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No bombs, bad guys for this Bagdad

By BETH N. GRAY
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 11, 2003

SPRING HILL -- There are no ornate presidential palaces on Spring Hill's Bagdad Street. No statues of Saddam Hussein, either.

The blocklong street, northwest of the intersection of Mariner and Elgin boulevards, is tucked almost unnoticeably behind Spring Hill Elementary School. It has just four homes and two corner lots wooded in gloriously green live oaks, and it bears no similarity to the television pictures of the Iraqi capital that have been beamed around the world in recent weeks.

From the open flower beds at 12147 and 12163 Bagdad, the sandy soil peeks. The lawn at 12155 sprouts a couple of agave cacti, and the stucco house at 12163 is arched, resembling Middle Eastern architecture. Yet it would be a stretch to say Baghdad and Bagdad have anything more in common.

That does not mean the name has gone unnoticed since the start of the war in Iraq.

Valerie Harrison, a resident on Bagdad since 1999, said nurses at her doctor's office are amused.

"They just laugh and say, 'Oh, god.' They look at me, like, I can't believe you live on Bagdad Street."

In the case of resident Katherine Medina, it was the street name that attracted her and her husband to the neighborhood 14 years ago when they were looking for a house.

"I said I wanted to see that (property) because it was a strange name," Medina said.

Although her surname is of Spanish descent, "medina" means "home" in Arabic, she said, so the name Bagdad had a special attraction. Medina, a holy city in Saudi Arabia, is home to the tomb of Mohammed, founder of the Islamic religion.

She said no one has taken note when she gives her address as Bagdad Street.

The history of the street name goes back 35 years -- to the founding of Spring Hill.

The name was proposed by the community's developer, the Deltona Corp., in its original development plan, submitted to the county in 1968, said Leah Fussell, Hernando's zoning coordinator.

"It was one of the original names on the plat for Spring Hill Unit 20," Fussell said.

No explanation is given.

Norma Conner lives at the corner of Bagdad and Lamont Drive, with an address on Lamont. Nonetheless, she must give directions to visitors via Bagdad.

The name doesn't bother her, Conner said, because Bagdad existed before Baghdad became one of the most notorious cities in the world.

She does admit, "It's kind of strange."

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