June 22' 2009 - #106
New Street Addresses In Gustavia
There is a project underway to give a specific street address to every home in Gustavia. The municipal council voted in May 2007 to rename some of the city streets as well, and this has been done. The Collectivity’s cultural affairs commission decided to complete the renaming of the streets in time to publish a new, more precise map of Gustavia in March 2009.
It is necessary to take a brief look at the history of the island, which was a French colony as early as 1659, in order to understand the original street names in Gustavia. After France traded the island to Sweden in 1784, the Swedes made various improvements to the area around the port, which at the time was called “Le Carénage.” The Swedes baptized the burgeoning little town as Gustavia, giving each street a Swedish name. The streets were renamed in French after the island was returned to France in 1878. In the mid-20th-century, certain streets had been given the names of French public figures that had no particular relationship to the history of St Barth. The island’s cultural affairs commission decided to replace these names, which had no local interest, with names that were noted locally. Thus, Rue Gambetta became Rue Adrien Questel, after a botanist known for his research and his books, and Rue Courbet is now called Rue des Dinzey, giving it the name of an influential Gustavia family dating from the 19th century. Rue du Centenaire became Rue Samuel Fahlberg, after the Swedish land surveyor and cartographer who drew the earliest maps of Gustavia. Catholic priests Irénée de Bruyn and Robert Dugon now each have a street named after them as well, along with Lubin Brin, a postman and veteran of foreign wars, and Augustin Cagan, a former deputy mayor. The commission did not forget the Swedish era, and named certain streets Rue de la Swède (Street of Sweden), Rue August Nyman, and Rue de Pitea, after Gustavia’s twin city in Sweden.
On the back of the new, free map of Gustavia, which is distributed at the Territorial Tourism Committee office in St Barth, as well as other public places, there is a list of the old street names, as well as information about the people whose names were selected for the new ones.
After this first phase of re-naming the streets and putting up new street signs, the Collectivity’s technical services department will put a visible number on each house. This numbering process will begin at the entry to Gustavia along the waterfront and continue around to the Hôtel de la Collectivité (town hall) on all the streets that run parallel to the harbor. For the streets that run perpendicular, the numbers will begin at the harbor and increase as the streets lead away from the water.
This individual numbering process in Gustavia is the beginning of a vast project to draw official boundaries for each village on the island, and divide each neighborhood into small zones, as they are known locally, with each area serving as the name of the streets so that once again each house can have its specific number (i.e. if a zone is called The Point, the houses will be No 1, The Point, etc).
Public meetings have been held since early June to decide on the neighborhood names for Corossol, Flamands, Merlette, and Terre Neuve. Yves Gréaux, first vice-president of the Collectivity, put announcements in the local press asking residents to come to the meetings and share their knowledge of the traditional names the old-times used for each area, before these names are made official. Samples of suggested maps for each neighborhood are currently on display in the entry hall at the Hôtel de la Collectivité.
More to come