Tragically Hip get street name in Kingston

Kingston city council honoured the city's most famous rock 'n' roll band Tuesday night, renaming a section of a downtown street Tragically Hip Way.

Renamed road runs in front of entertainment venue

Gord Downie of the The Tragically Hip performs at the Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest last summer. The City of Kingston has renamed a street in the band's honour. (Patrick Doyle/Bluesfest/CP)

It’s not every day that your hometown names a street after you.

But Kingston city council did just that for the city's most famous rock 'n' roll band Tuesday night when it renamed a section of a downtown street Tragically Hip Way.

The renamed portion includes a block and a half of Barrack Street that runs in front of a large entertainment venue, the K-Rock Centre, and toward the Wolfe Island Ferry docks. Officially, the renamed portion of the road runs from King Street East just past Ontario Street.

City council also voted to create a Walk of Fame.

"We are humbled and flattered by the efforts of those who undertook this initiative and those who supported it throughout this process," Tragically Hip bassist Gord Sinclair said in an email. 

"It is our hope that the creation of the Tragically Hip Way and a Walk of Fame celebrating our fellow Kingstonians will serve to strengthen and unify our community in the years to come. We would like to thank the mayor and council for this recognition and offer our sincere hope that any divisiveness this issue may have caused will not impede the progress of the city's business."

Concerns about military history

City of Kingston documents show that about 21 per cent of the 663 online responses were against renaming part of the street due to concerns over loss of history. Barrack Street, which has existed since the late 1700s, is one of only seven streets in Kingston named before the 1830s that still exist. Barrack Street was part of a significant military area.

However, 58% of online respondents were in favour of renaming it. During the public consultations in January, someone listed as Colonel Cadman said he had spoken to some of the soldiers who are in Kingston now, and they did not seemed to be worried about the name change. 

Others who were not concerned about the historical implications wanted to use the renaming as a springboard to develop an entertainment district.

Even the public consultations were touched by the spirit of art. When speakers signed up to weigh in on the matter at a meeting last January, they were asked to draw a card. To decide the order of speakers, the mayor randomly drew cards from his own matching deck. If a speaker’s card matched, it was their turn to speak. 

The vote was close, with seven councilors voting in favour, and six against.

The Hip are 12-time Juno award winners. The band formed in 1983 and has since released 14 albums.