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The forgotten history of First Street North

 

It’s a curious case of a forgotten bylaw, a decision made by Brandon council in 1939 as a tribute to a man responsible for shaping a part of the city we know today.

A decision to rename a portion of First Street North appears to have never received the rubber stamp it needed to make it official, and the decision was nullified by a catch-all bylaw a few decades later.

On Dec. 18, 1939, city council headed by Mayor Frederick H. Young decided to name the stretch of First Street North, between the northerly tip of Dinsdale Park and the Braecrest Drive intersection, "Baragar Drive."

"Done and passed," the bylaw states in all capital letters over the signatures of the mayor and city clerk.

Following that decision, a city employee only had to take a walk to the Brandon Land Titles Office with one dollar in hand to make it official, as the provincial Municipal Act stipulated at the time — an errand no one appeared to run.

The land titles office has no record of such a change. Earlier this month, a clerk at the office unrolled a waxy map of the section in question with all the bylaws affecting the area since the late 1800s, neatly penned on the margins — road closures, name changes, rezonings. They’re all there.

Except for bylaw No. 2665.

The idea for the name change came from the Brandon Horticultural Society and the Parks Board of the City of Brandon to memorialize the late Charles A. Baragar, M.D., who, during his time as the medical superintendent of the Manitoba Hospital for Mental Diseases, "was instrumental in procuring the landscaping and development of First Street North," the bylaw states.

Beginning in 1920, Baragar was the superintendent for more than a decade, overseeing many of the hospital’s health reforms and programs. The hospital grew substantially during his time in Brandon and expansions included a colony building and a female nursing staff dormitory.

His efforts to greatly expand the hospital’s campus made him "one of the most notable superintendents ... in the institution’s history," boldly stated Kurt Refvik, the author of "History of the Brandon Mental Health Centre," published in 1991.

The road’s name change was covered by the Brandon Daily Sun, nestled within war updates and buried in an article about a dozen other bylaws passed by council the previous evening.

Fast forward to June 1974, when council passed a bylaw officially naming the stretch First Street North. The road was always known as such, but not legally until that evening.

There was no acknowledgement of Baragar Drive.

The omnibus bylaw also included the naming of Braecrest Drive, Middleton Avenue and Highland Avenue.

The only evidence of the lost name is on the all-knowing Google Maps, which labels the area immediately east of First Street North, Baragar.

It’s unlikely the city will now honour the previous decision and change it back to Baragar Drive.

Tanya Marshall, the city’s property administration manager, said the city reserves its right to rename any street, including duplicate street names but mainly in the interest of public safety.

"It needs to provide a general improvement to essential services or in the interest of public safety," she said.

It’s highly unlikely the name would ever be changed back.

"In this case, I would say it wouldn’t and we would incur costs of changing everybody's addresses on top of it," Marshall said.

Even though First Street is technically a provincial highway, it’s still the city’s prerogative to change the name — such was the case with naming Veterans Way.

A citizen-initiated push to change the name is even less likely than one led by the city. Homeowners living on what was officially known as Baragar Drive don’t seem too keen on making the switch.

"I would say I’m not really in favour of it," Shirley Krawchuck said. "I wouldn’t want to go through changing all the mail."

"I don’t know if it would be wise to change it or not," added her husband John. "It might be confusing to people coming into Brandon and stuff like that."

Their immediate neighbour, Ron Baryluk, was also more than a little leery about the idea of resurrecting the dusty old bylaw.

"Changing the mail takes two or three years," he said. "It would be so confusing."

But Baragar’s name may still live on.

The area’s city councillor, Jeff Fawcett (Assiniboine), said he’d be open to talking with Assiniboine Community College, which has taken over the hospital site, to possibly honour Baragar in another way.

And Mark Frison, the college’s president, left open the possibility of doing that as the school tweaks its long-term master plan for its North Hill campus, including internal streets.

"I think that’s one of the things that’ll be worth considering as part of that process," he said.

Coun. Corey Roberts (Rosser) didn’t rule out the possibility of naming the First Street Bridge, which is expected to go through major redevelopment beginning next year.

"These are the kind of things that get brought up and we’re reminded of their importance and it’s a good time to take action on it," said Roberts, who is also chair of the city’s municipal heritage advisory committee.

"So, I could see something happening possibly in the new 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."

» gbruce@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @grjbruce

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 28, 2014

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It’s a curious case of a forgotten bylaw, a decision made by Brandon council in 1939 as a tribute to a man responsible for shaping a part of the city we know today.

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It’s a curious case of a forgotten bylaw, a decision made by Brandon council in 1939 as a tribute to a man responsible for shaping a part of the city we know today.

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