Old Town Road Is Real, and People Keep Stealing the Street Signs


Old Town Road is a real place. You could probably take a horse there, if you wanted to — except that these days, it might be a little harder to find.

A quiet residential street in Wellesley, Mass., was called Old Town Road long before the country-trap song by Lil Nas X became a sensation. “Old Town Road” is not only popular — it’s record-shattering. The song has become the longest-running No. 1 single in the 61-year history of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart.

And in Wellesley this spring, around the time the song took off, the street signs at either end of Old Town Road started being ripped away.

That’s misdemeanor larceny, and it’s not easy to do. Each sign was about 12 feet tall and bolted into an underground anchor. The metal poles appeared to have been either unbolted or felled using a hacksaw.

“Somebody’s got to be very determined to steal this sign,” Stephanie Hawkinson, a spokeswoman for the town, said in an interview on Monday.

After each of the signs was stolen three times — for a total of six contraband “Old Town Rd.” signs whose whereabouts remain unknown — the city stopped replacing them. It’s expensive; each new pair of signs costs $250 or more, and that’s not including labor.

Ms. Hawkinson said that street signs had been stolen in Wellesley from time to time, and more often in the summer. But the Old Town Road thieves have been especially persistent.

“This one sort of caught us by surprise,” she said.

Wellesley’s is not the only Old Town Road in the United States. There are many, from New York to Texas to Louisiana. There is even one in Villa Rica, Ga., not far from where Lil Nas X grew up. (The mayor of Villa Rica said he had no knowledge of the street signs being stolen there.)

“We’re keeping an eye on the popularity of the song, which continues to be at No. 1,” she said. “So we’re holding off as long as we can, to make sure that we don’t have to replace them again.”