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    College Hill finally wins spelling fight

    Vanderbuilt street signs annoy many residents. They have convinced Clearwater leaders to make an official change to Vanderbilt, as in university.

    By DEBORAH O'NEIL, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published December 29, 2001

    CLEARWATER -- In the quiet College Hill Park neighborhood, streets are named for institutions of higher education both prominent and lesser known.

    There's Princeton and Yale.

    Elmhurst and Stetson. Emory and Asbury.

    And then there's Vanderbuilt Drive, which many residents believe was intended to be named for the private Nashville, Tenn., university endowed by famous railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt.

    Note the difference in spelling.

    The university is Vanderbilt. But every street sign marking the drive in this 30-year-old neighborhood has an extra letter: a "u" after the "b."

    "They're everywhere," said College Hill resident Cindy Ehrenzeller with a sigh. "They're all wrong."

    A neighborhood effort to fix the spelling has led to sometimes comical results, but it appears the residents of this street will soon officially live on Vanderbilt Drive. City officials say they will ask the City Commission next month to change the street name.

    "I'm a secretary and I know Vanderbilt isn't spelled that way," said Jean Melvin, who lives on the street and circulated a petition among her neighbors this fall requesting the change. "I spell well, and it's always looked wrong."

    For years, Melvin has been receiving mail with her street name spelled incorrectly, at least as she sees it. She has done her best to correct it, but some who send her mail just can't seem to get it right.

    "I'm Jean Melvin Vanderbilt," she said of the name that appears on some of her correspondence. "When they call me Jean Melvin Vanderbilt, they spell it right. But they send it to Vanderbuilt not spelled right."

    Ehrenzeller lives on Asbury Drive in College Hill and initiated the effort to fix the street name this summer after the city replaced old street signs with colorful new ones, each with the name spelled "Vanderbuilt."

    "When they put the brand-new pretty signs up, and it was misspelled, that was it," Ehrenzeller said. "It's just an embarrassment."

    Meanwhile, a recent edition of Street Atlas of Pinellas County published by MAPSource Inc. of St. Petersburg spells it "Vanderbilt." And the 1998 edition of Rand McNally's StreetFinder has yet another spelling: "Vanderbelt."

    City officials have received the petitions and say they are preparing a resolution to change the street name to Vanderbilt Drive. But, officials note, the existing spelling isn't technically wrong because the College Hill subdivision plans show the street spelled both ways.

    In the 1970 and 1971 plans submitted by the developer for the first two sections of the subdivision, two of the three blocks of the street are spelled with the "u." The third block west of Old Coachman Road was planned in 1972 with the "Vanderbilt" spelling.

    "It's not a matter of being correct or incorrect," said Paul Bertels, Clearwater's traffic operations manager. "Both spellings are correct. It's just Vanderbilt University is "bilt.' "

    Still, Bertels said, it makes sense to change the name in keeping with the neighborhood's higher education-inspired theme. The street signs, he said, do not need to be remade; the city will simply fix the existing signs.

    Officials at Vanderbilt University say they aren't offended by the misspelling. They, too, see the university's name written as Vanderbuilt. Every year, a handful of college applicants spell it wrong.

    But, said university spokesman David Glasgow, "We do appreciate the residents getting it corrected."

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