Notable Windsorites

J Clark Keith – 1886-1982

Continuing with the recent theme of notable Windsorites, today we present J Clark Keith

J Clark Keith – 1976

He was an engineer who helped shape the Windsor we know today. He was born in Smith’s Falls, Ontario in 1886. His first surveying job was with the Grand Trunk Railroad surveying the Northern Ontario section. He studied at the University of Toronto, graduating in 1911. Upon graduation, he moved to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, where he was employed in the city’s engineering department. In 1920 he relocated his family to the Border Cities, where he became Deputy Chief Engineer of the Essex Border Utilities Commission. He became the Chief Engineer the next year in 1921.

During his time in charge of the Utilities Commission, he oversaw the building of Met Hospital in South Walkerville, the Water Filtration Plant on Wyandotte Street E., and many major sewer and watermain projects.

Until amalgamation in 1935, the Essex Border Utilities Commission was responsible for the water supply system, district parks, some aspects of planning, creation of a district health board, and the operation of hospitals in the Border Cities.

Following amalgamation the Essex Border Utilities Commission ceased to exist, and was replaced by the Windsor Utilities Commission (WUC), Clark became the General Manager, and was also named  City Controller of the Finance Commission, to oversee the financial aspect of amalgamation between 1935 & 1936.

Clark served as the President of the Canadian Section of the American Waterworks Association in 1934-1935, helped found the Association of Professional Engineers of Ontario (and later served as its President), held the Vice Presidency of the Engineering Institute of Canada, and served as Director (1939-1944) of the Windsor Flying Training School during the Second World War. His involvement with Metropolitan General Hospital also led him to serve as President of the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA), and, in 1941, to be a founding member of the Blue Cross Plan for Hospital Care (a non-profit medical and hospital insurance plan introduced by the OHA, prior to the advent of Medicare in Canada).

In 1951 a new hydro generating station built in the west end was named after him, and he retried from WUC in 1955.

Mr. & Mrs. J Clark Keith at his retirement dinner in 1955.

J Clark Keith passed away at age 96 in 1982. But perhaps his most subtle legacy was given to the city in the 1930s, when with the onset of amalgamation, he reviewed all the streets in the city, and came up with a list of duplicate streets that needed to be renamed. He also devised the system for renumbering the entire city. Using Riverside & Ouellette as the basepoint, all numbers were reassigned where each block has 100 numbers for the block. Meaning that 500 Wyandotte Street East, is 5 blocks from Ouellette Avenue. The 1500 block, is 15 blocks away. Prior to his renumbering there was no rhyme or reason to the numbering system used around the city, and in all the different former municipalities.

A house with the renumbered address plaque from 1937

His legacy with the renumbering lives on and many houses still have the enameled steel house numbers assigned following the renumbering in 1937.

A copy of a biography (where some of the information above came from) can be found here.

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