Ward 14 (Gobras City)

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The 14th Ward is a division of Gobras City, in Gobrassanya, located to the northwest of the downtown area. It is comprised of two neighbourhoods: Ooquabar Flats in the eastern half and Gohantown (formerly Cormorant Park) in the western half (map).

Geography

The ward is a rectangular shape oriented northwest to southeast, bordered by Avenue of the Heroes to the northeast, Pacolena Boulevard to the southeast, Gobras Boulevard to the southwest, and Etaxalee Boulevard to the northwest. It is bisected southeast to northwest by Gallitania Avenue, along which runs the Gallitania Avenue Streetcar ("G") line, and bisected southwest to northeast by the Anoserio Avenue Greenway, which separates the two neighbourhood components.

The stream called Water of Lemme flows through the Ooquabar Flats part of the neighborhood from southwest to northeast, with a substantial portion of wetland preserved in the Ooquabar Catchment Nature Reserve, but both sides of the stream are quite built-up and substantial industrial activity, and the Northern Motorway cuts through the ward along the western bank of the stream, and crossing it at Union Park to enter the downtown tunnel portion of its route.

History

Pre-Colonial

There was a Gobrassi village at Ooquabar for at least 500 years prior to colonization. The local population was mostly agricultural on the west bank of the stream, while the east was swampland that was only reclaimed when Gobras City was laid out.

There are only two structures surviving from the Pre-Colonial period: the old Gobrassi village meeting house is still on the corner of Ooquabar Road and Smoot Street, re-purposed as a Casa Búa community center, and there is still standing a single, lonely-looking private residence, the Lombhusi House, at Old Lemme Road and Habirah Street. This house is substantially a pre-colonial structure in the traditional Gobrassi architectural style. It is still owned by the same family that has always lived there through all the generations, and tours are only possible by special appointment, but for those interested in local history or architecture, it is well worth the visit.

Plantation

The Colonial era in the ward was completely dominated by the legendary figure of Langston Smoot, who established his sugarcane plantation on the western bank of the Water of Lemme in 1791. He surrounded the village of Ooquabar with his cane fields, and made it into his company town, adding streets, residences and his sugarcane refinery, and eventually bringing the freight railroad spur. Most of the ward during this time was cane fields, but its urban and industrial future were already prefigured in Smoot's development activities.

There are several surviving buildings from the Plantation period, including the original Langston Smoot Manor House, which since 1940 is the Ardispherian Embassy in Gobrassanya. The Castro General Store is now called Casmart, but is substantially the same structure, although with major additions and interior modifications. Finally, the old Smoot sugarcane refinery has been repurposed as part of the Smoot General Confectionary, which is well-known for its line of "SmootSweets" candies and chocolates. Most of the production is in the newer, larger factory and warehouse next door, but the old refinery with its brooding pseudo-gothic brickwork facade is still used for warehousing and packaging operations.

Early Industry

When Smoot put in the railroad spur to serve his refinery and confectionary businesses, other industry was attracted to the area, and several were established on the west side of the Lemme as the Smoot family sold off lands originally dedicated to cultivating sugarcane.

The Milton Rocha Textiles plant is the largest remaining business from this period - most of the other old warehouses and factories have been converted to "loft" residences or commercial office space of various types.

Gobras City Master Plan and Streetcar Era

With annexation to Gobras City, the capitaline grid was imposed on the area and much of the original, chaotic streetplan of Ooquabar village was razed and replaced by the rectilinar pattern seen today. Remanants of the Ooquabar period streets are mostly around the warehouses and factories north of Gallitania Avenue between the stream and Anoserio, and bits of the Smoottown grid survive, mostly around Arksbury University.

The streetcar, along Gallitania Avenue, brought rapid urbanization to the area, swallowing up the remainder of Smoot's cane plantation in a few short decades.

Ethnic Change and Modern Era

Originally settled by rural Gobrassi immigrating to the city, combined with a variety of overseas immigrants, mostly from Castellanese- and Luslandese-speaking countries (still seen in some street and business names), by the 1940s the 14th Ward had come to have a typical Gobrassanyan ethnic mix. However, perhaps orginally drawn by the Bodhi Tree Temple which had been established by some Ardispherians around 1900, an originally small Gohangukian community began to mushroom into dominance from the 1950s onwards. By 1970, Gohangukians were the majority in the western half of the ward, and in 1978 the neighbourhood's name was formally changed to Gohantown, since that was what everyone was calling it.

