Forrest Avenue becomes Forest after name change approved

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Whether Forrest Avenue in Memphis was renamed to honor the Confederate general is still up for debate, but street signs reading “Forrest Avenue” are coming down.

The county’s Land Use Control Board voted 8-1 Thursday to approve a request by residents to drop one R, changing the street’s name to Forest Avenue. No further vote is required for the change to take effect, although there could be an opportunity for appeal.

While some residents opposed against changing a street name that had been a part of Memphis’ landscape for more than 100 years, others didn’t want anyone thinking their street honors Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, a slave trader and member of the Ku Klux Klan whose statue was removed from a public park in Memphis in 2017.

“We, the residents of Forrest (now Forest) Avenue are thankful for the decision to change our name back to the original spelling,” said Shannon Dixon, who made the initial request to the board, along with other residents.

“Our research found no indication why the name was changed, but we want no part of honoring Nathan Bedford Forrest who made his fortune selling black people. This is not about erasing history, it is about honoring people who are honorable.”

City directories listed the street’s name as Forest from 1903-1907, then used both spellings from 1908-1912, before settling on Forrest from 1912 onward. Exactly why it was changed was not clear.

Forest Avenue runs from Ayers Street in the Medical District to Berclair Road.

Office of Planning and Development documents state that about 30 street signs will need to be changed, and about 350 parcels will be affected by the new address.

The City of Memphis Division of Engineering offered to absorb the costs of changing the street signs, estimated at less than $5,000, according to OPD.

“For 4.5 years, I’ve lived on Forrest Avenue. As of today, I live on Forest,” said County Commissioner Tami Sawyer on Facebook. “Thank you to the Land Use & Control Board for supporting this initiative and changing the street names. People say these things don’t matter but they do.”

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