Owen Sound Street Names 

Owen Sound Street Names honour the individuals who made a contribution to Owen Sound's development. Today the streets are numbered to help visitors find their way.

Last summer a friend visited with me in Owen Sound. It was her first visit to this area. As we toured the area, she was struck by its historic charm. She was enamored by the wonderful harbour, the shops downtown, the stately old homes and the many beautiful churches. But what about the names of the streets? 

Although numbered streets make it easy for a newcomer to find their way around town, numbers didn't relate to the city's past the way names did. "What a paradoxical situation!" she exclaimed. On the one hand, Owen Sound exudes historical charm and, on the other, numbered streets seem out of place in such a setting. I explained that Owen Sound's streets were once named rather than numbered. However, in 1909, the leaders of the community decided that numbering the thoroughfares would be more practical. 

Like most communities, some of Owen Sound's streets had multiple names. Thus, leading to problems for newcomers, delivery persons and others who depend upon continuity of names in order to reach their destination. For example, driving into Owen Sound on Highway 6 and 10, inside the city limits, the street is 9th Ave. E. Prior to 1909, this street was called Garafraxa until Division (10th) when it became Stavely Street. Further north, Stavely changed its name to Rear Street. 

Owen Sound Street Names

Looking at an early map of Owen Sound, one can find many street names which recall the people who first settled here and, through their efforts, developed this community. Tenth Street West was named Frost; 12th St. West was Paynter; 3rd Avenue "A" East was Lepan, and part of 3rd Avenue West was named Mulholland Street. 

Our main commercial thoroughfare, 2nd Avenue East, was designated Poulett Street. This Owen Sound street name is probably in honour of Charles Poulett Thomson, Lord Sydenham, Governor General of Canada at the time of Owen Sound's inception. 

One has to wonder if politics played a role in creating Owen Sound street names. It is not without some irony the first government land agent, John Telfer and Charles Rankin, who originally surveyed the area, were ignored in the naming of the early community's thoroughfares. However, at some point in history, a small street on the east hill, 15th Street "A" East was named in honor of Telfer. 

Other Owen Sound street names were probably due to their physical environment. For instance, First Avenue East was called River Street south of 10th Street. North of this intersection it was known as Marsh Street. 

I discovered that the street where I grew up was originally Milwaukee Avenue. Did this name arise because of the town father's love of that Wisconsin city's major export? Did they foresee that, a century later, a young boy would grow up on that street idolizing the Milwaukee Braves? Probably not! It is more than likely that someone in this community had either commercial or family ties to that Lake Michigan port. 

There were many other colorful Owen Sound street names. Jex, Scrope and Alderman are but a few. The reasons for their naming may now be obscured by the passage of time, but it does make for interesting speculation. 

While renaming roads, towns or regions can be quite controversial, I feel that my friend is right. Generic numbering of streets is an effective means to assist finding one's way in a community; however, generic numbering does not have the historic charm of street names. Somehow, First Avenue West does not captivate the imagination like La Marchand Place! 

Perhaps Owen Sound could have both numbered and named streets. Secondary street signs with the original names could be mounted under the numbered signs, therefore illustrating more of Owen Sound's past, but not losing the efficiency of a numbered street system. 

While I am suggesting a return, in some format, to the original Owen Sound street names, I am not proposing a complete return to the original names of other locations in the area, such as the Indian name for Owen Sound bay — Keche WeequoDoong!

A version of this article originally appeared in my Local History column in the Owen Sound Sun Times on February 17, 1996.

More Great Information Pages
About Owen Sound

Charles Rankin, I Presume: October 7, 1840 marked the meeting of Land Agent John Telfer and surveyor Charles Rankin on the banks of the Sydenham River and the founding of Owen Sound.

Black History: Emancipation Day celebrates the abolition of slavery and it continues to be an annual celebration in many locations that were in some way, or another touched by the impact of slavery.

Black History in Owen Sound: Who was the First Black Citizen in the community is a cause for debate.

