Michael Walmsley has always had an interest in history, but it was through a desire to better find his way around town that led to a new endeavour: a historical book about Huntsville street names.
Walmsley cottaged in the Huntsville area for about 15 years before moving here permanently in 2016.
“Despite being somewhat familiar with Huntsville, I have sort of a challenge in terms of directionality, so I decided I’d better learn the streets,” he says with a laugh. That led to an interest in learning where the street names came from.
In the Muskoka Room at Huntsville Public Library, he began researching the names.
“The first one that I came upon was Cora Street… I found some information about Cora Shay and that sort of piqued my interest in terms of what was going on back then and why was her name on that street,” he recalls. “I became really intrigued with her story and that led to her siblings that had names on streets and then that spilled off into other names.”
Walmsley is president of the PROBUS Club of Muskoka North. Club members who have been lifelong residents of Huntsville were able to provide further details.
“It was more of a hobby than anything,” he says. “I started to write short articles about these streets for no one in particular. And then the pandemic came along…I decided to send a weekly email out to the members just to keep everyone connected at a time when we couldn’t physically meet and I just decided some of those street articles would be appropriate to include in those emails.”
They enjoyed them so much that some of the members encouraged him to publish the articles in a book. That book, Streetscapes: A Journey Through Huntsville’s History Via Its Street Signs, will be in print at the beginning of September.
A sneak peek of the cover of Michael Walmsley’s new book
Walmsley is starting with 100 copies to gauge interest, and hopes it will provide a light and connected history of Huntsville through its street signs.
“As I discovered from my time in the Muskoka Room at the library, Huntsville is really blessed in that a lot of people over well beyond a century now have taken the time to record aspects of the town. I really found that to be enriching,” he says. “I’ve been able to find out some really peculiar little facts because people had taken the time to speak about them.
“That’s part of the intent of this book too. I would hope this would spur some younger people to become interested in the history of the town and why things are called what they’re called.”
He praised those who set up and maintain the Muskoka Room at the library. “They really deserve huge credit for what they’re doing. For people to go in there and be able to go through the documents, it’s a real, true living history from all their efforts. Kudos to them.”
Walmsley shared several excerpts from the book with Huntsville Doppler, which you can read here.
Streetscapes: A Journey Through Huntsville’s History Via Its Street Signs will be available around September 1. You can order a copy by emailing Michael Walmsley at firstname.lastname@example.org or copies will also be available at The Great Vine (36 Main St. E).
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