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The Streets of Sarnia: Cathcart Boulevard

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The following is an excerpt from The Streets of Sarnia Project, a volunteer project by local researchers Tom St. Amand and Randy Evans, providing explanations for all but a handful of Sarnia’s 700 street names. 

Cathcart Boulevard was named after Bryan Lewis Cathcart, the popular and personable Progressive Conservative MPP for Lambton-West from 1945 to 1963. Born in Washington State in 1896, Mr. Cathcart also served as Ontario’s Minister of Travel and Publicity from 1955 until 1963.

Prior to becoming a politician, Bryan and his wife, Hazel (Sutton), owned a grocery store in Courtright. Mr. Cathcart passed away in 1979 at the age of 82, seven years after Hazel. As a politician, Bryan was instrumental in creating on the St. Clair River south of Sarnia a string of 15 public parks, one which bears his name. These parks, connected by a trail, remain popular with walkers, joggers, swimmers, and cyclists.

Even a brief glance at the Boulevard, which runs straight from the gates of Canatara to Modeland Road, will show that Cathcart, at 99 feet, is much wider than most City streets. The explanation for this is that, originally, Cathcart Boulevard was not laid out as a street. Rather its origins date back to the mid-1800s when the then Province of Upper Canada set aside the property as a railway right of way.

The recipient of the right of way was The Grand Trunk Railway, which was looking to connect its Toronto-Stratford line farther west to the mouth of Lake Huron at Pt. Edward. By 1859 the line had been completed connecting the village with freight and passenger service to and from Blackwell Station, Perche Station (Bright’s Grove), Camlachie, Aberarder, Forest and other points easterly.

When the Sarnia Railway tunnel opened in 1891, rail traffic became increasingly diverted to the Grand Trunk’s yards and station in south Sarnia. Accordingly the rail lines to Pt. Edward became less and less important. By the early 1900s they were expendable. The right of way would thus remain but eventually giving up its industrial character in favour of future residential development.

It was not until 1966 that Cathcart Boulevard was extended east to Murphy Road.

– Randy Evans and Tom St. Amand

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