Black History: The Underground Railway is an important part not only in terms of black history, but of the history of southwestern Ontario.

Black History of Owen Sound: Version 2: There is some debate about the first black citizen in  the Owen Sound area. Here is more information for your consideration.

A Curvy Route to Toronto provided a rail connection between Owen Sound and Toronto, the curvy part was thrilling, but beautiful for the passengers and strenuous for the crew.

Billy Bishop: Owen Sound Hero earned national and international fame as a World War One Fighter pilot and used his high profile to aid in the World War Two effort.

John Muir, the legendary naturalist, who promoted the idea of protected nature spaces, spent time in Ontario and I went to help find evidence of his stay in the Owen Sound area.

Black Clawson Kennedy: An Iconic Owen Sound Industry provided income for area residents and economic development for the community for almost 150 years.

Amalgamation In and Around Owen Sound is not an unusual happening. Some form of boundary changes have occurred at many different times over the years.

Canada' First Pharmacy Chain Store: The Owen Sound-based drug store chain of Parker and Cattle is credited with being the first pharmacy chain store enterprise in Canada.

DC Taylor: Owen Sound Entrepreneur was not only progressive businessman, he was also an important contributor to the social and cultural fabric of his community.

Owen Sound Businesses: 1920s were owned and operated by families whose deep roots in the community and their efforts had created the backbone of the community and brought success to the port city.

Owen Sound: Dry Gulch Canada Learn the reason why Owen Sound was the last city in the grasp of the temperance movement.

First Cars in Owen Sound could be purchased for less than $500.00!

The harbour history of Owen Sound is rich with detail of businesses which were located at various wharves.

Hillcrest School Memories a look back at my public school days when Owen Sound's Hillcrest Public School celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1998.

News of War: The 1940s was supposed to provide the world with a respite after the hardship of the 1930s depression. However World War Two brought more adversity.

Owen Sound 1840 Onward! From a clearing in the Georgian Bay wilderness to a booming port city the 1800s were a time of growth and prosperity.

Owen Sound's First Newspaper: The Comet came into existence a mere 10 years after the first settlers braved the wilderness that would become the Grey and Bruce region.

Owen Sound's First Town Council was created to develop the necessary infrastructure for a pioneer community to grow and prosper.

Owen Sound Tavern Bylaw (1857) tried to tackle the issue of monitoring taverns in the Upper Canadian pioneer wilderness.

Owen Sound's 1857 Bylaw: Dog Control illustrated how a pioneer town controlled dogs in the community, sometimes even using harsh measures.

Owen Sound CPR Strike in 1908 immobilized harbour activities in that important Georgian Bay port, the CPR's eastern Great Lakes terminus.

Owen Sound CPR Link began with a bang, suffered a setback, and ended with a whimper.

Owen Sound Entrepreneurs: S.J. Parker & Richard Notter used their wealth and their friendships to built many community-oriented businesses in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Owen Sound 1920 Stories provide an interesting look at the community as it was about to become a city.

Owen Sound 1920s: Optimism abounded in the port city as a new decade began, The town was becoming a city and the economic outlook seemed bright.

Owen Sound Hospital History is one of a community coming together to take care of the medical needs of the entire community.

Owen Sound Softball and Baseball has a Long Tradition From the 1980s Clippers and the Wawanekas to the 1990s Selects, Owen Sound has a been well-represented in these sports.

Owen Sound Stories: On the Attack! Throughout the history of the community, citizens were not afraid to go on the attack to promote the needs of their town.

Owen Sound Street Names honour the individuals who made a contribution to Owen Sound's development. Today the streets are numbered to help visitors find their way.

O.S.C.V.I.: the History of an Owen Sound High School details from the very beginning the establishment of a high school in the community.

Pioneer Story of a Child in 1846 Owen Sound details life in the last wilderness in Upper Canada in the 1840s.

Pioneer Story of a Child in 1846 (Part 2) continues the memories of Elizabeth Byth as she encountered life in the Upper Canada wilderness that became Owen Sound.

