A History of Street Names

Jon Weller

Residential-Street

In a plebiscite held on April 6, 1914, Edmonton became a city of numbers. The debate had been consuming the city since the beginning of the year with long winded arguments on either side vying for council’s time.

Prior to 1914, Edmonton was a confused city. The majority of roads in Edmonton, including Norwood, were labelled with names, however in the beginning avenues ran North-South and streets, East-West, with a few fairly glaring exceptions, such as Jasper and Alberta Avenues.

When the Hudson’s Bay Company opened sales on the reserve land to the west of Queen’s Avenue (now 100 St), the labeling system changed. Streets were now North-South and numbered, while Avenues were East-West but still named. As a result you could, for example, travel west along MacKenzie Ave. (now 104 ave) until you intersected Queens Ave. at which point you were on Boyle Street.

Its little wonder that in the debates that ensued, mail workers were most consistently in favour of change.

Throughout the winter of 1914, numerous schemes were suggested but in the end only two were presented for a public vote, the numerical system, the ultimate winner and system we know today, and the Edmonscona system, a blend of quadrants, names and numbers devised by George Gowan, a manager at Credit Foncier and Dr. Revell, the former provincial bacteriologist.

With the exuberance of a passionate parent, Gowan defended his system until the bitter end. In a community meeting held on April 3, at the Rose Theatre on the corner of 95th Street and Alberta Avenue, Gowan “spoke for over half an hour on street numbering”, attacking the numerical system, which he labelled the “penitentiary system of numbering” and promoting his own version.

In the end, Edmontonians voted in favour of the numerical system which with a few minor adjustments remains with us today. However, this Spring, to celebrate the history of the area perhaps we can give a nod to Gowan and free ourselves from the shackles of the numerical system and remember the old names for streets in the neighbourhood.

 
Streets

97th – Namayo
96th – York Street
95A – Sinclair
95th – Kirkness
94th – Carey
93rd – Kennedy St
92nd – Lorne
91st – Henry
90th – Otter
89th – Fox
88th – Marten
87th – Leggett

Avenues

111th – Norwood Blvd
112th – Pine
113th – Elm
114th – Spruce
115th – Willow
116th – Oak
117th – Beech
118th – Alberta
119th – Cleave
120th – Spadina
121st – Westminster
122nd – Woodward

 

 

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