Posted on September 17, 2016
What’s in a Name?
Geographic areas are named so they have an identity and community. These can change over time just like language evolves. History and usage combine to identify regions and neighbourhoods. Change can happen suddenly, like the shift from “Berlin” to “Kitchener,” or it can take more time, like the evolution of “downtown” Kitchener and “uptown” Waterloo. Part of “Stirling Avenue North” became “Wedgewood Drive” after the Conestoga Parkway was developed and the two parts were separated. “Regina Street” in Waterloo used to be named “Queen” but when the two cities agreed to consolidate naming to avoid confusion many street names were changed.
If you look on some older maps, the current Lippert Park at Weber and Louisa used to be named “Huron Park”. It was created after a developer donated 2.5 acres of land in 1936. The land was a series of lots on two unopened streets: Huron Street was planned to run from Weber into the park and Augusta would have run from Wilhelm to the end of Huron Street. Neither street was ever built yet the park was named after a street that never existed.
In 1998 the City of Kitchener and our Neighbourhood Association (MHBPNA) did a safety audit of the park which resulted in the city doing a cleanup of trees, bushes etc. which made it much more welcoming. In 2015-2016 the park underwent a huge upgrade with a dog park, new playground equipment and a much improved tennis court and basketball courts.
In 2004 members of the Lippert Family approached City Hall asking that the name of the park be changed to George Lippert Park to commemorate this well known industrialist and community builder. The Lippert furniture factory had been located very close to the park, so the city agreed to the name change (the renaming also avoided confusion with the Huron Industrial Park and the Huron Natural Area).
Breithaupt Park/Street/Community Centre are all named after Louis Jacob Breithaupt who was an important businessman and politician in “Berlin’s” early years (Breithaupt was Mayor of Berlin, manager of the Breithaupt Leather Company, president of the Berlin Gas Company and was also associated with other manufacturing businesses). Many members of the Breithaupt family are buried in the Mt. Hope cemetery.
The Mount Hope neighbourhood is named after the Mount Hope cemetery which occupies a large amount of land in this area. According to the City of Kitchener it is “our oldest active cemetery with records dating back to the late 1700’s. Actually, Mount Hope is two cemeteries, the original Mount Hope (known at one time as Greenbush Cemetery) which was Protestant, and Roman Catholic Mount Hope cemetery operated by Sacred Heart Church” until 1958 when the city took over operation of both.
And Mount Hope is actually a “mount”, or hill from which one can look down toward the City of Kitchener’s core. When I led Jane’s Walks in the past I called Mount Hope Kitchener’s “industrial Suburb” because it was built out of the downtown area and across the tracks. It seems close now, but it was a very separate neighbourhood. The train tracks facilitated industrial development such as the Tannery, Krug Furniture and many other businesses. Many of the workers lived in the area and walked to work in the factories. There were over a dozen corner stores selling food and other goods. There was a strong Polish influence with Sacred Heart Church at the core. Mount Hope’s history with the cemetery, manufacturing and the recent development of technology companies, two ION stops and the Transit Hub makes it an exciting place to live and learn about its past even as it rushes towards the future.
Mount Hope (or part of it) is sometimes called “Midtown” because it is between “downtown” Kitchener and “uptown” Waterloo. Of course these are two different cities but many people feel like KW is really one big town. (In fact, a few years ago several people, including some CEOs of tech companies, lobbied for politicians to investigate amalgamation in order to bring a bigger voice to discussions with other levels of government and although Kitchener agreed to consider the idea the Waterloo population voted against it). Some real estate agents love the phrase “Midtown” because it has a hip urban vibe to it and (they hope) it extends some of the upscale prices of Waterloo into our own small part of Kitchener. I guess for some people “Mount Hope” sounds old and stodgy while “Breithaupt” is hard to pronounce and spell. Why not replace one or both with the easier “Midtown”, a name that has no history or real meaning except “between uptown and downtown.” The midtownkw twitter account acknowledges this definition problem thusly: “In the neglected expanse between Uptown and Downtown lies the absurdity of our community”.
No one knows what area “Midtown” encompasses. One real estate agent sent out his brochure with a map showing more than the entire Mount Hope area (King to Weber, Victoria to Union) branded as “Midtown”. Developmental discussions of a few years ago sought to brand the area of King, from Union to William as “Midtown” as a spur to development. The City of Kitchener decided to ignore its organized neighbourhoods and designated much of the Cherry Park Neighbourhood and the Mount Hope Cemetery areas as “Midtown” for the purposes of its PARTS study. The KWMidtown instagram account folks have decided it includes a large amount of the Cherry Park Neighbourhood, all of Mount Hope and a third of Breithaupt Park and some of Waterloo as well!
Perhaps the appeal of “Midtown” is that because no one knows what it is exactly, it can be anything we want. Even if we disagree where it is, or if it even exists, we love that it sounds exciting and “forward thinking”.
“Mount Hope – Breithaupt Park” (MHBP) is an area designated by the city as a “neighbourhood” like Central Frederick, Auditorium, Cherry Park etc. It has a neighbourhood association (http://mhbpna.blogspot.ca and www.mhbpna.org) that has existed for over 35 years. Like all organizations the NA has had periods of both intense activity and lethargy. It has funded neighbourhood events, run programs at the Breithaupt Community Centre (vegetarian cooking, self defense for women, Lego for kids etc.) and organized events like Winterfest, Soap Box Derby, Earth Day Cleanup and much more.
MHBP is a large geographic area and the NA exists to help people do whatever they want to encourage community. Obviously the area is full of much smaller groups of people interested in diverse activities like soccer, potluck dinners, songwriting, urban activism, gardening etc.
Finally, the name we hear the least seems to be the “North Ward”. This is derived from the fact we are in Ward 10 and are in the furthest “north” part of that area. (“North” can be confusing because because King Street runs north-south in Waterloo but magically changes to west-east when it hits Kitchener, but that is another story). The phrase North Ward is occasionally used by residents who have been here over 30 years and refers to the whole Mount Hope – Breithaupt park area. North Ward is a little vague and the word “ward” means “an administrative division of a city or borough” but also “a person, usually a minor, under the care and control of a guardian”. I suspect we don’t use North Ward that often because it doesn’t have a clear geographical definition and it sounds vaguely paternal.
So welcome to our hood, no matter what you call it!