Surrey’s streets weren’t always ordered by number. Once upon a time, the streets had names that carried stories.
Sixty years after City Council passed the bylaw that numbered public thoroughfares and renamed them “streets” or “avenues” based on their direction, seven of Surrey’s original street names will be making a return on signs in the heart of the city: Cloverdale’s historic downtown.
The numbers of the streets won’t change, but the signs that mark them will. The original name of the street will be written underneath the current, numbered name, to honour the stories of the ones that came before.
The streets that will receive new signs are 56A Ave (Robson Ave), 57 Ave (Melrose Ave), 57A Ave (Hawthorne Ave), 58 Ave (Broadway), 58A Ave (Bond Ave), 176 St (Clover Valley Road) and 176A St (King Street).
The project has been in the works for a long time, said Cloverdale BIA Executive Director Paul Orazietti, adding that it was made possible through a partnership between the City of Surrey and the Cloverdale BIA.
Orazietti said the signs will be posted in a few months, most likely after winter ends.
The project cost approximately $3,500 and was paid for by donations made by film productions that filmed on 176 and 176A Street last summer.
In the past, film companies have generally donated items to Cloverdale, not funds. A memorable donation, said Orazietti, was when Deck the Halls, a movie starring Danny DeVito, gifted a 15-foot Christmas tree, lights and wreaths to the downtown centre of Cloverdale.
The gifts are generally made in recognition of the potential disruption made to local businesses by closing down traffic for filming. Orazietti said he hopes to grow a partnership between film productions and Cloverdale, similar to what Steveston has with Once Upon a Time, a popular TV show that has transformed the small village into a tourist destination.
Orazietti said the signs were the first of many projects to “come to fruition” and that Cloverdale can expect more from the BIA and the Chamber of Commerce in 2017. “We’re always looking for opportunities to add historical elements to town centre and celebrate Cloverdale’s history,” he said.
Surrey’s street history
In the early road-building days of Surrey, stretches of road would be completed in increments. When a new section was completed it usually took the name of the man who owned the adjacent farm—these farmers often worked to finish the road that would one day bear their name. It was this custom that usually determined a road’s name before it was entered into records and inscribed on maps.
Sixty years ago, City Council adopted the street-numbering system that we’re familiar with today. The ordered system was helpful to those moving to Surrey in the population explosion that started after World War 2, and to the existing residents who needed more efficient navigation, but the change did not come without a sense of loss.
New (old) names will “give character”
Long-time Cloverdale resident Alan Clegg was a teenager when road names transitioned to road numbers. “It didn’t happen overnight,” he said. “We didn’t wake up one morning to new numbered street signs on every street corner. For many years people would say they lived on the Old Bose Road near Pacific Highway.”
Clegg, who was a part of Cloverdale’s volunteer fire service for 35 years, remembers the change to the numerical system was very significant as it changed the way everyone, including emergency services, navigated. Eventually it would streamline the process, but there was a learning curve at first.
When a dispatcher received a call for police, fire or ambulance services they cross-checked the address using a book that listed old street and avenue names alphabetically. “We told our recruits at Hall no. 8 in Cloverdale to imagine a quadrant showing Pacific Highway and New McLellan Road as two lines that crossed in the intersection,” said Clegg. “One could then work out the number system. North and east got larger, while south and west got smaller.”
Clegg said that there were some in the community who resisted the change. “(They) considered it a loss of historical value, but, like the metric system, people did adapt,” said Clegg. “I am pleased that Cloverdale is bringing back the old road names. It gives character.”
Clover Valley Road to return
Each of the seven streets to receive historic signage has a history. Take 176 Street, for example, which will have a sign noting that it used to be known as Clover Valley Road.
Clover Valley Road received its name the same way Cloverdale did. It was opened only a few years after the district was named Clover Valley by William Shannon in the 1870s. He named it in a letter, in which he explained the name: he loved the scent of the summer clover that bloomed in the valley.
In 1913, Clover Valley Road was graveled and re-named Pacific Highway. Ten years later it re-opened as Surrey’s first paved highway.
The portion of the highway that ran north of the Fraser Highway was still known as Clover Valley Road until 1957, when it was renamed 176 Street.
In 2017, sixty years later, it will receive a new sign that honours its past.