West-end Toronto street gets ceremonial name to mark Battle of Vimy Ridge
Glenhurst Avenue was originally named Vimy Ridge Avenue, but a 1928 petition prompted a name change
First World War history has returned to a Toronto street in the form of ceremonial name.
Glenhurst Avenue, near Dufferin Street and St. Clair Avenue West, received the ceremonial name of Vimy Ridge Avenue on Monday, a full 101 years after that First World War battle was fought in France by Canadian soldiers.
According to local residents, Glenhurst Avenue was originally named Vimy Ridge Avenue, but a petition by 28 residents in April 1928 convinced what was then York Township Council to change the street's name.
The city says in a staff report that no records exist to explain why residents want the name changed.
Coun. Cesar Palacio, who represents Ward 17, Davenport, presided over the unveiling of the new street sign on Glenhurst Avenue in a brief ceremony that drew dozens of people.
"This is something that brings our history back," he said.
"This is an amazing opportunity to learn about our history and those who sacrificed their lives to bring us the freedom and peace that we are enjoying today. This is something great for this community."
Linda Folliott, speaking at the ceremony, said five generations of her family have lived in a house on Glenhurst Avenue and she and her husband Lawrence discovered the street's original name when they bought the house from his parents.
"This family has lived in this home since this home was first built. Needless to say, all the documentation came with it. So years ago, we noted that the blueprint read 26 Vimy Ridge. It caught our attention," she said.
She said a war hero lived at 38 Vimy Ridge and he was awarded the military cross at age 19 for singlehandedly capturing a German machine gun nest that was holding up his battalion's advance at Vimy Ridge. He is credited with saving many lives.
"History can't and shouldn't be forgotten. It should be cherished and remembered, always," Folliott said.
'Major military achievement'
According to the history books, Canadian soldiers captured the ridge from the German army in April 1917, succeeding where other allied armies had failed. More than 10,500 Canadians were killed and injured.
In a staff report, the city notes that Vimy Ridge was a "stunning but costly victory for the Canadian Corps during the First World War."
"Vimy was recognized as a major military achievement at the time, though its status as a nation-building event would grow over the following decades," the report reads.
The city said there are no documents to make sense of the name change in 1928.
Street name change called 'surprising'
"The original petition has been lost, and council's action was not covered by the Toronto newspapers or historical writings about York Township. While a similarly named street did exist in Greater Toronto (Vimy Avenue in Weston), the change is surprising," the report says.
In the 1920s, cenotaphs and memorial buildings were built in the Toronto area and across Canada to honour wartime sacrifices. The Canadian Legion was created on behalf of war veterans. Work on the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France also began around this time.
Canada marked the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 2017, the report noted. And Canada will mark 100 years since the end of the First World War this year.