Goodbye, 10th Street North, we hardly knew ye.
At a regular meeting of Cranbrook City Council earlier this month, Councillors, finally and officially, voted to change the name of an almost mythical Cranbrook street — Shaugnessy Street, that is.
Actually, the stretch of what is now known as Kootenay Street North — from where it curves at 18th Avenue North, crosses Victoria Avenue, and meets up at, um, Kootenay Street North by 24th Avenue North — was first dedicated as Shaugnessy Street in August of 1921, according to a staff report to Cranbrook Council.
At that time, the section of road was outside city limits. The road was brought into city limits with two Cranbrook boundary extensions, in 1962 and 1970. By that time, Shaugnessy Street’s name had already changed to 10th Street North, or Kootenay Street North.
“Staff cannot determine exactly how and when Shaugnessy Street was changed to 10th Street North/Kootenay Street North,” the report read. “Kootenay Street North was dedicated all the way to 30th Avenue North … in 1980.”
However, the section of the road between 18th Avenue and 24th Avenue still has nine properties with 10th Street North addresses, and 55 with Kootenay Street addresses.
“Having this inconsistency is a safety concern and administration issue of first responders, dispatchers, the general public, utility companies, etc,” the report to Council read.
Councillors voted unanimously to rename the street to Kootenay Street North. The City will now notify all concerned departments, businesses and residences.
This means Cranbrook no longer has a 10th Street North. Nor does it have a 9th Street North or an 11th Street North, for whatever reasons.
At the time of the renaming, there was only one street sign along the whole stretch of street that read 10th Street North, and one that reads Kootenay (10th) Street North. Staff suggested it would be easy and cost-effective to replace these.
(It is the Townsman’s opinion that the one 10th Street North sign should be left in place as a novelty, and historic curiosity).
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The renaming of Kootenay Street North to Kootenay Street North in January, 2023, passed with little fanfare or acrimony. This is in considerable contrast to 1948, when Cranbrook Council voted rename ALL the streets and avenues in Cranbrook.
At the Cranbrook Board of Trade meeting in November, 1947, it was decided to recommend to the City of Cranbrook that city avenue and street names be changed to numbers.
Council decided to move ahead with the plan, “to place the city streets under a numbered system forthwith.” Avenues were to be numbered commencing at the west City Limits, and proceed in a one-two-three order to the eastern boundary.
Cranbrook Courier columnist Bill Burton suggested that the idea was logical and made sense. However, an editorial in the rival newspaper the Townsman from the time expresses a vituperative opposing view.
“We tolerate dogs, but we are firmly against the growing tendency of people of act like sheep, and changing names with individual associations to uniform numbers merely to simplify directing tourists how to leave Cranbrook seems to us pointless,” read an editorial in the Townsman in April, 1948.
“Apart from this — and our enthusiasm for defending individuality may just be a foible — we consider the change from names to numbers a deliberate rejection of those who made Cranbrook.”
There was indeed a considerable public outcry opposing the change. Nonetheless, at the Council meeting of April 16, 1948, the change was given final approval, and changes to the signposts was to begin at once.
A letter to the editor (in the Courier) later that month, from A.B. Smith, read: “When we consider that most of those street names are those of real ‘Old-Timers,’ men who, wittingly or not, spent the major number of their years in one way or another in the primary development of East Kootenay and Cranbrook, it looks like a petty thing to erase almost the only record of the early days that is plain enough for ‘he who runs to read.”
Smith goes on to elucidate many of those individuals and their contribution to Cranbrook life and development, including C.M. Edwards, Robert Dewar, James Baker, Dr. Watt, William French, Herbert Clark, James Durick, “Governor” Hanson, James Armstrong, “Captain” Norbury, Arthur Fenwick, Dennis, Van Horne, an old prospector with the surname of Louis, and others.
“While memory and gratitude are fleeting things, it still seems that a city like Cranbrook could very fittingly let these records of the past stand as recognition of the men whose lives were put into the very inception of East Kootenay and of Cranbrook as its centre,” Smith wrote.
The Courier then editorialized: “We are 100 per cent [behind] of A.B. Smith in this protest … numbers, cold and synthetic at best, may be all right for a city the size of Edmonton, but for Cranbrook let us be more homey. Now, as for the tourist, our experience is that he cares little about streets or numbers. In most cases, he is here only for overnight, or two or three days at best. He has passed through 50 towns before he arrived here, and will pass through another 50 before he arrives home. But we who live here go on day after day in the same surroundings, and must adjust ourselves to something more permanent. We know all the streets’ names and we like them. Therefore, we say, hands off to any change.”
None the less, the City passed the third reading of the bylaw at a special meeting in May, 1948.
The Courier editorialized: “Make the change if you wish, gentlemen, but we venture to bet that 10 or even 20 years from now people will still be referring to Armstrong, Edwards, Durick, Norbury and other familiar names associated with the early history of the country.”
Some days later, the Courier called for a plebiscite on the matter.
“In the switch from names to numbers, Cranbrook’s thoroughfares lose much of their personality and historic identity, which is regretted by many residents. The change will necessitate complete revision of telephone and other directories.”
A previously scheduled plebiscite on several matters of civic importance was indeed held shortly afterwards, but the street name change was not included on it.
And so the matter ended. But it did rear its head a couple times in later years. In 1972, a petition from residents of homes in the new subdivisions Pinecrest and Highland Park requesting that council not relabel street with numbers was declined by council.
In the early 2000s, council and the Baker Hill Heritage Society put up street signs in the Baker Hill neighbourhood identifying the old names of the streets, from 17th Avenue South (Martin) to 7th Avenue South (Durick), and from 4th Street South (Dennis) to 1st Street South (Louis).
A complete list of the street names that were changed in 1948:
• Parker Avenue — 1st Avenue;
• John Avenue — 2nd Avenue;
• Watt Avenue — 3rd Avenue;
• Dewar Avenue — 4th Avenue;
• French Avenue — 5th Avenue;
• Clark Avenue — 6th Avenue;
• Durick Avenue — 7th Avenue;
• Hanson Avenue — 8th Avenue;
• Armstrong Avenue — 9th Avenue;
• Norbury Avenue — 10th Avenue;
• Fenwick Avenue — 11th Avenue;
• Garden Avenue — 12th Avenue;
• Burwell Avenue — 13th Avenue;
• Lumsden Avenue — 14th Avenue;
• Pooley Avenue — 15th Avenue;
• Martin Avenue — 16th Avenue;
• Eberts Avenue — 17th Avenue;
• Turner Avenue — 18th Avenue;
• Louis Street — 1st Street South;
• Edwards Street — 2nd Street South;
• Kains Street — 3rd Street South;
• Dennis Street — 4th Street South;
• Angus Street — 1st Street North;
• Hyde Street — 2nd Street North;
• Leitch Street — 3rd Street North;
• Harold Street — 4th Street North;
• Hamilton Street — 5th Street North;
• Abbott Street — 6th Street North;
• Haney Street — 7th Street North;
• Marpole Street — 8th Street North.