Sign up for our free weekday bulletin.

McMillen Parkway a “working man’s street”

Published on

George Mathewson

Sarnia’s McMillen Parkway is a circular cul-de-sac named for a remarkable doctor and his wife who believed the pleasures of Lake Huron shouldn’t be limited to the wealthy.

Andrew Robinson McMillen was a country doc who trained at Western University before moving to Sarnia around 1912 to open a practice on Davis Street.

When Dr. McMillen died in 1949 planning for McMillen Parkway was underway. He and wife Florence, whose signature is on the plan of subdivision, stipulated that the rectangle of land north of Lakeshore be developed with modest homes so regular folk could live near the water.

As a result, the community’s 30-some residents collectively share the beachfront and the oval park at its centre.

“It was the working man’s street,” said Clare Love, who cuts the grass and maintains the park on behalf of his neighbours.

“I love to tell my kids that when I moved here in ’64 that I paid $8,000 for the house. Now my kids are paying $40,000 and $50,000 for a car.”

The early park sported a stone fireplace, swing set and teeter-totters.

“We said we’d move here for five years and 50 years later we’re still here,” Love said. “It’s a super duper spot.”

The McMillen beachfront was originally near the terminus of the streetcar line that brought people to the luxurious Lake Huron Hotel.

The 60-room hotel was built on the beach in 1907 but burned to the ground in 1935.

Love said he found a row of wooden spilings in the water, presumably remnants of the hotel dock. And this summer high waves exposed a wide concrete sidewalk on the beach, which the sand has since recovered.

In a strange way, Dr. McMillen remains something of a mystery. He was a physician, family man and a civic-minded planner. He was also a Member of Provincial Parliament who represented the riding from 1929 to 1934. In other words, someone with a public profile.

Dr. Andrew Robinson McMillen Photo courtesy of the Lambton County Archives, Wyoming. Photograph Collection, 4B McMillen.
Dr. Andrew Robinson McMillen
Photo courtesy of the Lambton County Archives, Wyoming. Photograph Collection, 4B McMillen.

“I’m surprised that there isn’t more known about him. You’d think there would be more out there.”

The McMillens were married in 1919, lived on London Road and raised three children, all deceased. Dr. McMillen was a member of the local hospital commission and made an earlier unsuccessful run for provincial office in 1926.

Whatever else, the couple’s legacy is much enjoyed by the current residents of McMillen Parkway, Love said.

“I think this place is unique in Sarnia.”

St. Amand and Evans have compiled data on 450 streets for the Sarnia Street Name Project, with the goal of creating a resource available free online, and possibly a book for schools and libraries.

The origins of some streets are proving elusive, including Clifford, Daley, Maynard and Grant streets, St. Amand said.

Anyone with any information can email it to [email protected]

This postcard shows the Sarnia Street Railway making a stop at Lake Huron Park. The trolley brought patrons to and from the posh Lake Huron Hotel, which was located near the foot of what's now McMillen Parkway. Photo courtesy Lambton County Archives.
This postcard shows the Sarnia Street Railway making a stop at Lake Huron Park. The trolley brought patrons to and from the posh Lake Huron Hotel, which was located near the foot of what’s now McMillen Parkway.
Photo courtesy Lambton County Archives.

 

 

 

 

 

More like this