An Eiffel Tower sporting a cowboy hat on top. Two places named Berlin, neither of them in Germany. A town called Nashville, where dinosaur footprints rather than music are the big draw.
Towns throughout the United States may share the same name but little else. There are only so many ways to label a community, so it’s no surprise that there are repeats. For example, there are more than 20 U.S. towns called Berlin and Middletown and about two dozen known as Paris.
These destinations span the country, so some probably are within a convenient drive of where you live. They can provide a welcome day trip during this time of limited travel.
Our journey begins with a visit to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Texas. It was built in 1913 as a replica of the world-famous one in the capital of France. When a taller one went up in Paris, Tennessee, later that year, a cowboy hat was perched on top of the Lone Star State version to increase its height, in keeping with the claim that “Everything is bigger in Texas.”
The setting is very different in Paris, Maine, which is surrounded by dairy farms and apple orchards and offers distant views of majestic Mount Washington in New Hampshire. The town’s historic district of Federalist and Greek Revival architecture is a popular tourist attraction.
You’d think that a place called Berlin was named by German immigrants, and that’s true for the former gold-mining settlement in Nevada. German prospectors arrived in the 1880s but left about 30 years later when the mine closed. Today, it’s a ghost town where well-preserved buildings contain the original furnishings. Much older exhibits are the remains of giant marine reptiles that swam in the ocean that covered central Nevada 225 million years ago. They’re on display in a Fossil House at Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Historic Park.
A town in Maryland is called Berlin, but its name is pronounced with emphasis on the first syllable. That’s because the village occupies the site of the Burley Plantation, which was established in 1677. Berlin’s historic residential areas feature nearly two centuries of architectural heritage, and 47 structures are included on the National Register of Historic Places
What place other than Nashville, Tennessee, could claim the nickname “Music City”? Since the 1920s, it has attracted musicians and those who love country music and, more recently, a variety of other genres. Entertainment venues range from the famous Grand Ole Opry to small clubs and nondescript bars. Other major attractions are the Country Music Hall of Fame and museums dedicated to leading musicians.
Sauropods, rather than sounds of music, are the major attraction in Nashville, Arkansas. A man who moved to the area from Tennessee is said to have proposed the moniker when the town was incorporated in 1849. Once a major peach-growing center, the small community (population about 4,600) is home to the largest dinosaur trackway in the world. A collection of up to 10,000 footprints preserved in a quarry serve as reminders of Sauropods that roamed the area during the early Jurassic period, which began about 200 million years ago. Some species in the group were the largest animals that ever lived on land.
Then there are towns that got their names because of their location between places. That includes Middletown in Connecticut, because it’s about halfway between Windsor and Saybrook, and in California, the halfway point along the stagecoach route that connected Calistoga and Clearlake.
The Connecticut community originally was called Mattabeseck, after the local indigenous people, and was renamed in 1653. Due to a recent influx of immigrants from Southeast Asia, the town has a number of restaurants that offer a range of cuisines. During the first half of the 1900s, natural springs in Middletown, California, attracted people seeking to “take the waters.” A major draw today is the Middletown Rancheria, a Native American reservation that is home to some tribal members and the Twin Pine Casino.
According to legend, the ancient Greek scholar Archimedes came to understand the theory of water displacement after stepping into a bathtub. The excited sage reportedly ran naked through the streets yelling “Eureka!”—”I have found it.” However, Eureka, Illinois, is best known for its association with Ronald Reagan. He attended Eureka College and remained close to it throughout his life. He returned to town at least 12 times, including twice as president. The Reagan Museum and Peace Garden at the college is the largest collection of his memorabilia after the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Also, Eureka is located along the Ronald Reagan Trail, which connects towns in central Illinois associated with his early life.
A much longer pathway passes through Eureka, Montana. The 1,200-mile Pacific Northwest Trail runs from the Continental Divide in that state to the Pacific Ocean. Ten Lakes National Scenic Area, just outside the town, is a wilderness setting of rugged alpine mountain terrain and spectacular views all the way into Canada. A historical village includes a general store, school, church, and other structures, some dating back to the 1880s
This brief sampling provides just an introduction to several places around the country that have the same name but very little else in common. While we can’t travel freely, searching out others is a good way to find those day trips I mentioned, as well as to get ready for the time when we can.
When You Go
Paris, Texas: ParisTexas.gov
Paris, Maine: ParisMaine.org/tourism
Berlin, Nevada: Parks.nv.gov
Berlin, Maryland: BerlinMD.gov
Nashville, Tennessee: Nashville.com
Nashville, Arkansas: Arkansas.com/nashville
Middletown, Connecticut: MiddletownCT.gov
Middletown, California: LakeCoChamber.com/middletown
Eureka, Illinois: EurekaIllinois.net
Eureka, Montana: VisitMT.com
Victor Block is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at Creators.com. Copyright 2020 Creators.com