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What’s In a Name?

Image by Will Vipond Tait

When you’re cruising around Hamilton, do you ever wonder about the street names and how they came to be?

Many cities have Main, King, and Queen Streets but Hamilton’s unique names are clues to the noteworthy people, events, and circumstances that helped to shape our city. Here are 10 of the fascinating facts and foibles behind the streets that we travel every day. 

Photo by Bob Hatcher

Jolley Cut, Downtown Hamilton Escarpment Access

Scotsman James Jolley had a saddle and harness business on John Street South. In hopes of improving his wife’s health, Jolley built a house up on Concession Street where the air quality was considered to be better. Disliking the toll road that went down the escarpment, in 1870 he personally funded the upgrading of a pedestrian path into a new road that accommodated carriages.  

Governor’s Road, Dundas to Ancaster

During the 1790s, John Simcoe, Upper Canada’s first Lieutenant Governor, guided the construction of infrastructure projects by the Queen’s Rangers. This unique soldier regiment built the road from Cootes Paradise over to Paris, Ontario. It was a new transportation alternative to Lake Erie for troops to protect Canada from the United States, which Simcoe viewed as the country’s greatest threat. 

Hughson Street, Downtown

Nathaniel Hughson arrived in Hamilton in the late 1700s and owned 700 acres of land from the harbour to Main Street. In addition to his own name, he chose family members for several streets including Rebecca, Catherine, and James. Hughson donated the land for Christ Church Cathedral but decided against giving land for a public square at James and King, which led to Gore Park becoming a triangular property.

Lover’s Lane, Ancaster

Otto Ives moved into the Hermitage in Ancaster in 1833 with his wife, sons, and an 18-year-old niece, Angelica. She fell in love with the coachman, William Black, but Otto wouldn’t let them marry. William was distraught and died by suicide. He was buried at a nearby road intersection and the name Lover’s Lane began to be used for one of the roads. There are stories of William’s ghost being seen at his grave and at the Hermitage.

Gibson Street, East Downtown 

The life of Sir John Morison Gibson was filled with prolific and notable accomplishments in politics, business, and more. In 1893, he introduced Ontario’s Children’s Protection Act, also known as the Gibson Act, which made child abuse an indictable offence, and helped communities establish branches of the Children’s Aid Society. Gibson became Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario in 1908 and passed away at his home, the well-known Ravenscliffe, in 1929.

Dynes Park Avenue, Beach Strip

John Dynes was born in Dundas and built the Dynes Hotel on Hamilton’s Beach Strip in 1846. Among the earliest settlers, the Dynes family gave away portions of their land grant to encourage others to live in the area. Their hotel was legendary for serving hundreds of duck dinners on Saturday nights. For just two bits, diners could enjoy fresh duck caught on the beach earlier in the day. 

Photo by Mike Kukucska

Griffin Street, Waterdown

Ebenezer Griffin, the son of a United Empire Loyalist who established Smithville, purchased 560 acres in 1823 that developed into the town of Waterdown. Griffin, sometimes called “the father of Waterdown,” operated mills along Grindstone Creek and kept strict control over other mills through his property sales to settlers. Griffin built the town’s first hotel and supplied the village’s liquor but he was also the founder of the Temperance Society. 

Ferrie Street, North End

Hamilton’s first mayor, Colin Campbell Ferrie, came from Scotland in the 1820s to operate a dry goods business established by his father. Colin did well with business locations in Hamilton, Dundas and four other communities and then developed business holdings in real estate, banking, and transportation. He was a founding member of Hamilton’s Board of Trade and served on the board of health during the cholera epidemic of 1832.

Dickenson Road, Glanbrook

Edward Dickenson was an English stone mason who came to North Glanford in the 1850s. With his sons, he built houses and schools and established a brickyard that supplied materials for the original Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital on Fennell Avenue. His son John became a local politician in the 1890s and was part of the Cataract Power Company that first brought electrical power to Hamilton. 

Paradise Road, Westdale

Beginning at Cootes Paradise Sanctuary, this road originally ran to the foot of the Niagara Escarpment but in present time it ends at Main Street West. The sanctuary was named after Captain Thomas Coote, an Irish army officer who liked to hunt waterfowl in this area. What is now the town of Dundas was also known as Cootes Paradise until the 1840s.

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