By Dave Geddes
The saints in St. Albert are prominent in the downtown streets. That is, in the names of the streets, although I am sure that we have many saintly citizens walking those same streets every day – but my interest here is with the names of the streets – not with those who walk them!
The longest street, going right across downtown from Highway 2 across Perron and past City Hall, is Ste. Anne Street. St. Anne was/is a very popular saint in France and in French Canada. She is the patron saint of housewives, grandmothers and women in labour. The name came to St. Albert in several ways but primarily from the Lac Ste. Anne Mission, established in 1842. It was from this Mission that the first Sisters came to the new Mission of St. Albert, at Father Lacombe’s invitation, and started the first school.
St. Joseph Street is named for Canada’s national saint. It is very short. You’re in. You’re out. That’s St. Joseph Street. Fittingly, in the order of things, it is close to Ste. Anne Street.
St. Michael Street is the one with the Post Office on the corner. Although there are no family homes on this street anymore it was, in its time, home to two men who became mayors in St. Albert – Neil Ross, in office 1946-1951, and Ron Harvey, in office 1977-1980.
There are other short streets in the downtown area. Taché Street, home to the Royal Canadian Legion and the St. Albert Senior Citizens’ Club, has no houses! It is named to honour Bishop Taché. It was he who, accompanied (and guided) by Father Lacombe, struck his staff into the earth on top of the hill and declared this place to be the site of his new Mission.
One other short street which you may still find on old (pre-1960s) maps is Remos Street. It used to be the space between the curling club and Lions’ Park. It disappeared when the parking lot was built there behind the curling club. It may be in the street names bank somewhere in St. Albert Place. Personally, I think the name was a misspelling of Father René Rémas’ name. Father Rémas was the one who escorted the first (three) Sisters to this area – from St. Boniface to the new Mission at Lac Ste. Anne, in 1859.
St. Thomas Street, no doubt about it, reflects a popular small business area on another small street.
One other, on the edge of downtown, is Sir Winston Churchill Avenue, named, obviously, for the great wartime leader. This street was changed from McKenney Avenue in order to honour Churchill. The name McKenney is from W. Henry McKenney, St. Albert’s Member in Alberta’s first Legislature, 1905-1909 – a Liberal, was banked at the time for re-use. It has since been applied to a street in the north end.
Right in the centre of things downtown is, of course, St. Albert’s main street – Perron Street. The name honours a family who was always, even in recent times, in the forefront in St. Albert. Fleuri Perron was Mayor in the calendar year 1908 – when the office was held on one year terms. Alex Perron was Mayor in 1918-1919. There was still a long-established and flourishing Perron Grocery store at the corner of Ste. Anne and Piron Street (as it was originally named) until fairly recent times.
So-called ‘Old’ Braeside is that part between Bishop Street and Highway 2. It is sort of downtown without the access. One of the streets there is named Burns Street. This is in honour of Pat Burns, Calgary businessman, owner/founder of Burns’ meat-packing business and personal friend to Father Lacombe. He was also a great believer in the work that Father Lacombe was doing.
In July, 1927 a committee was formed, chaired by Father Jan, O.M.I., to preserve Father Lacombe’s first chapel and to raise a statue honouring Father Lacombe. (The chapel was preserved by enclosing it within a brick structure.) The chapel remains to this day. Pat Burns was a member of this committee. Sums had been raised in a national campaign to finance the proposed statue. Pat Burns contributed to the cost of having the statue cast in France and shipped to St. Albert. Pat Burns was also given the honour of un-veiling the statue of his friend in a gala ceremony on July 21, 1929.
Although Burns Street is modest enough it honours a man who made a significant contribution to St. Albert, and gave us the most interesting piece of bronze in the community.
There is a richness of names on the streets of downtown St. Albert, names often reflecting the contributions of some of those who made St. Albert what it is today – with, of course, the blessings of the saints who are honoured, for their more intangible contributions to life in St. Albert.
Bibliography: 1. Geddes, David, St. Albert’s Hallowed Streets
Saint City News, February 27, 2002.
- The Black Robe’s Vision, a history of St. Albert and District
Arlene Borgstede, Editor, St, Albert Historical Society, 1985
- Tétrault, Father A, O.M.I.Historic St. Albert
Alberta Historical Review, Winter, 1957
Reprinted from The Echoes, Vol. XXVIII, No. 1, January, 2010; St. Albert Historical Society