May 20th, 2024

Heritage in the Hat: On the dot

By Sally Sehn on May 16, 2024.

photo by Sally Sehn--Street sign today.

Did you know one of Medicine Hat’s streets is spelled wrong?

The street in question is Doty Avenue, off Division Avenue near the Kin Coulee Skate Park. If you Google map “Doty Avenue” or try the city’s GIS mapping system, you will not find it. It does not appear to exist. A little detective work quickly uncovers that the avenue in question is indeed where it was originally plotted but the street sign now reads “Dotty Avenue.”

The city has a long history of naming local thoroughfares after prominent citizens. To honour their contribution in shaping the history of Medicine Hat, many streets and avenues are named after former mayors and councillors.

Doty Avenue is no exception. It is named after William Henry Doty who was an alderman in 1912 and 1913 during the city’s economic boom years. Doty was born in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, the son of a carriage maker. The family are descendants of Edward Doty, who came to America on the “Mayflower.”

Besides his municipal political contribution, Doty is also connected to a once important local manufacturing industry. Doty was a candy maker, running a factory in Nova Scotia for 15 years before coming to Medicine Hat in 1906.

He set up a downtown confectionery business at what is today the HSBC location. In 1914, he was elected president of the J.H Tabor Candy Co. Ltd. which operated from a new 4000 square foot 3 storey brick building.

When the factory opened, it was the largest candy manufacturer between Winnipeg and Vancouver. At its peak, the business produced 5500 pounds of chocolate a day. The historic Edwardian factory building is located at 921 Smelter Avenue.

Doty Avenue is surrounded by roads named after significant persons, such as Spencer Street, named after Nelson Spencer, who was mayor when Doty was on City Council. Nearby is Kipling Street, once called Simpson Street but renamed after Medicine Hat’s most famous visitor, Rudyard Kipling. And at the foot of College Drive is Hutchinson Avenue, named after former councillor and 1904 mayor, Thomas Hutchinson.

It is believed that Doty Avenue and Hutchinson Avenue were plotted around 1944. Doty Avenue does not, nor ever has had any residences, so its history is difficult to trace. It appears as “Doty Avenue” on a 1955 city map. And there are traffic incidents on “Doty Avenue” reported in the News up to 1991. But today, due to an incorrectly spelled traffic sign, the small thoroughfare is now referred to as “Dotty Avenue.” The mistake, which was only discovered last year by an Esplanade Archivist, has been perpetuated through the digital mapping systems.

The city has been notified of the misspelling and a change is forthcoming. In the meanwhile, the significance of Doty Avenue and the recognition of W.H Doty’s contributions should not be forgotten.

Sally Sehn is a past member of the Heritage Resources Committee, City of Medicine Hat. Story suggestion: Jenni Barrientos

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