Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What The Heck Is Chevy Chase?*

According to an informal poll of friends, most assumed it had something to do with the actor/comedian, whose real name is Cornelius Crane Chase.

The name Chevy Chase actually comes from an ancient Scottish ballad called "The Ballad of Chevy Chase". The "chase" refers to a hunting party, and the "Chevy" is from the Cheviot Hills, which are located along the English/Scottish border. More context:
The chase is led by Percy, the English Earl of Northumberland. The Scottish Earl of Douglas had forbidden this hunt, and interprets it as an invasion of Scotland. In response he attacks, causing a bloody battle which only 110 people survived.

They are thought to have been based on the events of the Battle of Otterburn in 1388, although the account of the battle is not historically accurate and it may relate to border skirmishes up to fifty years later.

More from The Straight Dope:
Whatever its factual basis, the story of Chevy Chase became a cherished part of Scottish folklore, and people of Scottish ancestry applied the name to various places in America. The best known example is Chevy Chase, Maryland, a planned community established as a green refuge from Washington DC. It's one of the priciest residential areas on the east coast (location, location, location) and still fairly green and park-like.
Many early Glendale residents were of Scottish ancestry, including L.C. Brand.

Interestingly, the word glendale appears in the text of the ballad!
Wher syx and thrittè Skottishe knyghtes
on a day wear beaten down;
Glendale glytteryde on ther armor bryght,
over castille, towar, and town.
From a later version:
Of fifteen hundred Englishmen
Went home but fifty-three;
The rest were slain in Chevy Chase
Under the greenwood tree.
So there you have it: Chevy Chase Drive is named after a tale of Scottish knights kicking ass, not the star of Fletch.

*Update: Poking through my copy of A Brief History Of Adams Square, I've learned that some parts of Chevy Chase Drive were originally named Park Avenue and Sycamore Canyon, but in the mid 1920's a real estate agent named E.R. Austin worked to create an additional entrance into Glendale from Los Angeles and was able to convince L.A. and Glendale officials to change the name of this route to Chevy Chase Drive for the entire length of the street, as well as extend the street in various places. All this combining of names and extending made Chevy Chase Drive the longest street in Glendale.


Anonymous said...

Or, just as likely, the developer who laid out Chevy Chase Boulevard was from Chevy Chase, MD. (Since I grew up in D.C. the next town over from Chevy Chase I can't help but roll my eyes when people ask if it's named after the comedian. Since the town was founded at the turn of the century, wouldn't it be a lot likelier that the comedian was named after the town?)

Scott said...

I just researched this a bit and discovered that the town of Chevy Chase, Maryland was really only starting to be developed at around the same time the street in Glendale was named Chevy Chase Drive (mid 1920s), so its unlikely the developer was from there. I did find the developer's name- E.R. Austin. Chevy Chase, MD is an old piece of land that is also named after the ballad. Before I started researching this I assumed it wasn't named after the actor because I was familiar with the town in Maryland, and assumed the town was older. That said, out here we live in the shadow of Bob Hope Airport, so you never know.

AVN said...

I just noticed a little one-block curve, also called Chevy Chase Drive, in Beverly Hills.

Kathy H said...

Thanks for taking the time to research this! I'm going to forward it to everyone I know on Chevy Chase!!

Anonymous said...

So I have lived in Eagle Rock for years and have always gone to glendale for various reasons. I always wanted to know why there was a street called Chevy Chase. I kind of knew it was not named after the actor but wasn't sure. I'm working with Chevy Chase now on a show for NBC called "Community". I decided to ask him about it. While cornelious crane is his birth name he told me that two days after he was born his grandmother began calling him that. It's legal now and on his drivers license and pass port. He thinks she must have been familiar with chevy chase MD. Anyway he was familiar with the scottish hunt and all that your research provided. I'm sure he'd been asked that many of times before. Thanks, Bryan Birge

Verdugo Hugo said...

it wasnt park ave it was parkdale ave.the street was named after the parkdale park that was existed near grifith park.the park today is the golf course next to the river in los feliz.

Scott said...

Hugo, are you sure? A quick search hasn't turned up any references to a Parkdale park at the golf course location, but i did find a historical Parkdale Park in Burbank (also near Griffith Park) that has since been renamed Mountain View Park. The street behind it is still named Parkside.

2 cents said...

search engine to find "a history of atwater village to about 1940".you will find such an essay and included is street illustrations which include the illustrated parkdale area.also note the former tropico ave (los feliz).

another cool fact about the establishment of chevy chase-pre toonerville i belive thier existed a group called the "chevy chasers" that roamed that area.

Scott said...

Very interesting history. Perfect timing for me to see that history of Atwater Village PDF as I'm in the midst of planning another historical bike ride that will incorporate much of Atwater Village and I need to bone up on the history. Chevy Chase would have been Parkdale in Atwater in addition to being Park in parts of Glendale. It looks like the park is where North Atwater Park is now. The golf course is a bit further south. I need to dig through my book of historical maps again.

Glendalien historian#1 said...

lets all keep in mind that the north part of atwater was once considered "west glendale".its history was once washed all away by the great la river flooding of the early 1900's.all that was once a great community north of parkdale to about colorado 5 freeway area was once know as THEE ALMIGHTY "RIVERDALE".thee original glendale name and community.the ralphs grocery store cargo disptach place and the metro something named as such-caltrans area station oposite of north atwater park remain.
get at me...

1 more cent said...

at the former south west corner of tropico (los feliz ) and riverside (it had a diff name before) and before the 5 freeway,the area where that swiming pool is today,there used to be a drive in movie theatre and if i recall history it was the parkdale drive in.

Glendale Florist said...

It would have been cooler if it was named after the actor, but I guess Scottish knights are ok.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if Brand Blvd. is named after the NBA star Elton Brand who currently plays for the Philadelphia 76ers?

Scott said...

Brand Blvd is named after prominent early citizen Leslie Coombs Brand: