Literary Suburbs in Search of a City

An early edition of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter (London: C.H. Clarke, 1859)

Hawthorne, Calif., is named for Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter (1850) and The House of Seven Gables (1851).

That's one takeaway from a display case in the Huntington's "Mapping Fiction" (through May 2, 2022) that chronicles the unexpectedly literary origins of several L.A. suburb names. Everyone who's lived here a while has wondered why there's a community called Tarzana. Most have learned that it's named for Edgar Rice Burroughs' feral ape-man. But did you know that Alhambra honors Washington Irving's The Alhambra (1851)?

Today's Hawthorne is better known for a green rocket than a scarlet letter (one critic called it "a tacky monument to a corporation," Elon Musk's SpaceX).

SpaceX Rocket Monument, Hawthorne, 2014