There is no J St.


Washington D.C., for all its terrible traffic, was a planned city. The core of the city was put on a grid. Number streets going North-South, with letter streets going East to West, and just for fun, Diagonal Streets named after states. (The most famous being of course Pennsylvania Avenue,  with 1600 Pennsylvania Ave being the address of the White House.)

This NPS map of the DC city center does an excellent at illustrating the grid layout of D.C.  


But, there is something odd about the lettered streets.  There is an A St, a B st a C St etc. Except after I St come K St.

There is no J st.

Here is a map that shows it very clearly. On the southern end of both McPherson Square and Franklin Square is I St. On the northern end is K St.

There is no J St.

What happened to J street?

There is a story that says the architect of D.C., Pierre L’enfant hated first Supreme Court Chief Justice, John Jay. L’enfant, to stick it to Jay, removed J street from the city plan.

It’s a fun story. It ain’t true. The real reason there is no J St. is much more benign, but I also think more interesting.  

In the 18th and 19th century, the period of the cities construction, a handwritten J was often indistinguishable from a handwritten I.

An I:

A J:

Infact, Thomas Jefferson would often initial his belongings not T.J. but T.I. As there was an understood interchangeability in an I and a J.

Ironically, there was no J St. as a way to make things less confusing, yet now with greater variety and standardization of fonts, the opposite is the case.

Its an interesting quirk, of an already quirky city.

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