What’s in a street name?

Photo: Google Maps

Researching the historic origins of Halifax’s street names is the kind of challenge I really enjoy.
Since the adoption of the Civic Addressing Bylaw and Polices in 2002, all new street names go to the Civic Addressing Department for review, then HRM Council for final approval. City staff also review applications for commemorative names to be applied on municipal streets, parks, and buildings
Prior to amalgamation, each local government had its own method for naming streets. They didn’t work together, which is why HRM has so many streets with similar names. Since amalgamation in 1996, this is been a concern for 911 dispatchers.
Although HRM staff have eliminated many duplicate names, there are still remains approximately 650 streets in the municipality whose names are repeated. Some, such as Maple Drive and Second Street, are used in six different locations.
In addition to these exactly duplicated street names, there are many near-duplicate names (such as Maple Drive and Maple Street). Such “semi duplicate” street names are no longer allowed, but there are still approximately 1,800 streets in HRM that meet this definition. The most common street names include, Church, Hillside, Maple, River, and Sunset.
In addition to these two types of duplicated street names there are also streets within the municipality that sound the same but, are spelled differently. For instance, Ashlea and Ashley.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t completed the review on existing similar-sounding street names because that analysis is far more in-depth,” says HRM civic addressing coordinator Gayle Maclean.
Today civic addressing staff diligently review all new street names to ensure that there will be no overlap with streets anywhere in HRM.
But there’s still confusion. In the past, the majority of 911 calls were placed from a landline, meaning 911 operators had the exact address. But when you call 911 from a mobile phone, operators can’t verify your location. They rely on callers to tell them. This makes having distinct street names more important, as a person in an emergency could easily mistake Maple Street for Maple Avenue.
As HRM continues to grow, new streets keep coming. HRM aims to use street-naming to paint a picture of our past. Citizens are encouraged to submit names of notable people or groups, historic events, geographic features, or native flora and fauna.

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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