Before it was dedicated in 1974, The Woodlands was little more than a swampy thicket off the highway—a twinkle in George Mitchell’s eye. And while a squad of planners and developers began to tame his woodland beast, a marketing agency began to sell a vision that did not yet exist.
Harold Hutcheson was the employee tasked with naming the first streets in Panther Creek, one of the master-planned community’s earliest villages. His only directive: to use names of local flora and fauna inhabiting the wilderness that abutted the concrete being poured by the truckload.
“If there’s a plant that grows in Texas that was not poisonous or threatening, I pretty much ran through it,” says Hutcheson, a native Texan. He tried “everything from dogwood to sassafras,” eventually resorting to lesser-used suffixes such as “Court” or “Hill” to avoid duplicating other streets in the area—a big no-no for city and county officials who approve the names.
After more than 40 years, more themes have been added to the mix. There’s Alderon Woods, a Star Wars–themed enclave. Bardsbrook, over in the Village of Sterling Ridge, features Shakespeare characters, including Mercutio Court (Romeo and Juliet) and Lysander Place (A Midsummer Night’s Dream). Some of the newest ones feature fanciful names like Zulemma Drive.
That last one is the work of Lorrie Parise, manager for public relations and community at The Woodlands Development Company, who’s currently in charge of naming streets. She says that while Zulemma Drive was taken from her late mother’s middle name—which means “peace”—most of her work is inspired by the local community and, yes, nature.
Sometimes she’ll be given a vision for a neighborhood—music, for example—and she’ll go from there. In the past, the town has held charity auctions in which naming rights went to the highest bidder, a sum usually “in the thousands of dollars,” to be donated to Interfaith of The Woodlands. Parise says someone recently bid to name a maintenance access road in honor of a pet horse, Mr. Nobody.
The Woodlands proper still has at least five years until build-out, and The Woodlands Hills, the new development about to spring up near Conroe, will be organized according to the same village and subdivision model as its namesake; one neighborhood will feature butterfly names. There, as in the larger town, Parise says streets will sound nice out loud and be easy to pronounce. (What about Kuykendahl? “That wasn’t us!”)
More than anything else, she hopes residents will be proud of their addresses—a worthy goal, considering that they’ll be etched into the memories of all who live there, their go-to choice for those security questions required to reset a password.
“Good thing I didn’t name it Polecat or Skunk or something like that,” Hutcheson says. “That would be pretty terrible—I could have made it pretty tough on some people.”