The only remaining son of Arthur Baragar — after whom a major Brandon street should have been named back in the 1930s — wants to see his father’s name reinstated somewhere in the city.
Robert Baragar, 88, contacted the Brandon Sun from his home in the Ottawa area after a dive into the city’s old bylaws last month revealed the 1939 city council decided to change the name of a portion of First Street North to "Baragar Drive."
"I was astounded," Robert said in a recent interview with the Sun. "I remember learning many years ago that a street in Brandon had been named after our father, but no one that I met over the years from the Brandon area seemed to have heard of it."
He since assumed he was mistaken.
At the end of his 10-year tenure at the Brandon mental hospital beginning in 1920 as medical superintendent, Arthur Baragar was credited for overseeing many of the hospital’s health reforms and programs. The hospital grew substantially during his time in the city.
He was also credited for leading a push to beautify the area surrounding the hospital with substantial landscaping.
In December 1939, city council made the decision to change the name of a part of First Street at the behest of the Brandon Horticultural Society and the Parks Board, but the change appears to have never been made legal at the land titles office. Any name change to First Street North and the surrounding area was later nullified in an omnibus bylaw in 1974 that officially changed the name of several streets in the area north of the First Street Bridge.
"I wouldn’t mind if they reinstated the name on the original street because that was one that runs into the old mental hospital," Robert said. "If that could be done, I would be very pleased."
He believes the Brandon hospital was the love of his father’s life because many of the psychiatric reforms he put in place here he took with him to Alberta, where he spent the remaining six years of his life as that province’s director of mental disease, a new post in a medical field that was still in its infancy.
Robert was a young child when his father died, but through letters and diaries he has kept his entire life, the son of the former medical superintendent has "incredible insight" into who Arthur was.
"He was incredibly interested in everything," Robert said. "I think he was a very intelligent man.
"In his diaries, he constantly refers to his time in Brandon and in general terms, you could tell he had much more empathy with the government of the province of Manitoba, who seemed to be very interested (in mental health)."
Arthur’s time in Brandon was documented in the book "The History of the Brandon Mental Health Centre," published in 1991, which called him "one of the most notable superintendents in the institution’s history."
While living in Brandon, Arthur was the president of the Brandon Rotary Club and also helped commemorate the site of the Brandon House fur trade post.
In speaking with the city and the few homeowners living on what could have been Baragar Drive, it’s unlikely a name change will ever happen, but Robert said he’d also be happy to have his father’s name adorn a part of the hospital campus, now the Assiniboine Community College’s North Hill campus.
The college left open the possibility of doing that as the school tweaks its long-term master plan for the campus.
Last month, Coun. Corey Roberts (Rosser), chairman of the municipal heritage advisory committee, didn’t rule out the possibility of naming the First Street Bridge, which is expected to go through major redevelopment beginning next year.
"There should be opportunities to name something, if it’s not the bridge, at the very least maybe something on the (ACC) campus property," Roberts said in a recent interview.
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