toronto gardiner expressway skyline

Who deserves to get their name on a Toronto landmark?

When Toronto was just a town, Sir George Yonge, Joseph Bloore, John Graves Simcoe and Asa Danforth, among many many other early people of note, had their names bestowed on streets. The practice, common across British overseas outposts, was often a way of showing respect for those in positions of authority rather than an honour afforded after death or major achievement(s).

More recently, Jack Layton, former prime minister Lester B. Pearson and first world war flying ace Billy Bishop have been honored with city landmarks as a mark of posthumous respect.

In a recent Atlantic Cities blog post, writer Henry Grabar discusses many New Yorkers' aversion to a recent proposal to rename the Queensboro Bridge after 87-year-old former mayor Ed Koch. A Queens City councillor even suggested legislating against renaming New York landmarks after living people lest it be used as a way of winning political support.

Here, in the 50s, council named the newly-finished waterfront expressway after Metro Toronto chairman Frederick G. Gardiner — a champion of the road project and of the cancelled Spadina Expressway — while he was still in office.

It seems Torontonians don't have the same aversion to renaming parts of the city. Looking at a map, there are countless streets carrying surnames or references to those deemed worthy of such memorialization.

So, who have we overlooked? Despite a glut of names, there are still plenty of highways, bridges, public squares, community centres, and hospitals up for grabs, so to speak, and there are always more on the way. Should we have a Jane Jacobs Public Library, a Neil Young Square or, dare I say it, a Rob Ford TTC yard? Our followers offered suggestions on Twitter this morning, and we're happy to hear more in the comments section below.

Photo: "Gardiner Expressway" by Stephen Gardiner in the blogTO Flickr pool.


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