Winnipeg has traditionally named its streets and avenues after historic events and people. By contrast, other Canadian cities use numbers to identify their streets.
Most of our street names come from the early developmental days of Winnipeg. The names of prominent citizens’ daughters were often used. For example, Ellen Ross was the daughter of William Ross, the sheriff of Assiniboia back in 1851. Her name is commemorated by the naming of Ellen Street. Other examples include Gertie, Kate, Lydia, and Adelaide, all daughters of prominent Winnipeggers.
Many of the downtown street names come from Hudson Bay Co. officials such as Donald A. Smith and Joseph James Hargrave to name just a few. Other Winnipeg streets were named after important 19th century events such as the Battle of Seven Oaks. Seven Oaks Avenue and Semple Avenue are a couple of examples. Robert Semple led a party of 20 armed settlers against Gen. Cuthbert Grant in the same battle, although Grant Avenue is far removed from the North End where the actual battle took place.
Streets can sometimes be renamed, although there is a lengthy procedure to go through before than can happen.
One recent example of that kind of change was the renaming of Arena Road to Milt Stegall Drive to honour the former Winnipeg Blue Bomber hall of famer. Other examples include McGillivray Boulevard, which was named for highway commissioner Archibald McGillivray, and was originally known as MacDonald Road. Ewart Street was renamed Sinclair Street after land surveyor, Duncan Sinclair. Another significant street change was renaming Pine Street to Valour Road to honour three recipients of the Victoria Cross following the First World War. All three lived on Pine Street. Sgt.-Maj. Fredrick Hall, Corp. Leo Clarke and Lieut. Robert Shankland all lived in the 700 block of Pine at one time.
Some thoroughfares, such as Broadway, are not designated as streets, avenues or boulevards. Broadway, for example, is known simply as Broadway.
Some street names are simply out of this world. In Fort Garry, Planet Street is surrounded by Saturn Bay, Neptune Bay, Mercury Bay, Venus Bay and Mars Drive. Obviously a Celestial theme!
There are approximately 6,000 trails, roads, closes, ways, streets, avenues, crescents, coves, places and boulevards in Winnipeg, most with a story behind them. Interestingly enough, out of all of these paths only seven are numbered. In the southeast part of the James Armstrong Richardson International Airport sits First Avenue through to Seventh Avenue. I have only scratched the surface here. What’s the story behind your street?
Rick Sparling is a North Kildonan-based writer.
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