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Discovering the story behind the name of historic South Hill road

by Carl Vest

A historic road sign, posted at the corner of Meridian Avenue and 152nd Street, declares that 152nd Street was at one time known as Mitchell-Gould Road.  Questions are often asked as to why it was so named.

It all started in 1925.  And actually Mitchell-Gould Road was developed in two phases. First, on December 2nd, 1925 the County Commissioners approved a proposal to build a road across the east-west center of Section 21 of Township 19. The technical specifications describing where it would be built depicts the location of present day 152nd Street.  The proposal was based on a survey done by the County engineer in April 1925.

The road, as originally built, started at Meridian Avenue and went in a westerly direction.  It did not cross Meridian to the east and ended at the western boundary of Section 21.  Or, to quote the County Order, “… the total length being 1 mile and 115.0 feet.”  The development of the road was justified as follows: “… that there is no other road which is of equal utility for the citizens residing in the vicinity of said proposed road, the terminal points, general course and length…”

Why was it called Mitchell-Gould Road?  It had to do with land ownership.  A Mr. J.B. Mitchell owned the property at what is now the location of the South Hill Collision Company (Meridian and 152nd).  He donated land. The Gould family owned a farm at the western terminal point. While they did not donate land, their dairy operation was probably the real reason it was built.  It provided an outlet for their products.  Thus, the road was named for the two landowners at each end of the project.

The second phase of development occurred in 1931.  In June of that year the County received a Petition from 22 citizens living in the area, requesting that Mitchell-Gould Road be extended to the West to connect with what is now Canyon Road (then known as Malcolm McLarty Road.  The County engineer surveyed a route.  Various landowners donated land.  The project was approved.  Rather than give the new road a second name it was decided to call it the Mitchell-Gould Extension and it is so recorded in the County archives.

The Extension did not follow the same westerly direction as the original.  There was the problem of crossing Cedar Swamp (see Herald, August 14, 2008, page B3).  So the road was extended in a westerly direction to a point where it intersects present-day 78th Avenue.  Then construction was south to contemporary 156th Street (about one-half mile).  The development then was westerly to current 74th Avenue (about one-quarter mile).  On 74th Avenue the road was advanced south to the intersection of modern 160th Street. Finally, it was built along that path to what is now Canyon Road.  All this zigzagging was to get around Cedar Swamp.

So while Mitchell-Gould Road started out as being the equivalent of today’s 152nd Street, it eventually evolved into a rather complicated road system.  It has served the public well since the 1920s.

Carl Vest, PhD, is a founding member and Research Director for the South Hill Historical Society.