Pioneer Theatre was a big hit in Owen Sound and across southern Ontario, where Vaudevillians like Perth Ontario's Marx Brothers played to full houses.

U.S. President Taft Visited Owen Sound Ontario, a Georgian Bay port in a momentous winter of events in 1920 as Owen Sound celebrated its incorporation as a ci

Some Interesting 20th Century Events in Owen Sound: One, in particular featured a mayor acting to avert a major labour-related confrontation.

The 1940's: An Eventful Decade in Owen Sound and Grey County: A war; a surprising political event; sports celebrations and much more.

Wawanekas: Fastball pioneers who were a legendary women's fastball team from Owen Sound who dominated their sport for a decade or more.

Political Corruption in 1852 Owen Sound? Does it seem possible that this could happen in a pioneer community on the Georgian Bay shores? Read on, and decide.

Emily Pankhurst Visits Owen Sound. The well-known suffragette visited Owen Sound and spoke not only about suffrage, but the bolshevik threat. 

Owen Sound Church History: First United Church was in fact the very first church in the Owen Sound community. It was preceded only Rev Neelands a circuit rider.

Lacrosse History in Owen Sound begins in the late nineteenth century and records the numerous championships that have been captured by Owen Sound teams.

Pioneer Ingenuity: Building Lime Kilns was essential for pioneers as without lime they could not build their brick homes.

Boosterism in 1890s Owen Sound targeted promoting economic development in Owen Sound. The port city showcased what it had to offer investors and visitors alike.

A pioneer home was very utilitarian. It served the pioneer family's essential needs, while the work of clearing the land and planting crops took priority.

Pioneer justice might be described as ruthless. But the question remains, did they always get the right man?

CPR Grain Elevator Fire in 1911 in Owen Sound harbour would have a profound impact on that Georgian Bay community.

Reverend Ryerson Visits Owen Sound and despite a great reception from the citizens of the community, he posts a negative newspaper story of the community.

The Leith Golf Course has provided many families with great memories. The history of this golf course starts, and ends, with the generosity of one family

Fenians: A Threat: The threat of an attack by Fenians was very real in Upper Canada in the 1860s and this was especially true in port communities like Owen Sound.

Inglis Falls is not only a beautiful place to enjoy nature, it is also the home of one of Owen Sound's first industries.

An Owen Sound pioneer, A.M. Stephens  provided us with a story about his early years helping to carve out a community in this part of Georgian Bay.

Pioneer industry: William Kennedy William Kennedy's efforts to build an important foundry and machine shop on the banks of Owen Sound's harbour.

Pioneer Resort: King's Royal Park From 1840 meeting to opulent pioneer resort, the citizens of Owen Sound have always worked hard to promote the economic growth and development of their community, and their part of the Georgian Bay shoreline.

Sailing stories: Owen Sound Shipbuilding from the earliest time of settlement busy shipyards dotted the Owen Sound bay where shipbuilding took place, sometimes at a feverish pace.

Spanish Flu Impacted Owen Sound, Ontario causing illness and death throughout the region. But it also illustrated the strength of the community spirit in the area.

Golf Course Review: Stone Tree Golfing at the Stone Tree Golf Club, a golfer can also enjoy sighting American Goldfinches, Purple Martins and the majestic Blue Heron while they pursue their quest to improve their golf game!

Owen Sound Ontario: A Unique Perspective: Book provides a unique and humorous perspective about this Georgian Bay port and hockey hotbed.

Water Quality in Owen Sound has been an issue since the 1840s, two Owen Sound entrepreneurs in the 1870s attempted to rectify the situation.

Owen Sound, located on beautiful Georgian Bay offers a wide variety of entertainment and shopping delights for visitors of all ages. The city and its surrounding area has a rich history, parks and other natural areas for bird watchers, hikers, cross country skiers, etc.


  1. History Articles
  2. Owen Sound
  3. Owen Sound Businesses in the 1920s were the Backbone of the Community
  1. History Articles
  2. Owen Sound
  3. Owen Sound Street Names