Part of Burlington Street is now Tesla Boulevard - but why Hamilton?

Why name a major arterial road in Hamilton after Nikola Tesla? Proponents, who released pigeons and cut a ribbon Sunday, say it's reviving a historic connection.

Dignitaries cut a ribbon and released pigeons on a closed part of the former Burlington Street

Andy Moses, left, and Victor Starecky, both of Hamilton, dressed in Victorian costume for the unveiling of Nikola Tesla Boulevard. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

It's official: part of Burlington Street is now Nikola Tesla Boulevard, and proponents say it's just reviving what's already a historic connection between the inventor and the city.

Dignitaries lined a closed portion of the former Burlington Street on Sunday to release pigeons, which were a favourite of the Serbian-born inventor.

And with a snip of the ribbon, Burlington Street from Ottawa Street to the QEW, became Tesla Boulevard.

It's a fitting tribute because Hamilton was the first major Canadian city to have alternating current (AC) electrical power, a Tesla invention, said Bob Bratina, Liberal MP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, whose family is Serbian and Croatian. And Tesla himself consulted on the Hamilton project, Bratina said.

Tesla helped build Decew Falls 1 in 1898, and the station remains the oldest hydro-generating station in Canada; the current generated flowed to Hamilton's Cataract Power Company. It was one of the longest electrical lines in the world at the time, Bratina said.

Sasha Radovanovic, left, and Vladimir Vicic, both of Toronto, donated to the fund to name part of Burlington Street after Nikola Tesla. Both were on hand for the unveiling Sunday. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

An Aug. 26, 1898 article in the Hamilton Spectator backs up the project's importance.

"Yesterday was an important day for the directors of the Cataract Power Company," it reads. "It marked the near completion of the company's plans for supplying city business men with power for their works and factories."

Hamilton's cheap electricity caused its manufacturing boom, which is instrumental to the city today, Bratina said. That's why it's fitting that the street is named after him.

"And he was here," he said.

Ribbon cutters included, from left, Filomena Tassi, Liberal MP for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas; Vic Djurdjevic, president of the Nikola Tesla Educational Corporation; Bob Bratina, Liberal MP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek; Maria Pearson, city councillor; Mihailo Papazoglu, ambassador of the Republic of Serbia, Paul Miller, NDP MPP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The Nikola Tesla Educational Corporation asked the city to change the name in 2014. Councillors agreed if the local group could raise $150,000 to pay for it. So it did. Many of the donors were among the roughly 300 who gathered for Sunday's event.

The group also wants to put a statue of Tesla in Bayfront Park.

Sunday was Tesla's 160th birthday.


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