Four downtown Denison alleyways recently got new names.
The Denison City Council returned to previous business when it formally adopted names for four downtown alleyways. The request to name the alleyways was initially put before the council in January, but tabled for further review amid concerns about one of the chosen names.
The council’s unanimous action named the alleyway between Gandy and Woodard as Saints Alley, the alleyway between Woodard and Main as Depot Alley, the alleyway between Main and Chestnut as Music Alley and the alleyway between Chestnut and Crawford as Firehouse Alley. The initial request called for the alley between Crawford and Chestnut to be named Skiddy Alley instead of Firehouse Alley, which is what caused the tabling last month.
“The naming of the alley would be a way to honor Francis Skiddy in a new light and help bring back one of Denison’s lost street names in a unique way,” the Denison Main Street Advisory Board wrote in its original proposal.
The city of Denison was founded in the early 1870s as a depot of the growing Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad and quickly became a trade hub. Skiddy served as an executive with the railroad and was involved with the city’s early formative years.
While nominally named after the railroad executive, the street gained the nickname “Skid Row,” and was at the heart of the city’s red light district. Denison officially renamed the street to Chestnut, a name it still bears to this day, in 1879 in an effort to change the area’s reputation and bring in new life to the district.
Main Street Director Donna Dow said the decision to table the request was likely because of the negative connotations that the street once had. Despite this, Dow said the name was proposed more as a way of honoring one of the early residents of Denison.
“We just didn’t make it clear enough that it was named for Francis Skiddy,” Dow said. “We would always want it to bring a positive image to the city.”
The request was reconsidered by the Main Street Advisory Board in late January, and it was ultimately decided the alleyway should be renamed to Firehouse instead.
“While the name of Skiddy may have negative connotations, the board still feels like a historical association of some type should be sought for naming the alley,” the board said in the new proposal. “The proposed name is Firehouse Alley due to the first Denison Fire Station, built in the early 1880s at 318 W. Chestnut, that abutted the alley and the current Central Fire Station, built in 1975 at 700 W. Chestnut, that now is located just down the street, along the same alley.”
The move to officially name the alleys comes as the city plans a series of multi-million dollar streetscape improvements along Main Street in the coming years. That initiative will also see improvements and renewal for many of the district’s alleyways, officials said.
City Manager Jud Rex said in January that these efforts would include improvements aimed at increasing walkability and liveability for downtown. The possible improvements could include new lighting, public art and potential rear entrances for many buildings in downtown.
“The biggest part will be to completely redo and pave the alleyways,” he said.