Le Versailles in Sandy Hill (1964)

Le Versailles Apartments, Henderson Avenue. Image: July 2016.
Le Versailles Apartments, Henderson Avenue. Image: July 2016.

Since moving to Ottawa in 2000, I have spent more time exploring the city on foot than I can recount and Sandy Hill has always been one of my favourites. As you can probably expect from me on this blog, it’s less so the grand homes that define the neighbourhood (though they are lovely), but rather the most interesting mix of apartment styles that grace the area. The midcentury apartment designs, to my eye, have often been just slightly a cut above the remainder of the city, including in my own home turf of Centretown. Among them are Pat Gillin’s Chanteclair and Sans Souci, the Bachelor, the Summit, and my favourite, Réal St-Amour’s own Le Versailles (pictured above).

Martineau's sketch of the new apartment was published in the local papers. Source: Ottawa Journal, March 21, 1964, p. 30.
Martineau’s sketch of the new apartment was published in the local papers. Source: Ottawa Journal, March 21, 1964, p. 30.

On March 3, 1964, both the Journal and the Citizen announced that a new apartment building was to be constructed in Sandy Hill at 27 Henderson. The $900,000, 9-storey apartment was designed by Auguste Martineau and the owners/promoters were Réal St-Amour and his wife Véronique. The apartment, which featured an indoor pool, sauna, and reception hall,  was expected to be ready for occupancy by that October. Rents were on the expensive side, running from $125 to $350 per month.1”$900,000 Apartment Under Way,” Ottawa Journal, March 3, 1964, p. 29; “Plan New Sandy Hill Apartment,” Ottawa Citizen, March 3, 1964, p. 3. The project had been reported on previous to the March report: Charles Lynch had included it in his column the previous October. See Charles Lynch. “Real Estate: New Railway Station At Hurdman’s in 1964,” Ottawa Journal, October 19, 1963, p. 31.

The lobby's 10 foot chandelier featured prominently and is visible from the street. Source: Ottawa Journal, September 22, 1964, p. 47.
The lobby’s 10 foot chandelier featured prominently and is visible from the street. Source: Ottawa Journal, September 22, 1964, p. 47.

As the name implies, Le Versailles came with a French aristocratic theme that promised luxury in what had become an increasingly competitive market. It also helped it to stand out. While a number of other buildings promised luxurious living, it was either non-specific, or it tended to recall the luxuries of the Anglosphere. One thing that I’ve always loved about apartments of the period is, as well, the attention paid to the lobbies. In the case of Le Versailles, it came complete “with a gigantic French period mirror” and was “graced by a ten foot crystal chandelier,” giving it “an aura of grandeur when you enter the portals.”2Ottawa Citizen, May 20, 1965, p. 26.

Le Versailles from above shortly after completion, in 1965. Image: geoOttawa.
Le Versailles from above shortly after completion, in 1965. Image: geoOttawa.

Competition also meant that builders had to be imaginative and generous with a building’s amenities. As I’ve noted elsewhere before, for example, the Elphin on Gladstone came with a dark room. In the case of Le Versailles, it came with a decorated and furnished party room (“inspired directly from a Paris boulevard”), a games room with a television, a tuck shop and a freezer (“if you are caught with unexpected guests”), and of course, the aforementioned swimming pool and sauna rooms.3Ottawa Journal, September 22, 1964, p. 46.

That lobby. It is that lobby that caught my eye too. Source: Ottawa Journal, April 7, 1965, p. 52.
That lobby. It is that lobby that caught my eye too. Source: Ottawa Journal, April 7, 1965, p. 52.
Réal and Véronique St-Amour
Always nearby, Réal and Véronique St-Amour lived at 251 Laurier E for years. Image: Google Maps (May 2016).
Always nearby, Réal and Véronique St-Amour lived at 251 Laurier E for years. Image: Google Maps (May 2016).

The project was a local one for St-Amour, as he had been living at the time at 251 Laurier Ave. E, just around the corner from the project. Around town, he was best known for his service during the war with the RCAF’s Alouette Squadron and for service in the community as a director and eventual president of the Hull Rotary Club.4Ottawa Journal, June 19, 1943, p. 7; Ottawa Journal, July 17, 1943, p. 8; Ottawa Journal, February 7, 1945, p. 8; Ottawa Journal, February 13, 1945, p. 3; Ottawa Journal, October 8, 1949, p. 21; Ottawa Journal, February 4, 1950, p. 3; Ottawa Journal, March 29, 1951, p. 10; Ottawa Journal, May 21, 1951, p. 9; Ottawa Journal, October 27, 1953, p. 35; Ottawa Journal, March 1, 1957, p. 2; Ottawa Journal, March 2, 1957, p. 28; Ottawa Journal, November 8, 1957, p. 5; Ottawa Journal, August 18, 1958, p. 6; Gord Lomer. “Below the Hill,” Ottawa Journal, June 7, 1963, p. 33; Ottawa Journal, July 5, 1963, p. 37; Ottawa Journal, October 9, 1965, p. 11; Dave Brown. “Below the Hill,” Ottawa Journal, August 5, 1971, p. 27. St-Amour passed away in 2004.5Real St-Amour,” Ottawa Citizen, December 29, 2004.

Notes   [ + ]

1. ”$900,000 Apartment Under Way,” Ottawa Journal, March 3, 1964, p. 29; “Plan New Sandy Hill Apartment,” Ottawa Citizen, March 3, 1964, p. 3. The project had been reported on previous to the March report: Charles Lynch had included it in his column the previous October. See Charles Lynch. “Real Estate: New Railway Station At Hurdman’s in 1964,” Ottawa Journal, October 19, 1963, p. 31.
2. Ottawa Citizen, May 20, 1965, p. 26.
3. Ottawa Journal, September 22, 1964, p. 46.
4. Ottawa Journal, June 19, 1943, p. 7; Ottawa Journal, July 17, 1943, p. 8; Ottawa Journal, February 7, 1945, p. 8; Ottawa Journal, February 13, 1945, p. 3; Ottawa Journal, October 8, 1949, p. 21; Ottawa Journal, February 4, 1950, p. 3; Ottawa Journal, March 29, 1951, p. 10; Ottawa Journal, May 21, 1951, p. 9; Ottawa Journal, October 27, 1953, p. 35; Ottawa Journal, March 1, 1957, p. 2; Ottawa Journal, March 2, 1957, p. 28; Ottawa Journal, November 8, 1957, p. 5; Ottawa Journal, August 18, 1958, p. 6; Gord Lomer. “Below the Hill,” Ottawa Journal, June 7, 1963, p. 33; Ottawa Journal, July 5, 1963, p. 37; Ottawa Journal, October 9, 1965, p. 11; Dave Brown. “Below the Hill,” Ottawa Journal, August 5, 1971, p. 27.
5. Real St-Amour,” Ottawa Citizen, December 29, 2004.

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