A West Anchorage lane is named after a Harry Potter location, thanks to 12-year-old resident

When West Anchorage resident Janna Wilcox, 12, heard earlier this year that her unnamed home street would soon get an official designation, the wizarding world of Harry Potter immediately came to her mind.

“When we got the letter that the street was going to be renamed, I’m a huge Harry Potter nerd, so I was like, ‘What can I name this that’ll be like Harry Potter?’” Wilcox told Anchorage Assembly members at a Tuesday meeting. “And I thought, ‘Grimmauld Place.’”

The Anchorage Assembly granted her wish, voting unanimously to call the road Grimmauld Place — the same street where Harry Potter’s godfather, Sirius Black, resides, in the popular fiction books by J.K. Rowling.

The small Spenard alley runs north-south between Doris Street and Lois Drive, south of West 29th Avenue and north of West 31st Avenue. It doesn’t run all the way through, dead-ending in the middle from the north and south sides.

But it’s the main access to Wilcox’s home, along with nine other lots. The city decided the street needed a name and the homes, proper addresses to improve emergency response, so it sent letters to residents notifying them of the change and soliciting recommendations.

Wilcox wrote the city a letter with her name suggestion and set out to convince her neighbors.

“I made brownies, and I delivered brownies to all of our neighbors with my letter,” she said.


The city received three valid name suggestions — Grimmauld, Lavonne and Effie Place — and five property owners voted on the names, resulting in a tie between Grimmauld and Lavonne, according to city officials. But Grimmauld Place won in a best-of-three coin toss, and Mayor Dave Bronson in April ordered the name change.

“I was really happy when, you know, we got the executive order, and that Grimmauld Place won in a coin toss,” Wilcox said. “... Both of my sisters read Harry Potter before I did, and then they made me read it, and I thought I’d hate it, but I didn’t.” Wilcox has now read the seven-book series around nine times, she said. Ron Weasley, the red-headed, goofy best friend to Harry, is her favorite character.

Several neighbors have opposed her name suggestion, though, preferring Lavonne Place instead, and in May they petitioned the city to restart the naming process.

Assembly member Anna Brawley, who represents West Anchorage, said members have received multiple emails from neighboring residents who prefer a different name.

“It is a difficult one, because the process was followed, and basically a minority of people who supported this particular name (Grimmauld Place) had their name prevail, and not everybody likes that,” Brawley said.

Brawley praised Wilcox for attempting to “build consensus” by visiting her neighbors. “There is something nice about a young person deciding — and maybe against the objection of some of her older neighbors — but doing the work and pushing forward,” Brawley said.

At a meeting last month, municipal addressing official Carlene Wilson told Assembly members that two of the five property owners who signed the petition did not vote for a name during the process.

“There’s nothing wrong with the name. We actually think it’s very unique and very nice to have a nice unique name, especially when a lot of them try to reuse very Alaskan words and street names around town,” Wilson said.

[A historical guide to name origins for Anchorage’s major roads: Part 1 and Part 2]

During debate, several Assembly members said that the proper process for street naming was followed. That process — relying on a coin toss — may be flawed, they said, but those opposing the name should have participated in it much earlier.

The mayor agreed.

“I appreciate your courage and your conviction and the hard work you did,” he said to Wilcox.

Residents of the alley have for years used “Doris Place,” as it currently appears on Google Maps, or “Doris Street” in their address. But the unofficial name has caused a host of problems for emergency services, taxis and deliveries that are frequently directed instead to the official Doris Street that runs parallel to the alley.

Standing on Grimmauld Place on Wednesday afternoon, Wilcox said she hopes that finally having a true address name helps Uber drivers actually find their house.

Asked why it didn’t have a name, Wilcox said she didn’t know, adding, “I think they just forgot about us.”

“I don’t think there could have been more twists and turns to this street-naming process,” said Wilcox’s father, JR Wilcox.

Emily Goodykoontz

Emily Goodykoontz is a reporter covering Anchorage local government and general assignments. She previously covered breaking news at The Oregonian in Portland before joining ADN in 2020. Contact her at