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Opinion: It’s time for Bradford to take a street into the history books

In this regular current affairs column by Bradford West Gwillimbury consultant Jonathan Scott, he discusses the idea of renaming roads after local history

Happy Victoria Day!

Yup, consider this a friendly reminder that May 2-4, the unofficial start of summer barbecueing season, is actually a date to celebrate the birthday of Queen Victoria, the first of her name. 

There’s something low-key fascinating about how our calendar is interspersed with historical tributes, whether the Simcoe Day long weekend in August, or even the fact the months get their names from Roman gods, emperors and Latin numbers, and our days of the week are named after ancient gods and the sun and moon. 

This Victoria Day weekend, I’m reminded of an idea I’ve had in mind for a while about how Bradford West Gwillimbury might find more ways to mark its history. 

A few years ago, the concept was briefly considered by the town’s heritage committee. It was an idea first advanced by the late Bradford historian and retired school principal, Donald McGugan, as well.

It’s a simple plan: let’s rename the streets that are currently just numbered rather than named after historical characters from Bradford West Gwillimbury’s history. 

We’re already at the point where the Eighth Line and Sixth Line are no longer outside the urban boundary of town, and the Fifth Line is being drawn into the mix, too, with the new interchange and arterial road. 

What if we picked more meaningful names based on our history? 

The Sixth Line could be renamed Auld Kirk Way, for instance, after the historic pioneer church it houses. 

This simple idea is not only about honouring our history. It’s also about consistency, and—yes—a bit about aesthetics. 

For instance, Holland Street is also County Road 88, depending on what part of the same street you’re currently on.

Similarly, for many long-time residents, Sideroad 10 is really Middletown Road, except that’s not the official name on Google maps or 911 operators’ systems. It’s just something people who’ve lived here a long time say.

It would be helpful to standardize these names, and frankly Middletown sounds far nicer than something named “Sideroad”, especially when the road is no longer off to one side, but is quite literally in the “middle” of “town”.

It’s funny how “Middletown” just ... works. They were on to something back in the day when it was called Middletown, and we should just change the name back.

Likewise, Holland Street is just a better sounding name than “County Road 88” and it sure wouldn’t hurt to keep things consistent.

Now, to those who say this is a solution in search of a problem, I say it’s low-hanging fruit, to be sure, but it also is a simple way to honour our history and, in a small way, to improve the town.

When we put up welcome signs to town and to the various parts of Bradford West Gwillimbury, it did help improve the aesthetics and celebrate the historic hamlets that make up our town.

When Council set out to honour local veterans with street names, it was also a simple concept, but it was no less meaningful for being a “layup” of an idea.

Something does not have to be a complicated idea or even a sexy idea to be a good idea. 

So, as you enjoy the holiday Monday named after a long-gone queen, let’s resolve to put this simple idea into action when the work week starts up again tomorrow. 

Until then, enjoy your barbecues and your backyards! 

I know I will.

Jonathan Scott is a public affairs consultant and writer.