. Connelly also noted that they could not just change the suffix – from Maple Lane to Maple Court, for example — because this would not resolve the problem.

By mail-in voting, the majority of the residents agreed to change the name. Subsequent polling garnered an array of suggestions for the renaming.

“Some of the suggested names had just one vote,” Connelly said. “Others had two or more. We narrowed it down to the top two and had another vote.”

Although Wolf helped initiate the name change effort, the name that earned her vote was not the winning one.

“I voted for Five-Foot Alley,” she said, supporting the name that came in second place in the polling.

By a vote of 7-4 among residents who chose to participate, the winning name was Lydia Lane.

“That’s in honor of Lydia Boggs Shepherd Cruger, whose family is credited for helping to get National Road built through Wheeling and that area of Elm Grove,” Connelly said, noting that the family mansion — Shepherd Hall — later became known as Stone Mansion and then Monument Place. Today the historic landmark is home to the Osiris Shrine Temple.

Of course, officials had to double check to make sure they weren’t inadvertently creating a new twin street, but Connelly said it’s been confirmed that Lydia Lane was ripe for the taking.

Making It Official

Legislation to make the name change official is scheduled to come before Wheeling City Council for a first reading on Tuesday. Connelly noted that the Ohio County 911 office and the county GIS mapping department handle a lot of the name change logistics by working with the utility companies, the U.S. Postal Service and other entities and bringing everyone into the loop.

“We try to make it as easy as possible on the residents,” Russell said. “We’ve actually been doing this type of thing since 1998 when they got rid of all of the ‘RD’ box numbers.”

Russell noted that at Ohio County 911, they usually coordinate calls from the center and often never even learn of the disposition of the issues they help handle. Working with the Maple Lane issue, they not only know it will be a happy ending for the residents, but also had the chance to work directly with the public for a change.

“It’s such a pleasure to meet with the people in the community, which is tough, especially during COVID,” Russell said. “For me, it’s a joy to work with the residents.”

Once the Lydia Lane sign is installed and all of the dust settles over this issue in the Elm Grove neighborhood, Wolf said she will finally breathe a sigh of relief.

“I’ll be able to cancel my P.O. Box so I can get my mail at home,” she said. “And I’m going to get a pizza delivered to the right address … and eat it while it’s still warm.”

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