Lots of street name debate
in City's history
reprinted from Red Deer Express September 8, 2010
Names of streets, avenues,
parks and communities are something which we use continuously every
day. However, we rarely stop to ask, how it is that this name came
about, or what does it signify.
Names are used to identify locations and places and are meant to
help with direction. Therefore, often the subdivision names are
descriptive (e.g. South Hill or West Park). However, street and
avenue names were often given to honour a particular individual or
When the Hamlet of Red Deer was first developed in November 1890,
almost all the streets and avenues were named after the senior
officials of the Calgary-Edmonton Railway Company.
One exception to this pattern came with the naming of the main
north-south thoroughfare, Gaetz Avenue. Rev. Leonard Gaetz provided
a half share of his farm for the townsite of Red Deer and thus got
one of the major roads named after him.
While the initial intent with the street and avenue names was to
provide a perpetual remembrance of the C & E Railway officials, only
one of those names continues to this day. That is Ross Street, named
after Sir James Ross, the head of the C & E Railway.
A frequent question is why are Red Deer's north-south roadways
called avenues and east-west roads streets? Unfortunately, the
reason for this unusual practice is something that has been lost in
the mists of time. However, curiously, from 1890 to 1909, the main
east-west road was known as Ross Avenue and not Ross Street.
In 1913, the City of Red Deer decided to adopt a new system, much
like the one that had been used in Calgary. The City was divided
into four quadrants and the streets and avenues were given numbers
such as 1 Street S.E. and 2 Avenue N.W. In a few spots downtown,
these numbers can still be seen embedded in the sidewalks.
A few thoroughfares kept their names, such as Ross and Gaetz as well
as Waskasoo (now 45) Avenue. In another anomaly that defies
reasonable explanation, 7 Street S.W. (now 43 Street) was
universally called Victoria Avenue.
In 1947, when natural gas service was being installed, Northwestern
Utilities asked the City to adopt an Edmonton-style system (e.g. 52
Street and 47 Avenue). The Central Alberta Pioneers and Old Timers
Association protested the loss of historic names. Consequently, 50
Street and 50 Avenue continued to have their original designations
as Ross and Gaetz.
Over the next several years, this new pattern was followed with
occasional exceptions such as Spruce Drive. In 1961, when the
Sunnybrook subdivision was developed, the traditional grid pattern
of streets was not used. This meant that a system of named rather
than numbered streets would be more practical. A decision was also
made that the names would all start with the same letter as the
Initially, there was no particular significance to the names used.
However, in 1964, the Old Timers Association convinced the City to
use pioneer family and prominent residents' names for the streets.
Morrisroe was the first subdivision where this new policy was
followed. The former City's Archives Committee was asked to prepare
a list of 35 to 40 names of pioneers, long-time residents and
prominent citizens with the same letter as the new subdivision. This
list was then passed on to a City naming committee for a selection
of names that were to be relatively easy to spell, and which did not
conflict with any existing street names.
With arterial roads, or ones that extended through several
subdivisions, numbers continued to be used. However, there were
occasional exceptions such as Taylor Drive, which is the major
arterial road running north and south on the west side of the City.
The mix of numbered thoroughfares with named streets and avenues
continues. However, often the names used are no longer those of
long-time and/or prominent residents and families.
PIONEER AVENUE - Ross Ave. (now named Ross St.) in
1909. Photo was taken from the intersection at Holt (51)
Ave., looking northeast.
courtesy of the Red Deer and District Archives
Looking back to when Red Deer landed city
(Red Deer Express March 2013)
Region celebrating century of railroad
(Red Deer Express March 2010)
Red Deer's downtown hotels have celebrated
(Red Deer Express June 2009)
Red Deer becomes a divisional point for CPR
(Red Deer Advocate Special March 2007)
Calgary and Edmonton Railway (CPR)
Calgary and Edmonton Railway at Red Deer (CPR)
News article: Arches mark influence of
railroad on city (Red Deer