All About River Heights
The Quiet Streets of River Heights


"The following morning Nancy spent two hours at the library examining old atlases and historic records."  (The Quest of the Missing Map RT, Pg. 30)  The girl detective was looking for a chart, which might have displayed any resemblance to the scrap of a map she was then holding in her possession.  Though disappointed in that punctilious challenge, Nancy continued unwavering as ever in locating some supplementary clues to her mystery!  Thus, it is fitting that her sleuthing chums maintain the investigation for pinpointing her seemingly capricious hometown of River Heights. It would almost appear, that from the instant the very first books of the series hit the shelves, there came the call Where is River Heights?  --Inquiring sleuths want to know!  It is with this report that the determination of the inquisitive NancyDrewSleuths, will perhaps help resolve this query.


Many readers will point out that The Secret in the Old Attic will explicitly sustain, that there are slave quarters at the March home, located next to the Muskoka in River Heights. They assert how impractical this is, in view of the fact that all of our chosen states were traditionally slave-free states.  Buried somewhere deep in the immense pile of antiquated historical data and tattered civil war documents, a persistent sleuth will eventually uncover minute traces--that yes indeed, these four states did have slaves!  Some are on record in the 1840 United States Census, where there are 16 slaves accounted for in Dubuque County, Iowa (which joined the Union in 1846).  That same year Ohio had only six slaves, Illinois 331, and New Jersey had the most with 674. (6) In fact, every one of our listed states had slaves living in them at one time or another, before the civil war!


This exploit, though scarcely tolerated in these territories, was because of the imprecise wording in the Missouri Compromise of 1820, thereby having a linear provision added in 1850.  The Kansas-Nebraska Act that became law on May 30, 1854 repealed the Compromise later; and eventually was one of the developments that helped to facilitate the American Civil War (1861-65). There is also the distinguishing reality that all of these states had stopovers that were along the greatly celebrated Underground Railroad.  This means that the former slaves mentioned in Bess Marvins visualization while at the March home, might very well be run-away slaves, perhaps what the locals of these states would have just call servants in that not so distant past.


In that case, why be listed as slaves for those years, and furthermore, why list someone in the census as a resident of state, if they were in a state illegally, when some of these states had anti-slavery immigration laws?  Could they have been incarcerated fugitives and listed in the census for political purposes?  We may never know, as the aged reports do not have every aspect mentioned on their most unfortunate and challenging lives while they existed in these states.  What we do know is that "the people of (some of) these territories were authorized to determine the status of slavery according to popular "squatter" sovereignty." (7) In other words, the choice was of the people who "lived" in these areas to decide allowable slavery. These historical particulars do not narrow down our investigation nevertheless, but the obvious fact evidently prevails; that The Secret in the Old Attic is correct in allowing placement of old slave quarters, in the River Heights of our four states!


Continuing with our mystery, it is important sometimes, for writers to identify specific street names if they are to demonstrate their sleuths rambling about town.  This helps to support the reader in the visualization and familiarity of the neighborhood where the mysteries occur.  The Nancy Drew Mysteries are virtuous in granting numerous street names of River Heights to the bookworms looking for continuance in successive books.


Assembling the street names and sorting them in Table 5, help to determine if any of the real cities correlate with River Heights in this regard.  In this table, the gold colored boxes indicate actual matches of the entire street name, including the identifying label such as Road, Avenue, or Boulevard.  In correlation, a tan colored box will show that there are streets with the same names as the ones in our books, but these streets do not have the matching identifying labels, as noted in the first column.

streets and roads of River Heights




As an example, Iowa City has an actual street named Kenwood Drive, whereas Cleveland has an actual Kenwood Drive too, but also a Kenwood Avenue and Kenwood Court.  This makes their boxes along with the appropriate abbreviations appear in gold, showing an exact match; in this case "DR" as the identifier.  Alternatively, Chicago has Kenwood Avenue but being tan, clearly shows it does not count as an actual match, since River Heights does not specifically have a Kenwood Avenue or, --Kenwood Place, as is also the case with East Orange. Exploring the table aids in dispelling some of the puzzlement possibly created by this example.


Notice also in this register (first column), that some of the streets and roads have an additional label similar to "MAPLE AVE-ST," meaning there are an avenue and street named Maple, both found in the authors portrayals of River Heights.  Maybe these instances of River Heights containing both a street and avenue are glaring realties that there might be some ambiguities found between the original, revised and later text, vis--vis the naming of streets!  Scarcely not so, and again by looking at Table 5, we see that the city of Cleveland, Ohio stridently quells that element of reasoning indeed real cities do frequently have more than one street by the same name, and so does River Heights.  This unequivocally explains why we can also have a Kenwood Boulevard borne of the later text variety, and still have an actual match in Toledo, Ohio!


What is astounding in this table is that the formerly engaging Iowa City only has two actual matches!  Chicago and East Orange/Maplewood are slightly impoverished in this instance of actual streets and roads as well.  By contrast, it is startling to note how Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio both come out on top with the majority of actual matched streets and roads that correlate with River Heights!  In this specific case, only Toledo can lay claim to the fact that more of the streets of that city correspond most to those of River Heights.  Not only that, in further examination of these statistics, it is undeniably obvious that even more of the ACTUAL streets in Cleveland and Toledo, show a relationship to the streets mainly identified in the original texts of the classic series!  Elaboration and name-dropping on this contention perhaps is not required, but let us remember that a certain outstanding ghostwriter had lived in both of these cities, while writing the majority of the original texts.


There are 28 streets discerned from our series books with a sample of 21 streets complementing this table. Seven streets did not match any of the cities at all, and these are, 24 Ambrose St, Cedar Rd, Everest, Route 1, Route 57, Satcher St, and Three Bridges Rd.  A few of the books plainly have disclaimers in them stating that events, names, places, and persons within, are fictitious and are the products of the authors imagination.  Therefore, the streets listed in tan are for illustrating that maybe, and perhaps, the authors knew the names of these real streets and perchance, just changed the identifying label to make them fictitious. This possible scenario ups the ante to some extent, and thus puts all of the cities in Table 5 on a more even playing field. However, and to not manipulate this data, it is still calculatingly observable that Ohios two cities still lead the pack in the TOTALS of streets and roads!


If the drive through the quiet streets of River Heights seemed perilous, relax and fasten your seatbelts for a more leisurely ride in Nancys convertible, and afterward catch a train or plane to a known location and help to unravel this rather perplexing mystery!  The proposal here, is to distinguish through Nancys hastened itinerary, how it might be possible to correlate our special cities with some of the destination cities scheduled in those networked narratives.  In review are items like those that expound directions taken, times or hours traveled, and mode of transportation used.  With these indications in haulage, we will journey with Nancy from River Heights and discern from which real city we came!


In our travels with Nancy in the next expedition of Where is River Heights, Part 5, we will take automobile excursions, express trains, and jumbo jets to locations welcomingly referenced in those series books.  That segment will be detailed and exacting in aspects so therefore, needs an entire page to show more than a few of Nancys jaunts to out of town locations, the means to get there, and other places mentioned along the way.  The series, staidly packed with clues, inclusive with twists and turns are sure to help us establish the whereabouts of River Heights!


6.  By Courtesy University of Virginia Geospatial and Statistical Data Center United States Historical Census Data Browser. ONLINE 1998, University of Virginia. Available: [July 16, 2003].

7.  By Courtesy of