The leaders of the Friends of Laura Secord organization are urging that the Glendale area of NOTL be renamed in recognition of the community’s rich local heritage and historical roots.
In a letter to Niagara regional councillors, town councillors and Glendale District stakeholders, Caroline McCormick and David Brown of the Friends of Laura Secord also propose that Glendale’s planned Main Street include monuments in honour of some of the area’s pioneering women.
As well, they suggest that names in public spaces and streets within the district reflect the landscapes, history, heritage and significant people in the area.
The letter includes a three-point proposal for the district to encourage town and regional elected officials to “join with other stakeholders in a public consultation process that reflects the unique history, heritage and sense of place of this important new community.”
In proposing the name change, McCormick and Brown point out the name Glendale has no real affiliation with the neighbourhood and the street is just an extension of a St. Catharines roadway that extends into Niagara-on-the-Lake for a relatively short distance.
They also point out that other arterial roads in the area, notably York Road and Queenston Road were “contiguous with the so-called ‘Iroquois Trail,’ a First Nations footpath of great historical importance” along the elevated ancient shoreline of Lake Iroquois on the northern border of the district.
McCormick and Brown suggest the name of the community should recognize and honour the surrounding landscape, rich natural and cultural heritage, and historical human settlement patterns of this area.
In their proposal, they list a number of historical and current attributes of the area that could be recognized in naming streets and public places.
Included are: the Lampman family estate high on the Escarpment at Woodend Conservation Area; the old Garden City Racetrack where the Outlet Collection mall is now; the Niagara Regional Native Centre, which is not far from the original Iroquois Trail; the area’s rich agricultural history; and Ten Mile Creek, later incorporated in the Welland Canal, which was an important historical feature being a boundary, a barrier, a conduit and a resource.
Highlighting this particular feature, McCormick and Brown note the theme of “crossings” is significant to the district.
“First Nations people crossed Ten Mile Creek on the Iroquois Trail, as did early colonists. Laura Secord crossed the creek near Homer on her famous 1813 trek and the present-day Laura Secord Legacy Trail crosses through the district, as does the Bruce Trail,” their letter says.
“From the earliest days of the Underground Railroad to later interactions between the well-established black communities in Niagara-on-the-Lake and St. Catharines, Niagara’s black community would have used the crossing at Homer.”
They point out today all that is left of this crossing is the current Homer Bridge and the Garden City Skyway.
In the letter’s most significant proposal, the authors want councillors and planners to consider using the proposed Main Street between Niagara on the Green and the Outlet Collection to commemorate pioneering women of the area through the establishment of public monuments along the street.
It suggests the first monument could be in the centre of the existing roundabout and consist of a statue of women from three of the area’s pioneering communities, in consultation with their representative communities.
In requesting that adjacent streets and public spaces be named after women of significance, names like Laura Secord, Harriet Tubman, Eliza Fenwick, Janet Carnaghan, Emma Currie and Chloe Cooley are suggested.
“The project would stand as a testament to the abiding strength and enduring values of women whose efforts helped establish an enabling context for women of today, and who continue to inspire current generations to rise to the challenge,” McCormick and Brown write.
Kirsten McCauley, a senior planner with the Region of Niagara, said there are several ways the letter’s suggestions could be incorporated into the Glendale District plan.
“A convergence for the area’s trails and active transportation facilities could enhance and improve the trail network with markers or wayfinding that provides information on the history of the area,” McCauley said in an email.
“The main street could incorporate public realm improvements, urban design elements and public art that celebrate the history and heritage of the area and the creation of a public/civic space for Glendale could also incorporate placemaking elements related to the suggestions within the letter.”
In an emailed response, Lord Mayor Betty Disero called the Friends of Laura Secord proposal “a good one.”
“There is no easier way to recognize our heritage than to incorporate our heroines into the area by way of naming streets, parks and trails. It also starts to create a vision and set a theme going forward.”
Steve Hardaker has lived in Glendale for nine years and is active in many community organizations.