1 Shakespeare enlarged 1

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.” With apologies to William Shakespeare, the naming of things, like houses, is important. The custom of naming one’s property began in 17th century Great Britain when the landed gentry began giving their manor houses names. Soon, their estate tenants and the general populace named their homes too. Names were also a means of wayfinding for delivering letters and packages until 1765 when an act of Parliament decreed that all new properties must also have a number and street name for better identification of properties and boundaries.

Tradespeople named their houses after their occupation-Forge House, Mill Cottage, etc.; or the appearance of a house. A man’s home may be his castle but Blenheim Palace is the only non-royal, non-episcopal country house in England to have the title of Palace. Queen Anne gave the estate to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough in gratitude for his military victory at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704.

Blenheim Palace Great Court 1 scaled

The naming of houses that began in England was transported to the American Colonies and first flourished in Newport, RI, the Philadelphia Main Line and the Hudson River Valley in New York. Last fall, I traveled to the Hudson River Valley to tour the magnificent estates of the Gilded Age’s movers and shakers.

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“Kykuit”, the Rockefeller Estate, translates from the Dutch as “Lookout” and is an apt name for this magnificent property overlooking the Hudson River far below and the high bluffs on the opposite shore. During my tour, I learned that the Rockefeller Brothers Fund purchased the bluffs directly across from the estate for views to be protected from development in perpetuity. What a magnanimous gesture for all visitors to this house and its extensive gardens to enjoy.

Names of houses can be sentimental, puns, historic, descriptive, foreign names or phrases, (Sans Souci” for example) or references to spirituality (Paradise, Sanctuary). In Talbot County, MD, where I live, there is a historic house with the unusual name of “Crooked Intention”. In 1681, a patent was awarded to Hugh Sherwood for a 130 acre tract. Sherwood intended to return to England but later decided to remain in Maryland and he named his house Crooked Intention to reflect his change of plans.

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Names also reflect landscaping or gardens-my sister’s house is named “Rose Cottage” both for the rosebushes under the sign and also as a tribute to our Great Grandmother Rose DePrato Williams.

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I named my farmhouse style home “Maple Leaf Cottage” because of the towering Silver Maples on my property. To my amusement, new neighbors ask if I am Canadian!

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In my neighborhood, I discovered a great name for a second homeowner, “Bacup” which I believe is the Owners’” back-up” to their primary residence.

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As a bibliophile, I was delighted to find a literary reference to the middle name of the great British author, illustrator and novelist, William Makepeace Thackeray.

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I enjoy coming home to my Maple Leaf Cottage since its having a name makes it the unique place that I call home. What about you? Please share your home’s name or what you would like it to be with me at jennifer@bohlarchitects.com. I will award a gift card to Whole Foods for the house name that I found most appealing!

The illustration of Crooked Intention is from the publication “Where Land and Water Intertwine”, An Architectural History of Talbot County, Maryland, by Christopher Weeks, with Contributions by Michael O. Bourne, John Frazier, Jr., Marsha L. Fritz and Geoffrey Henry, published by The Johns Hopkins University Press and the Maryland Historical Trust.