The section of Center Street between College Avenue and the Fayetteville square became known as "Smoky Row" during the 19th century, although the exact origin is unknown.
Up to three explanations have been offered over the years:
- Prior to the use of natural gas to heat buildings, the many offices, eateries and boarding houses along Center Street used wood-burning and later coal-burning stoves, pumping ample smoke into the thoroughfare.
- Because of the proximity of the old courthouse, many of the offices along the street were leased to lawyers, whose frequent use of cigars caused the row to be smoky.
- Another explanation has also sometimes been put forward: Smoky Row was named for the creeping of fog from the hollow behind the old courthouse up into the street on cool mornings.
This latter choice seems more likely an effort to explain a name that already existed rather than a source for the name. Fog, after all, would have crept onto Meadow, Spring and Mountain streets as easily as Center Street. (Thanks to the comment below for spurring further reading.)