Imagine what it was like on Eighth Avenue.
Travel back a few decades on Ontario Street.
Ever walk along Weeks Road or Best Road?
Back in the mists of time, they all referred to various stretches of 224th Street before the uniform street-numbering system was stamped on to Maple Ridge and the rest of the Lower Mainland and historical names melted into one monotonous mathematical grid.
In an attempt to recapture those days and names gone by, the District of Maple Ridge is tacking the old names on top of the numbered street signs.
In the downtown, McIntosh Avenue was allowed to keep its name because it fell through the grid, which assigned street names every 200 metres, while Menzies Street, a block south, had to change to 119th Avenue.
“Because Menzies Street is on the grid,” explained Maple Ridge Museum manager Val Patenaude.
“So it’s those names that were lost.”
Now, there’s a sign showing the Menzies Street name on top of the 119th Avenue sign.
Having the old names posted on top of the new numbers allows the best of both present and past.
Patenaude liked the idea of re-applying some of those original names in the neighbourhood “because it brings these family names back into the neighbourhood where they may have been long gone.
“It gives people the opportunity to talk about them. Why has that name suddenly re-appeared? Who were they?”
Metro Vancouver and Maple Ridge have been through two applications of street grids, once in the 1930s. A uniform street-numbering system from Vancouver stretching east is a requirement for emergency and postal services, she pointed out.
The latest grid application, which set streets in numerical order from Vancouver to eastward throughout the Fraser Valley, happened in the 1960s.
“When that came in, there was a lot more grumbling because some streets got nailed and some didn’t.”
For instance, 132nd Avenue used to be Wilson Road. The old name for 123rd Avenue was Hampton Road, presumably named after the family that still runs their heritage farm on 210th Street. The busy commuter route 128th Avenue used to be known as Reddecliffe Road, and even in the 1930s had a dogleg jog around the South Alouette River near 224th Street.
There’s no rhyme or reason why some streets have particular names. Often, it’s just because that person was the last one to own the property.
“Every Albanian person that comes through here asks me about Balabanian Street.” That’s a name of a prosperous Albanian family, she points out. In Maple Ridge, Mr. Balabanian briefly owned some property and ended up having two streets and a creek named after him.
The old and new are all laid out on two maps on Maple Ridge’s website in pre- and post-1938 versions.
“For emergency services, it really is difficult to think of any other way,” Patenaude said.
It’s not only Maple Ridge that’s trying to treasure its past.
“Lots of places have resurrected the past by using a different kind of sign,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of new people and they get to know what the history is.”
Even the new park planned for 222nd Street just north of Dewdney Trunk Road will harken back. It will be called Haney-Nokai, in honour of the Japanese agricultural association that was active in the 1920s and 1930s. Most in the Japanese community were deported into the Interior or the prairies during the Second World War.
Dewdney Trunk Road, which used to connect Port Moody to Dewdney, east of Mission, pre-dates Lougheed Highway, Patenaude pointed out.
Even now, though, some oldtimers still call 224th Street – Eighth Street.
“I can tell you how long people have lived here based on how they refer to the streets.”
Before 1938, the stretch of 224th from the Fraser River to Dewdney Trunk Road was Ontario Street. North of Dewdney Trunk Road, it was known as Best Road.
But north of 123rd Avenue, the road ran past the Weeks’ property, so it was Weeks Road.
“That’s just where those people lived. Because people had huge acreages. You had these vast tracks that were owned by individual families.”
Maple Ridge plans on continuing its heritage street project as the downtown is redeveloped, said district spokesman Fred Armstrong.