Many cities had their names changed at some point in history. The reasons were mainly because of new government or city expansion. Still, some cities had to change their names for other reasons. Scandals, embarrassments, or confusion were strong enough reasons for changing the names of entire communities. These are the five cities that were in desperate need of a new identity:
1. Berlin, Canada – A large number of immigrants of German origin settled on the south of Ontario in the 19th century, and they named their city Berlin in honor of their homeland. However, when their native country started bombing the Allies, trouble arose. Soon enough there was a referendum to change the city’s name. The locals were reluctant to do it, and turmoil, riots and intimidation followed. The city’s name was changed to Kitchener, after the British Secretary of State for War.
2. Pile of Bones, Canada – Todays Regina (former name – Pile of Bones) is a city with around 200.000 inhabitants. During the 19th century the location was nothing more than grassland, hunting ground for bison. Indians placed the bones of the animals in large piles in hopes that the bison would return. The first settlers kept the name, until Princess Louise suggested the city should bear the name of her mother, Queen Victoria.
3. Wineville, California – This city was the filming location of Clint Eastwood film Changeling. The movie was based on actual events that unfolded in the town of Wineville, and those events were the primary reason the city changed its name to Mira Loma 80 years ago. The kidnapped boy, Walter Collins, was most probably murdered in Wineville by Gordon Stewart Northcott, along with three other boys. The town was eager to escape the notorious past and changed its name in 1931.
4. Staines, England – The actor Sacha Baron Cohen a.k.a. Borat, Bruno and Ali G supposedly grew up in this peaceful middle-class town in Surrey. The town gained much popularity but the residents were not very pleased to be linked to Borat, so they changed the name to Staines-upon-Thames, which they though would boost tourism as well.
5. Gay Head, Massachusetts – On the coast of Martha’s Vineyard there is a vividly colored rock that dominates the landscape. 17th century settlers wrote of the ‘gaily’ colored cliffs and soon enough a settlement was established, with the name of Gay Head. Some 400 years later, the descendants of the first settlers decided to change the town’s name into Aquinnah. They claim they wanted to pay homage to their Indian origin and the connection to the Wampanoag tribe; supposedly the name change has nothing to do with the homosexual connotation of the former name.