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Where the Streets Have Long Names

Sitting on a front porch in the summer breeze, you might feel grateful to live on Keanahalululu Lane.

a street sign on a pole

Sitting on a front porch in the summer breeze, you might feel grateful to live on Keanahalululu Lane. The street is close to the water and just down the road from an eighteen-hole golf course. Sure, it might be hard to pronounce, and you'd quickly give up on trying to share the address without spelling it out-but the neighborhood is quiet and the neighbors are friendly. Perhaps the most surprising thing about Keanahalululu Lane isn't that it's borrowed from Keanahalululu Gulch, which is apparently a surveyor's misspelling of Keanahalulu, a cave on Hawaii Island. It's that it's not in Hawaii at all.  

 Keanahalululu Lane and its neighboring streets-like Waipahoehoe Drive, Kaukonahua Lane and Waikiakaaua Drive-are in Bastrop, a Texas town on the Colorado River. Adding to the geographical confusion, they're part of a planned community built in the 1970s called "Tahitian Village." In the fast-growing town of Bastrop, this legacy subdivision sports more than two hundred streets with Hawaiian names. With some as long as seven syllables, the developers definitely went big, even for Texas. 

"It all started when my dad went to Hawaii for a golfing vacation," says Michael Marlowe, son of the late Robert Marlowe, who was an engineer and land surveyor for a real estate development group whose members included former Motion Picture Association of America president Jack Valenti. One of Marlowe's tasks was planning and naming the roads on a swath of former ranchland thirty miles southeast of Austin. "Dad came home with Hawaiian maps and guidebooks and dictionaries. He was really into it, and loved the Islands."  

 Marlowe wanted to create a golf resort community along the Colorado River with a relaxed atmosphere similar to what he'd experienced in Hawaii. "I remember all of us sitting at the dining room table as he walked through the developer's map, figuring where the streets would go and what he could call them." A half-century later, residents of Tahitian Village (as it was later named, likely by "someone in marketing," says Michael Marlowe) number in the thousands.  

 With the exception of a few quintessential American classics like Riverside Drive and Lover's Lane, the winding roads of Tahitian Village read like a Hawaii street map. Some residents, like those living on Diamond Head Drive or Puna Lane, got off easy. Others, like those living on Mokuauia or Kaohikaipu, not so much. But they take it in stride and don't expect folks-including themselves-to spell or pronounce the names correctly. To complicate matters, the street signs in Tahitian Village don't include the okina, the mark for the glottal stop that gives people unfamiliar with olelo Hawaii (Hawaiian language) a little help navigating long words.

The difficulty of the Hawaiian names hasn't put a damper on growth in Tahitian Village, where the relaxed lifestyle is in demand. "Houses have been springing up fast on empty lots that some people from out of town just bought up sight unseen," says Jessica Zamora, who's lived on Koele Court for around three years. She knows plenty of new residents who struggle with pronunciation as well as some who've lived in the neighborhood for decades and still don't even try. "Koele's not too hard compared to some of the longer names," Zamora admits. "But I still lose mail. I have to remind FedEx so they don't deliver to Koali across town by mistake instead of Koele. If my regular driver's on vacation, I don't get my packages." 

Challenging names and confusion among similar-sounding streets like Upola and Upolu or Kukui and Kuikui have caused headaches for emergency responders and GPS systems for years (just go for a drive and listen to Google Maps' voice assistant tie itself in knots). A handful of street names have had to be changed to mitigate navigation problems, but most of the people in Tahitian Village appreciate the uniqueness of their community and like the street names just the way they are. 

"I love it here," Zamora says. "It's beautiful and peaceful. But when I have to give directions or tell someone my address, I just usually say, 'Go to the Colorado River Refuge sign next to the river and take a right.'"

Story By Larry Lieberman

Photos By Erica Rich

a person surfing V26 №1 December 2022 - January 2023