Streetwise In Barrie: An Historical Guide to Barrie Streetnames

Streetwise Cover

Softcover: 325 pages
Publisher: DBS Heritage Consulting & Communications (c2001)
Language: English
Product Dimensions: 21 x 25 cm
Shipping Weight:0.8 kg
Price: $45.00 CAD $29.99 CAD plus s&h  


"It has often been truly said that the history of a city can be read in the names of its streets. They are monuments that often tell more and speak more eloquently than statues of marble or of bronze."

T.A. Reed, "The Historic Value of Street Names," Papers and Records, Ontario Historical Society, Vol. XXV (Toronto: The Society, 1929), p. 385.

This book is a nearly perfect example of the wisdom found in the old saying, "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread." When I first began to wonder about the locations of Barrie streetnames like Cotter, Ann Eliza, Small, Thompson, Harriet and Melinda, and Pellew -- and the people behind them -- little did I know that I was embarking on a three-year adventure. 

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Streetwise in Barrie was to be a "nice little" City of Barrie Millennium project. What could be simpler than deconstructing a few judiciously selected maps, putting their streetnames in alphabetical order, tracing their spatial evolution over time by translating those maps into words, and saying something about for whom or what the streets were named? 

My overly optimistic, if not downright naive, goal was to capture every Barrie streetname from the early 1800s to mid-1999 -- the debated eve of the new millennium. Streetwise in Barrie was to provide a snapshot of the community at the end of the 20th century.

The first person to examine the origins of Barrie streetnames in anything longer than a newspaper filler was D.H. MacLaren. He first read his "British Naval Officers of a Century Ago. Barrie and Its Streets -- A History of Their Names," before the Simcoe County Pioneer and Historical Society on 28 April 1908. His essay was subsequently published in 1919 in Volume 17 of the Ontario Historical Society, Papers and Records

MacLaren's seven-page paper, although amended in some particulars by W. Allen Fisher in his The Genesis of Barrie, 1783-1858 (1987), has remained Barrie's standard streetname reference down to today. Over the years, it has continued to find favour with local newspaper editors. It has been reprinted, in whole or in part, to mark Barrie's centennial year in 1953 and the Barrie Examiner's centennial year in 1964. 

Time has well and truly burst the bounds of MacLaren's worthy effort. In 1907, just over 6,000 people lived on Barrie's fewer than 100 streets. By 1946, there were 127 streets in the town whose population hovered around 10,000. By 1967, the number of Barrie streets had almost doubled to 245 while the population more than doubled to almost 25,000. Ten years later, approximately 35,000 Barrieites lived on 317 streets. By June 1999, there were more than 700 streetnames current in the City of Barrie whose population had shot up to almost 100,000. It will come as no surprise that there is a direct relationship between streetbuilding and local economic development. 

In embarking upon my research, I quickly ran up against the aching reality of writing local history. Streetwise in Barrie was a book long overdue, but painfully premature. Premature in that much of published secondary research required to make a success of a project like this has yet to be written. Long overdue in that without such an effort, the gaps in the history of Barrie cannot be made readily apparent. 

Of late, there has been plenty of debate on the necessity, or lack of it, of "national history." As a passionate believer in the importance of local history, I maintain that history, like charity, begins at home. Indeed, there can be no "national history" or "international history" without "local history." Like it or not, all history is local -- some histories are just a little more local than others.

Excerpt from the "Introduction to Streetwise in Barrie"

Inside This Book

How Streetnames are Organized
Clover Avenue, Clute Cresent & Codrington Street
Dunlop Street

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication

Rudachyk, B. E. S. (Bradley E. S.)
Streetwise in Barrie : an historical guide to Barrie streetnames / B.E.S. Rudachyk
1st ed.
Barrie, ON : DBS Heritage Consulting & Communications, c2001.
325 p. : ill., maps ; 21 x 25 cm.
Includes bibliographical references: p. 317-321.
Canadiana:  99900025X     ISBN:  0968373313
LC Class no.:  FC3099*     LC Call no.:  FC3099 B376 Z56 2001

Notes to Educators

Educators will find that Streetwise in Barrie readily lends itself for use in the classroom. Any number of modules can be built around its geographical and historical components. Each of the general streetname categories, can be used to promote interest in local, national, and international history.Themes can also be developed, for example, around the war dead, early settlers, local politicians, authors, plants, and animals.

As well, for those educators in Barrie, students can be invited to seek out the origins of the streets in their neighbourhood and around their school. Map-reading skills can be developed and enhanced by assigning projects and/or reports on streets picked out at random. For example, students could be asked to name and write a brief report on all the streets located at grid reference, say “D-4” When were the streets laid out? Is this an old or new part of Barrie? For whom are the streets named? Why might those names have been chosen at that time? When did these streets begin to look like they do in 1999? A field trip, focusing on current use and architecture, could further enhance the learning experience – as students relate map references to street locations. More senior projects could include studies on local government, the spatial evolution of Barrie, the impact of war on the community, and Canadian, English and American literature.

For educators beyond Barrie, the community’s palette of streetnames reflects a larger framework. Many streets in Barrie are named for individuals of county, regional, provincial, national, and international significance. Barrie did not name its streets in isolation. Like countless other Ontario and Canadian communities, Barrie inherited its full share of a broadly British imperial historical culture. It is very much a part of what historian Ian McKay has called “a transatlantic liberal universe.” Accordingly, a good many Barrie streetnames are also found in communities throughout Canada and, indeed, the English-speaking world. One can only wonder how many “Victoria” or “Queen” streets there are in Ontario alone.

Streetwise in Barrie is a reference of first resort. It is designed to provide a “jump start” for inquisitive minds. Further study and research materials can be accessed through the sources listed at the end of each streetname entry and in the bibliography.


Local history at its most local - a catalogue of all (through 1999) of Barrie's streets, avenues, roads, crescents, drives, courts, boulevards, squares, circles, glens, hollows, trails, places, gates, terraces, lanes, ways, and highways. Some 760 streets are each geographically described (with cross references if the names have changed) and historically detailed (only 23 are listed as "not yet determined.") In every case full reference details are carefully cited. Even closed and deleted streets are included. This work is probably the most complete study of a Canadian city's street names ever compiled. Truly a labour of love by a local historian working, as it were, from the ground up. 

Chris and Pat Raible, "From the Bookshelf," OHS Bulletin (Issue 135, July 2002), p. 7.