What is generally referred to around town as “Highway 3” is, in a deep-mapping world, known as “Dahomey Avenue”. I first discovered this fact while reviewing the March 10th, 1997 “Summary of Findings for Design of the Highway #3 Center Section” (prepared by the Ad Hoc Highway #3 Design Committee) as I helped to prepare the March 10th, 2005 “Final Report of the Mayor’s Ad Hoc Task Force on Safe Crossing of Highway 3“.
Both the 1997 group and the 2005 group recommended that one of the potentially powerful yet possible steps would be to “reclaim the state highway as a city street” (mentally, if not physically). The second group tossed around a new name such as “John North Boulevard”. Somebody then told me that the road already had a name, “Dahomey Avenue”.
The name “Dahomey” was quite surprising to me. It conjured up visions of places far from Northfield.
I had first heard it in reference to a kingdom on the West Coast of Africa from where many of the people taken for slavery in the United States had originated. I later heard it as a important source of the rhythmic complexity of music in Cuba and New Orleans that would serve as essential roots of what we now know as Jazz. Finally, and perhaps primarily related to the rhythmically complex drumming, the name emerged again in relationship to Vodun, a religion most often associated with Haiti, which was relatively strong in the more Catholic regions of the New World, such as Cuba and New Orleans.
So, with all due respect to the rhythm section of Occasional Jazz (which is playing Friday evening at The Cow), I’m wondering how the name Dahomey ended up in a land of Northern European people, Nordic string music, and Lutheranism. Susan, Hayes, somebody…can you help me out on this one?