City roads know all the an­gles

You ask... We an­swer.

The Welland Tribune - - Local - KARENA WAL­TER Send your queries to Karena Wal­ter by email at karena.wal­ter@ni­a­ ; by Twit­ter @kare­na_­s­tan­dard or through Face­book at www.face­ kare­nawal­ter

Q: Af­ter hav­ing lived away from St. Catharines for many years in other Cana­dian ci­ties and ci­ties in other coun­tries, I’ve re­cently re­turned. I’ve come to re­al­ize a cou­ple very pe­cu­liar things about the streets and houses in

St. Catharines.

1. Why was the stan­dard Bri­tish grid pat­tern of east-west and north-south not used in St. Catharines? The east-west is north­east and south-west, caus­ing the grid to be di­a­mond shaped. Other streets cut the grid at odd an­gles caus­ing multi-point in­ter­sec­tions. There are other ci­ties like Toronto where they also have lakes that ef­fect the east-west lay­out and they still stuck to the grid in those. How did it come off the rails so badly here?

2. Why are the houses fre­quently an­gled to the street, as op­posed to the stan­dard way of hav­ing houses be par­al­lel to the street? I’ve never seen any­where else where the houses are fre­quently ori­ented to the streets at an­gles.

A: Search En­gine turned to his­to­rian Brian Narhi for an ex­pla­na­tion of why the city’s roads run on an­gles.

Narhi wrote the grid of roads in St. Catharines dates back cen­turies in some in­stances, which ac­counts for some of the pe­cu­liar­i­ties.

The old­est streets and roads were orig­i­nally used by Indige­nous peo­ple as routes across the penin­sula, ei­ther be­tween the lakes or to and from the Ni­a­gara River. Those routes were then used by the first Euro-Cana­dian in­hab­i­tants and formed part of the early trans­porta­tion net­work in the 1780s.

In the late 1780s, Ni­a­gara penin­sula was sur­veyed into town­ships so the Crown could grant land to Loy­al­ists who set­tled there af­ter the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion.

Town­ships were laid out in lots and con­ces­sions and fronted on Lake On­tario, which has a lakeshore at a north-east an­gle.

Gran­tham, the town­ship which now forms much of St. Catharines, was 23 farm lots wide and con­tained 10 con­ces­sions as well as a ‘bro­ken front’ con­ces­sion along the lake — bro­ken be­cause the lakeshore cut into the land and cre­ated an ir­reg­u­lar strip or range of lots.

Narhi said the sur­veyor had the choice of run­ning the con­ces­sions at right an­gles from the west but that would have cre­ated sev­eral con­ces­sions with a small num­ber of lots.

How­ever, by run­ning the con­ces­sions par­al­lel to the lakeshore, there would only be one bro­ken front of lots across the en­tire width of the town­ship.

As a re­sult, the con­ces­sions in Gran­tham were sur­veyed at an an­gle of 65 de­grees and the farm lots were shaped like par­al­lel­o­grams.

The con­ces­sion roads ran north-east to south-west. To­day they’re known as Par­nell and Lin­well Roads, Scott and Carl­ton streets and Wel­land Av­enue, as ex­am­ples.

Other streets in St. Catharines that weren’t part of the orig­i­nal 1780s grid but still con­tain un­usual an­gles were cre­ated when land was later sub­di­vided. Some were con­structed to avoid man­made ob­sta­cles such as the rail­way or old Wel­land Canals, such as Secord Drive which fol­lows the line of the Third Wel­land Canal.

Narhi said sub­di­vi­sions built in the 1950s, 60s and 70s be­come creative with wind­ing street lay­outs that cre­ated more vis­ual ap­peal and park-like set­tings.

Narhi sus­pects the rea­son some homes in the city were built on an an­gle rather than fac­ing the street partly re­flects the old sur­vey grid but also was done to elim­i­nate the “stiff Vic­to­rian aes­thetic” of rect­an­gu­lar lots on straight streets.

“In ci­ties such as Toronto and Hamil­ton, this cre­ated en­tire blocks of houses (such as Toronto's An­nex) which rigidly ad­hered to the sur­vey, the streets lit­er­ally be­com­ing tun­nels be­tween the res­i­dences on ei­ther side of the street,” he said.


Houses on Carl­ton Street be­tween Vine and Geneva Streets in St. Catharines are built on an an­gle from the road.

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