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Why is there no J Street in Washington, DC?

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

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Fun Fact Friday

Washingtonians’ love a good story. Especially if it’s dosed with mystery and revenge. That’s why the story around the absence of a J Street in downtown Washington has remained a point of intrigue for many still today.

Proud, life-long citizens, transient Senate staffers and cocktail party goers alike have speculated on why Pierre Charles L’Enfant, the visionary who designed Washington D.C., who fought in the American Revolution and was handpicked by George Washington himself, would have left out the tenth letter of the alphabet when assigning names to the streets of our Capital.

For years, many believed it was some type of vendetta. According to historian David Mikkelson, founder of Snopes.com, “L’Enfant held a grudge against then Supreme Court Justice John Jay who negotiated with Great Britain in 1794 to settle several disputes between the two nations about matters such as British interference with American shipping, the presence of British troops in northwestern North America, and the settlement of Revolutionary War debts. The treaty was unpopular with many Americans who considered its terms far too favorable towards Great Britain, and it was seen as a betrayal of the French who had been the United States’ ally during the Revolutionary War and were now engaged in a war of their own with Great Britain.”

Alas, the truth of the matter may not quite measure up to the hype. The more widely accepted reason is simply that the letters J and I were hard to distinguish from each other especially when handwritten in those days.  Simplistic, but plausible, is the reason why Washington D.C does not have a J Street.