Secret 16th Street

I have recently become fixated on something I am calling “Secret 16th Street.” You know how sometimes there are streets that can’t be found on a map? Well, this is the opposite.

There is a tiny strip of 16th Street that only exists on maps. I never would’ve known it was there if I hadn’t been borrowing my dad’s car with sat nav. There’s evidence of something there, but it’s inconclusive as to whether it was ever a real street or not.

A few feet north of it, there’s a weird large circle in a grassy field. The circle is about 15 feet or so in diameter, and it’s defined by a foot-wide ring where the grass is sickly and doesn’t grow well.

A ways past this circle, Secret 16th Street intersects with a tiny portion of South McKinley street which doesn’t really exist either. If you have a good eye, there’s an opening in really thick woods and brush. It’s little more than a trail through a tunnel of trees and thorns.

Midway between this intersection and a real honest-to-god street, there’s an empty overgrown lot in the middle of the woods with a large metal gate between it and the path with a stylized sun on it, a no trespassing sign, and a camera trained on a nearby graveyard of mattresses.

There’s some evidence that there might have been something there at some point, but it was never finished because the property on that weird strip of South McKinley never sold or was finished being developed. [McKinley is one of the most broken-up, discontinuous streets in our town, but I think this strip may be the only part that exists south of 630.]

The above is great creepypasta [inb4 “cartographers put fake roads on their map as a proof against copying”], but the truth is more mundane*. What was “so horrible it warranted wiping the entire street off the face of the earth?”** It turns out, Obama.

I did some digging [mostly via the Google time machine] and wracked my brain to the ancient days of yor before I moved to that part of town.

Really what happened is that The Great Recession killed off development of an apartment complex that was going to be built there and the forest completely reclaimed everything but a barely walkable trail.

A view from “Secret South McKinley” in 2007

This gate is still there and the only discernible trace of the project, and you’ve got to walk through some pretty thick undergrowth to get to it.

2007 view of the Sun Gate

“Secret 16th Street” would’ve been here.

2007 view of intersection of Secret South McKinley and Secret 16th Street
2007 view of where Secret 16th Street should be from South Cleveland.
2019 view of the same pole

I’m glad the development project failed and I hope no one tries to renew it. Let these images be a great illustration of how fast wilderness can reclaim fully-cleared land.

2007 view of S.McKinley Property
2011 view of South McKinley property not long before all development stopped
2016 view of South McKinley property; S. McKinley still a discernible, though mysterious, drive.
June 2022 [present day] view of S. McKinley Property, entrance is all that remains of the road; beyond what is shown, the path is completely overgrown and difficult to walk down, but the Sun Gate is still accessible if you’re wearing jeans and long sleeves [there are a LOT of brambles and thorns covering the path at chest-height. And face height. And legs and ankles. Really, it’s on the annoying end of doable].

I hope this little story has got you salivating a bit for our upcoming Misha Burnett anthology, An Atlas of Bad Roads. We’ll be posting more about that soon, but in the meantime, don’t forget to back our second volume of Tales of the Mongoose and Meerkat from Jim Breyfogle!

*Except for the fairy ring; I have no idea what’s up with that.

**Hat-tip to The Wandering Creative for this line.

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