A House by Any Other Name


The custom of naming a house goes back centuries. For as long as residents of the British Isles have had four walls and a roof over their heads, they’ve given those dwellings a name. And what was good for manors was good for more modest digs. Sometimes, those names were inspired by a property’s setting, sometimes by the occupation of the owner.

According to the Land Registry, the department that records the ownership of property in England and Wales, 1.4 million out of 26 million houses across England had names in 2011, the most recent year such stats were collected. The top names, combined with “house,” “cottage,” and “view,” include the words Orchard, Meadow, Sunnyside and Rose.

In due course, the house-naming tradition traveled across the ocean and took root in places like Newport, R. I., and on the Philadelphia Main Line, the south and the southwest. “In Texas people have long named their ranches as both a way to help people locate their property or, if they were raising cattle or horses, as a way to build their brand,” Mr. Wilk said.

In the United States as in England, vanity house names fall into several categories. Foreign phrases; puns; inside jokes; spiritual allusions (for example, Sanctuary and Paradise), have their fans. Some take their inspiration from a property’s location. They live on a secluded dimple of land so why not “Hidden Valley.”

Others, meanwhile, come up with a name that’s, well, very close to home — their own name.

Thus, Craigmoor, the handle that the landscape architect Craig Socia gave his nearly one-and-a-half acre spread, an agglomeration of three parcels, in East Hampton. (For the record, the “moor” piece of the name came by way of Wildmoor, the Hamptons house where Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis spent some childhood summers, and where, early in his career, Mr. Socia did some landscaping.)

“The name unified the property and made it very personal,” said Mr. Socia, who made it official by writing out Craigmoor in wet cement on the driveway.


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