Photo Essay: History is written underfoot in the Avenues

The Avenues is a neighbourhood of Peterborough that is host to a wealth of history and culture.

The name ‘the Avenues’ refers to the series of small residential roads that run between Bolivar and Charlotte Street. In the architecture of the homes as well as in the infrastructure of the streets, Peterborough’s history is laid out.

In the mid-19th century, Peterborough was a nascent township. The physical boundaries of the city were far closer to the downtown core than they are today.

The area that become the Avenues was only annexed by the city in the 1870s, changing the city boundary from Park St to Monaghan Rd.

The land was owned by the prominent Burnham family. Elizabeth Boswell co-inherited the property with her sister-in-law Elizabeth Burnham from her aunt Margaret Wilson who had inherited it from Elias Burnham (Boswell’s father).

Both Elizabeths, Boswell and Burnham, registered the property for a plan to transform it into a subdivision in 1905.

Many of the homes were built prior to the First World War, however, construction of homes continued into the 1940s.

Each street is named after a prominent member of the Burnham and Boswell families: Boswell St, Pearl Ave (after Pearl Beatrice Burnham), Elias Ave (after Elias Burnham), Maitland Ave (after Maitland Boswell), Margaret Ave (after Margaret Wilson), and Frederick Ave (after Frederick Burnham).

Integrated in to the subdivisions are a series of back alleyways that run behind the Avenues.

These were designed into the original plans for the area but their intended use is up to interpretation.

Today, residents of the Avenues park their cars in these laneways, due to city zoning laws the restrict street parking at certain times of the year. The laneways are lovely for a walk, and for making friends (both human and feline).

The Avenues is Peterborough’s only Heritage Conservation District which protects the entire neighbourhood under the Municipal Cultural Plan and the Ontario Heritage Act.

Published by Ayesha Barmania

Ayesha Barmania is a journalist-entrepreneur and audio documentary maker, living and working in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.