Since around 2000, the increasing gentrification of the once-industrial Ooquabar Flats neighbourhood has spilled west of the Anoserio Greenway and Gohantown has begun to re-diversify ethnically, but still proudly bears the Gohantown name.


Government

Ward 14 is represented in the Gobras City government by councilmember Reagan Constantine. The ward is part of Gobrassanya the TBD electoral riding, represented by TBD.

Education

Arksbury International University (AIU) is one of the anchor institutions of the ward. Although not a large university, it is highly ranked in Liberal Arts, History and pre-professional undergraduate degrees in Law and Business. Most well-known is its JP Goh Foreign Languages Institute, one of the premier language departments in the world, specializing in unusual and endangered languages, linguistic anthropology and theoretical linguistics, with recent connections to Cognitive Sciences and AI Computing work as well, with a collaborative program with the computer science department at UG at Prado Plains. AIU fields several well-liked though not particularly successful collegiate sports teams as well, and recently spent a huge special alumni endowment to upgrade their stadium facility in the limited space available between the Northern Motorway and the Water of Lemme. The university has become a substantially fragmented "urban" campus in recent decades, as it has outgrown its original small land area and leapfrogged into the surrounding neighborhoods.

There are 3 public elementary schools in the ward: Eglantine Street Elementary, Loon Elementary, and Langston Smoot Elementary. The ward also hosts a public middle school, Lawrence K Kim Middle School, and public high school, Horton Hu High School.

Lastly, there are two private schools in the ward. Across Anoserio Avenue from the University is the well-known Arksbury Academy (primary and secondary) private school, originally affiliated with the temple, just like the university, but now all three entities are independently governed by separate boards. There is also a catholic-affiliated elementary school, Holycross Elementary, near the northwest corner at Saint Agnes Church.

Business and Economy

... more later ...

Landmarks and Attractions

The already-mentioned Smoot Plantation Manor House is perhaps the most notable landmark in the ward. It is located on Manor House Street in the old part of Ooquabar flats, bounded by a bend in the stream. Across the street from the old Manor House is the Smoot Plantation Museum, in the converted Smoot Manor House stables building. Although the Manor House itself is now the Ardispherian Embassy, pre-arranged tours are permitted and can be arranged with staff at the Museum.

The Smoot Sugarcane Refinery is the most architecturally iconic, with its unique brickwork towering over the old center of the Ooquabar Flats neighbourhood. Arksbury University has a number of notable structures, and also has the Milton Rocha Bell Tower.

The Bodhi Tree temple, with some of the high-rise buildings of AIU in the background.
The Bodhi Tree Temple (보리수사 [菩提樹寺]), beside Cormorant Park, is the center of religious life for a substantial portion of the Gobras City Buddhist community, and its colorfully-painted wood panels and curving roof in the traditional Gohangukian style, with surrounding garden grounds, are a popular photo-subject for tourists. Another Buddhist temple, the Octagon Temple, is found on Tern Road West at Eglantine Square.

Other landmarks include "The Knife," the old pub and steakhouse on Gallitania Avenue that became so well-known the streetcar stop was re-named in its honor. The original Knife building is now a Gohangukian-owned dry-cleaners, but the steakhouse business survives and thrives in the new, multi-level facility built next door, and the business's logo still features the distinctive silhouette of the old building.

For those interested in Gohangukian culture and the history of Gohan immigration to Gobrassanya, the best place to visit is the probably the Gohan Culture Community Center (고한문화주민센터) on Gallitania Avenue across the street from the Saehan Group office tower, halfway between the streetcar stops of Gohantown and The Knife.

The Ormond Fagundes Union Hall, along Gallitania Avenue across from Union Park in the eastern part of Ooquabar Flats, is an imposing structure in an imperial style, now used for public meetings and rented for weddings and other large events.

Union Park is good for a pleasant stroll or to attempt to spot wetlands birds in the Water of Lemme. There is some interesting landscaping around the Motorway tunnel entrance, with a large plaza directly over the tunnel along Pacolena Boulevard that is frequented by buskers and street performance artists on weekends.