New Westminster, You Have a Problem

Picture courtesy the City of New Westminster
Picture courtesy the City of New Westminster

I’m not talking about traffic, or people tearing down old houses, or even the European chafer beetle. And while those are some pretty good problems, I’m talking about something entirely different.

And that’s names. New Westminster, you have a problem with names.

Let’s start with Queen’s Park. Or is it Queens Park? Or both? It turns out that the park is Queen’s Park but the neighbourhood is Queens Park. And the Queens Park Residents’ Association is decidedly undecided about which side to fall on, using both Queen’s AND Queens in their constitution and bylaws. And there’s Queens Avenue, sans apostrophe, so that’s probably a vote for that side, but there also used to be a Queen’s Boulevard! That’s since been renamed McBride Boulevard, so perhaps we should switch everything over to Queens.

McBride Boulevard runs past Queen’s Park and the neighbourhood of Glenbrooke North. Glenbrooke North is home to a middle school named after the neighbourhood. Or is it? The middle school is named Ecole Glenbrook School! It’s not named after the neighbourhood at all, it’s actually named after Glenbrook Ravine, which isn’t even in Glenbrooke North, it’s it’s Sapperton! One of the streets bordering Glenbrook Ravine is Glenbrook Drive, but even New Westminster Parks, Culture, & Recreation gets this wrong on their website — they’ve spelled it “Glenbrooke”!

And get this: Glenbrook Ravine Park was originally named as a park by Colonel Richard Moody, but he named it Queen’s Ravine! Oh New Westminster, you’ve got a problem with your Queen’s and your Queens and your Glenbrookes and your Glenbrooks.

So let’s get to what’s most baffling about your names, New Westminster: the roads. Or, more accurately, your streets and avenues. You’ve got Sixth Street and Sixth Avenue. Do you realize just how confusing this is? Which one’s the street and which one’s the avenue? When we first moved to New West my wife had to find an address that was on 14th Avenue, but the person only said “14th” and she ended up in Burnaby! Nobody wants to end up in Burnaby!

We’ve lived in New West for six years and I still get confused. We used to live just off Sixth Avenue and I swear it took me 30 seconds to remember if it was Avenue or Street. I’m sure some of you old-timers are going to say something like “avenues run along the river, streets go up and down the hills” but that doesn’t help because Columbia Street runs along the river!

I was born and raised in Surrey. Just about the only thing Surrey did right is get its streets and avenues sorted out — streets go north-south, avenues go east-west. You can’t even get this straight in New Westminster because all the roads are at an angle! And in Surrey I can say “meet me at 184th and 74th” and people know where you’re talking about — it’s in Clayton. In New Westminster say “meet me at 6th and 8th” and I don’t know if you want to meet at Moody Park or IHOP!

Did you know that the numbered streets and avenues only came about in 1892? In New Westminster’s history, that’s practically yesterday! And did you know that Ninth Avenue (which runs through Glenbrooke North) used to be called Turnbull Street, probably named after prominent lacrosse star Alex Turnbull? And Seventh Avenue used to be Townsend Street, after W. B. Townsend, one of New West’s mayors back in the late 1800s. I hate to use Surrey as an example again, but they’ve put up historical markers along their admittedly boring numbered streets and avenues. 184th Street has a couple showing it was called Halls Prairie Road, and 72nd Avenue was Jericho Road. New West should do that too! And over time we can tell each other we’ll meet at Douglas and Milton instead of Eighth and Sixth and actually meet at Moody Park instead of IHOP.

So figure it out, New Westminster. Get your names straight. Pick Queen’s or Queens, Glenbrooke or Glenbrook. And for the love of Pete fix your streets and avenues!

13 Replies to “New Westminster, You Have a Problem”

  1. Ha!! Love it! Thanks for the chuckle. I often get mail meant for the same address on 8th STREET, instead of 8th AVE. Figure it’s a nice way to meet our “neighbours” on the other side of the city.

  2. And then there’s Brunette – it used to be a street, but now it’s an avenue – in New West. In Coquitlam it was always an avenue, at least after they both called it Pitt River Road!!! Sigh.

  3. My understanding is that 12th St was once Edinburgh St. and 13th was once London St. Those historical names wouldn’t get confusing at all! But in all seriousness that historical markers idea is a great one.

  4. Been here over 30 yrs and only way I was able to remember/figure out the Avenue or Street dilemma was word “avenue” has letter ‘V’ in it hence that street pointed (sorta) towards Vancouver which also has letter ‘V’ in it.

    And, you guessed it, “street” having letter ‘S’ in it, will point you south to Surrey.

    So, in my mind, avenues go across town to and from Vancouver and streets go up and down towards Surrey.


  5. The whole “6th and 8th” conundrum perplexed me before I even moved here. Kinda glad to hear I’m not the only one, although I wish there was a solution. Dammit.

    My rule of thumb for Ave/St is to think of the river as East-West… then the numbered streets are Up-Down same as Surrey/Delta. Except, as you point out, the river isn’t East-West. Dammit.

    Having a surname that ends in S, I’ve spent my whole life battling with possessive apostrophes and odd looking plurals. The only thing that gets me through the day is consistency. And apparently New West doesn’t have it. Dammit dammit dammit.

    Thanks a bunch Brad!

  6. Not unique to New West, but my favourite street sign apostrophe thing is St. Andrews. We have St. George. St. Patrick. But not St. Andrew. Always with an ‘s.’ Perhaps actor Dana Andrews was canonized.

  7. I like West Van. Numbers run up and down hill. East-West stre3ets start alphabetically at the waterfront – Argyle, Bellevue, Clyde, Duchess, Esquimalt, Fulton and so on. Haven’t lived there since 1953 but it still sticks.

  8. My pet peeve with New Westminster is the no left turn at a major intersection like 6th & 6th. Why not allow left turns at non peak hours.

  9. I should absolutely live on Nanaimo Ave. The confusion with Nanaimo St in Vancouver happens all the time. AND we run parallel to the avenues.

Comments are closed.