A short history of street names in Kingston

By Andrea Gunn

From Union to Division, Princess to Earl: what are the origins of Kingston street names? Some were named after military battles, royalty, town boundaries, or the businesses found in the area. Here are the stories behind some of Kingston’s oldest streets.

Kingston Street Names

Streets in Kingston named for current affairs

A number of Kingston streets were named in the 1800s to commemorate significant events. Union Street was most likely was named in honour of the Commemoration of the Union Act, passed July 1840, uniting Upper and Lower Canada. Alma and Balaclava streets commemorate two battles of the Crimean War in 1854.

Places to visit near Union Street:

Princess Street in Kingston, Ontario

Streets in Kingston named for their use

Other streets were named for their use. Clergy Street gets its name from a section of land known as the Clergy Reserves. These were tracts of land in Upper Canada and Lower Canada reserved for the support of Protestant clergy by the Constitutional Act of 1791.

Places to visit near Clergy Street:

As Kingston grew, street names reflected the types of activity there: Rideau Street was once called Brewery Street, in recognition of the businesses there. The northern end of Wellington Street was once called Quarry Street: it was renamed in 1842 to honour the Duke of Wellington. And Princess Street was once called Store Street, due to its cluster of shops. It was renamed in 1842 to honour Princess Victoria Adelaide Mary Louise, Queen Victoria’s first child. (Queen’s Crescent was once called Alice Street, after Victoria’s second daughter.)

Places to visit near Rideau Street:

King Street in Kingston, Ontario

Streets in Kingston named for royalty

While a number of Kingston streets are named for members of Victoria’s family (like Albert, her husband, and Alfred, her son), Kingston (“King’s town”) and King Street were named earlier, to honour Victoria’s grandfather, King George III. Queen Street was named after his wife, Queen Charlotte.

Places to visit near King Street and Queen Street:

Streets in Kingston named for residents

With all the regal street names in Kingston – King, Queen, Princess – you might think that Earl Street is named after some long-forgotten titled dignitary. In fact, Earl Street was named after Hugh Earl, a commander of the provincial navy. But it was his wife, Anne Earl, who actually owned the plot of land bounded by West, Johnson, and Bagot streets. Anne Earl was the daughter of Molly Brant (Degonwadonti) and Sir William Johnson. Two Kingston streets are named after Anne’s father: William and Johnson.

Sydenham Street in Kingston, Ontario

Streets in Kingston defining the town’s boundaries

Division Street once marked the division between the town and countryside. Similarly, West Street marked the western boundary of the town, and North Street, its northern boundary.