Posted by: Kathy Krywicki
My curiosity was piqued when I noticed earlier this year that street name signs had been changed from Leonard to Léonard. What was the impetus for amending the spelling? Was there a francophone connection within our Old Ottawa South neighbourhood?
Prior to the annexation of Ottawa South into the City of Ottawa in 1907, this street in Rideauville was originally named James. Because of duplication of existing street names within the City, by 1909 the name had been changed to Leonard. In the past, and up to just very recently, it was common to spell street names all in capital letters without any required accents on survey plans or plans of subdivision.
The City of Ottawa established the Street Name Verification Project to correct mis-spelled names and Leonard Avenue was one of many streets examined as part of this project. During the review, it was determined that there is no direct historical source for where the street name came from, the only name that was brought forward by the City Archives was a Thomas E. Léonard, who was Deputy Reeve for Eastview in the 1930’s.
City staff explained: where the name had exactly the same letters in both English and French, was equally correct in both languages, and no historical link could be ascertained, the ward Councillor (in this case former Councillor Doucet) was consulted to make a decision. In this situation, it was decided that the street name should be spelt with an accent.
The modifications have only been made recently, which is why the accent was added to the existing signage. The City declared the changes do not affect postal delivery nor responses to emergency calls, and that the changes were made on the basis that residents would adopt the new spelling over time.