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5 things you (probably) didn't know about Vancouver street names

Ever wondered where Saskatchewan's road is?
Broadway's name comes from a pretty famous source.

Vancouver's got hundreds upon hundreds of streets, all with names.

While many aren't that unique (the 60+ numbered avenues, a Main Street and a Marine Drive that's next to the ocean, for example), there are some fun names, like Blood Alley Square (named in the 1970s as Gastown was rebranding), Captains Cove (a private road that developers got to name) and Little Street (which is only one block long).

Amongst all the names, though, are some fun facts about how those names came to be, along with some historical oddities. Here we go again.

1. Broadway

In a case of straight-up imitation, it's named after Broadway in New York. The city was hoping to become a major metropolis and thought Ninth Avenue was going to become the centre for it. More than 100 years later (this was in 1909), current city officials are building a SkyTrain underneath, with a similar hope.

Oh, and it has no secondary designation. It's just Broadway.

2. Kingsway

While it seems like it's likely related to Broadway's name, given their similarities, they're not connected (other than their intersection, that is).

Kingsway was named (in 1913) to honour of King Edward VII (who reigned from 1901 to 1911). The road was originally named Westminster Road, as it was the route to New Westminster, which had been the largest city in the area.

King Edward Avenue is also named after King Edward VII; at the time Point Grey was a separate municipality and the local government there created their own tribute to the dead king via a road naming, and when they merged with Vancouver the name stuck, instead of 25th Avenue. And Alexandra Street is named after his wife.

3. Vernon Drive

Speaking of a guy with lots of street names related to him, Vernon Drive, for the record, is not named after Vernon. While Vancouver has a lot of streets named after B.C. cities, Vernon is not one of them.

Instead, both the street and the town share the same origin: Forbes George Vernon.

A major property owner in the area, he's also the reason George Street is named as such, and there was a Forbes Street near the port before the sugar factory arrived.

4. The provincial and territory streets

Most of the provinces and one territory all have streets named after them in a simple order, running east to west as they did on a map of the country when the streets were named in 1903.

The farthest east is Prince Edward Street, named after the island, and, for the most part, the rest follow in the correct order with Main Street dropping in as an outlier: Brunswick Street, Scotia Street, Quebec Street, Ontario Street, Manitoba Street and Columbia Street all sit one after another.

However, Alberta is further west than (British) Columbia Street; that's because Alberta joined the confederation in 1905, so it was added later. It actually switched positions with Yukon Street and Yukon Street was pushed one block west.

The other provinces and territories weren't so lucky.

There are official roadways named after Saskatchewan and Nunavut; both are lanes, though. Saskatchewan Lane is in Marpole, tucked in behind the Safeway on Granville Street. It only goes one block. Nunavut isn't even that lucky, with a slightly shorter lane tucked parallel to Cambie Street and perpendicular to Southwest Marine Drive.

It appears the Northwest Territories and Newfoundland and Labrador are still without streets though.

5. The tree street names are out of order forever

As the story goes, according to Elizabeth Walker in her Street Names of Vancouver, Lauchlan Hamilton, the man responsible for planning much of early Vancouver, had intended for there to be a series of streets south of False Creek all named after trees.

Just like what the city has now.

However, they're not in the order he wanted.

"Hamilton, who was going out of town, instructed his draftsman to alphabetize his list of trees before they were added to the new drawing laying out Vancouver street names. To his dismay, he discovered upon his return that the draftsman had failed to alphabetize the tree names, and it was too late to change the drawing," writes Walker of what archivist Major J.S. Matthews had learned.

The plans for streets named after trees originally included a Lime Street as well, and a Cedar Street, which was renamed Burrard Street.

Bonus: Why does Vancouver have a Highway 99?

The highway system is huge, extending not just beyond Metro Vancouver, but outside of Canada. And that's where the 99 came from, even though most numbers are much much lower.

Highway 99 stretches from outside of Cache Creek on the north end, down to Surrey in the south, where it connects with the interstate system in the U.S. While that roadway is now known as I-5, it used to be US Route 99, and Canada just carried on with that number. 

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