New Bedford’s Frederick Douglass Way Gets New, Corrected Street Sign
New Bedford has long celebrated its association with noted abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who spent some of his formative years in his fight against slavery here in the Whaling City.
There is a plaque honoring Douglass at City Hall, a mural depicting him near the Bristol County Probate Court, and there will soon be a statue of him in Abolition Row Park.
There is also Frederick Douglass Way downtown, a portion of Acushnet Avenue that runs between Middle Street and Elm Street alongside the western wall of the Elm Street Garage.
Yet with all of the references to Douglass, all the teaching about Douglass, it apparently took years for someone to notice that the man’s name was spelled incorrectly on one of the street signs for Frederick Douglass Way – but thankfully, that has now been rectified.
A few weeks ago, our Digital Managing Editor Phil Devitt pointed out to me that the street sign for Frederick Douglass Way at the corner of Middle Street had it spelled “Fredrick” instead of “Frederick,” at least the last time he looked. He said he’d scoured the internet for any mention of the incorrect spelling, but apparently it had gone undetected.
I popped downtown and sure enough, the sign read “Fredrick.” I checked Google Maps and was able to see that it had been spelled incorrectly since at least 2012, which is as far back as Google Maps would go at that spot.
A little further digging revealed that the portion of the street had been renamed in Douglass’ honor back in 1996, so it’s a safe bet the sign had been wrong since day one. Twenty-seven years is a long time for no one to have noticed, but it seems like that was the case.
Now, leaving the second “s” off “Douglass” would be a more expected error, but the “Fredrick” was a little strange, especially since it was spelled correctly at the corner of Elm Street.
I reached out to Mayor Jon Mitchell’s office to find out if they were aware of the issue. Public Information Officer Holly Huntoon responded that a number of street signs downtown were being swapped out for a more “historical” look, and that the “Fredrick Douglass” sign would be one of the ones replaced, and with the correct spelling. The estimated timeframe was six to eight weeks.
However, last week, Huntoon replied back to my request for a status update by saying they had brought the spelling error to the attention of the City’s traffic division and a correction would happen sooner.
“A crew will be installing a sign with the correct spelling of Frederick within the next week,” she wrote.
Sure enough, a new sign was installed at the corner of Frederick Douglass Way and Middle Street, and it looks great.
I thought that since he pointed out the error, we should take the incorrect sign and hang it in Phil Devitt’s office, but Huntoon said the sign will be recycled.