Background:

What’s in a Name ? Prestige, Pride, and a Marketing Edge

namenehemiah1Do you have a historic house for sale and want to elevate it a bit above its non-historic competitors ? Want your house to spark a bit of excitement and imagination in your buyers ?  How about an easy way to claim a point of pride and give your home’s marketing a distinguished feel ?  One of the quickest and simplest ways to do all of these things is to give your house a name.

namecalebclaggettIf you know something of the house’s history, one simple approach to naming is to call it by the name of its builder, original owner, or one of its prominent residents. Historical societies and local preservation societies often do this when they’re putting up historic building plaques. Many times, especially for 18th-century homes, not enough is known of the home’s history to label it with the original owner’s name. In the place of the original owner, the house is often given the name associated with it on the earliest known atlas map of the town. Many of these atlases were printed and sold in the 1860s and 1870s, so many of the names you see on house plaques actually date from this time, regardless of the actual age of the house.  If you know the approximate year the house was built, you can add that as well, or the year with the word circa (Latin for “in approximately”) if the year isn’t known definitely. So, a brick-end colonial becomes “The Ca. 1725 Caleb Claggett House,” and a Federal two-story brick home becomes “The Ca. 1815 Thomas Lyne Estate.” In both cases, the names convey a sense of history and make the houses seem more substantial and weighty.

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namewillowsWhat if you don’t have a historic character with a suitably historic-sounding name to attach to your house ? You can follow the time-honored tradition of simply bestowing a house name. Owners have named their houses as far back as ancient Babylonia and Assyria, and the Roman upper class made quite a big deal of giving their villas descriptive names. It was in Britain, though, that the naming craze really took off. At first, the Earls, Dukes, and knights named their manor estate houses to publicly claim the privilege of rank. As the 19th-century middle classes became more prosperous, they too began to name their suburban homes and city townhouses. It served a practical purpose, too, to help find and identify a property before the houses were numbered (1765 in Britain by act of Parliament- later most everywhere else).

namewisteriaSo how do you choose a name for a house if it doesn’t have one ? There are a number of approaches. The most popular would probably be to key into some physical aspect of the property or some element of the landscape. Steep Gables, the Arches, the Columns, Three Chimneys, and Oak Hall are the kinds of names that tap into architectural features. The Laurels, Boxwood Farm, Shady Rest, The Beeches, Hawthorn Hall, Evergreen Estate, and Lawnfield all take advantage of playing off the planted landscape of the house.  If your house has a view of some sort, that might be useful fodder, too- maybe Forestview, Lakeview, Longview, Mountain Vista, Ocean Lookout, or Sandy Scenes. Be creative, but be careful- Thorny Briarpatch, Dumpview, and Broken Beams probably won’t add much luster to your marketing.

namewyndingSome other approaches include the historical use for the property (the Old Mill, the Gardener’s Cottage, the Smithy, the Old School House, the Carriage Barn, etc.) or animals seen around the house (the Jays, Fox Hollow, Bluebird Cottage, Squirrels Leap, etc.)  Then there’s the humorous approach- DunRoamin, Wynding Down, Kantafordyt, Costalot, CostaFortune, and Stoneybroke are all names that homeowners have actually used. One owner with a rather large mortgage named his house Millstone, changing it to Milestone once he had the loans paid off.

nameoldfarmhouseThe humorous approach, though amusing, probably doesn’t give your house the prestige and the elite feel that might be worth something on the real estate market. One example where it does work- Peacemeal Farm seems to perfectly fit this 1790 house where outbuildings have been converted to living space and attached to the main house. Unless you have something ver clever like this, though, best to stick with some of the other categories. If you need some help, here are the top 50 English House names.  If your house lends itself to a more Celtic label, here is a great collection of Irish names spotted on houses in West Ireland.  From Down Under, here is a list with thousands of naming possibilities from the obscure to the obvious.  Finally, Minding our Manors is a great article from the Post Gazette on the origins of the names of the great estates of the Pittsburgh steel barons.

name-burrHowever you choose to do it, you should definitely give any house you’re marketing something more than just its street address to go by.  A house name can add a level of sophistication, prestige, historic charm, and most importantly, a little marketing edge that could end up making all the difference .

5 Comments

  1. by HandPaintedWoodSigns.com, on 11.08.10 @ 8:27 PM

     

    Lookey there! That’s the Burr Farm c.1805 sign I painted a couple years ago. It was ordered from my web site http://www.handpaintedwoodsigns.com where you can see a gallery of hand lettered, hand painted historic building signs we have done over the years.

    Good article and web site. Keep up the great work.

  2. by Michael, on 11.09.10 @ 1:57 PM

     

    Great signs, and nice website!

  3. by Historic House Blog » Oops, My Historic House Has A … Swastika???, on 11.28.10 @ 10:06 PM

     

    […] For a full story on the “Swastika” estate, see this article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review by Bob Bauder.  For more fascinating history of the swastika symbol, see the Wikipedia article here .  For an article about “naming” properties, check out our previous article here. […]

  4. by Don Wengler, on 05.28.11 @ 7:05 AM

     

    Thank you for this great tip. My home in historic Parkville, Missouri is for sale. Instead of the 4/5 bedroom at 1328 Main Street, it will now become the Ca 1890 Judge Hamilton House. Hamilton was the first owner who built it in 1890 for $3,000, according to an old news paper article I found in library archives. There are currently at least three other historic homes for sale in this small town, which is 20 minutes from Kansas City, Missouri.

    Don
    Historic Parkville, Missouri-for-Sale
    dwengler041@gmail.com 816-210-6430

  5. by Michael, on 06.28.11 @ 10:43 PM

     

    @Don Wengler…….No problem, I hope the name adds an extra “kick” to your marketing. I looked up your house on a real estate website, and it looks like a beautiful Victorian! I’m sure it will sell to an adoring buyer.

    Best,

    Michael

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