What’s Cookin’ at Metcalfe Court?

To the left, the glistening and recently-constructed home of Fred Cook, journalist and Mayor of Ottawa between 1902 and 1903. Image: Bytown Museum, 1902.
To the left, the glistening and recently-constructed home of Fred Cook, journalist and Mayor of Ottawa between 1902 and 1903. Image: Bytown Museum, P1902.

Metcalfe street was once more akin to the Montreal’s Golden Square Mile than to the mixed-use neighbourhood that it is today. After having been subdivided, the Colonel By Estate’s lots were quickly purchased by local merchants and politicians who constructed large homes, some of which, like the Booth House or Birkett’s Castle, were quite ornate and continued to be appreciated today.

Among those stately homes was that of Fred Cook, a two-term Mayor of Ottawa (1902, 1903), a reporter for the Toronto Mail, and correspondent for the London Times. He was a long-term Ottawa resident and a loyal Conservative. He was in fact so loyal to the Tory cause that he was fired from his position at the Times. According to Dave Mullington, whose Chain of Office includes a brief profile, while Cook was a frugal mayor, he was a contributor to early efforts that culminated in the formation of what would become the National Capital Commission.1Dave Mullington. Chain of Office: Biographical Sketches of the Early Mayors of Ottawa, 1847-1948 (Renfrew, ON: General Store Publishing House, 2005): 102-4. Also see “Civic Fathers of Bytown and Ottawa City,” Ottawa Journal, August 2, 1907, p. 10. His frugality, unlike some of his civic competitors, did not appear to extend to the establishment of a library system or to municipal ownership of utilities. See Mullington (2005) and “Books For The Library,” Ottawa Journal, April 6, 1905, p. 11.

By 1923, Dr. Frederick W. McKinnon had taken up residence in the home. Image: NAPL / uOttawa Flight A4571, Image 23 (May 5, 1933).
By 1923, Dr. Frederick W. McKinnon had taken up residence in the home. Image: NAPL / uOttawa Flight A4571, Image 23 (May 5, 1933).

By 1923, Cook had vacated the house, relocating to Unit 2 of the Richmond Apartments at 470 Albert Street.2The Ottawa City Directory, 1923 (Ottawa: Might’s Directories Ltd., 1923): 51. By then, he had taken up a job as Chairman of the Editorial Board Committee for the Secretary of State.3Ibid, 326. The home at 323 Metcalfe was by then occupied by Dr. Frederick W. McKinnon, a surgeon at the General Hospital.4Ibid, 610.

1937-01-16-Fingard-Page-1In 1939, the Journal reported that Frederick McKinnon had sold 323 Metcalfe and it was poised to become a Duke-Fingard Inhalation Hospital, the third of its kind in Canada.5The other two being situated in Winnipeg and in Toronto. See “New Hospital Opens In Sept.,” Ottawa Journal, August 24, 1939, p. 22; “Suggests Formation of Unit to Handle Gas Cases,” Ottawa Journal, October 16, 1939, p. 15; “91 Transfers of Property in October,” Ottawa Journal, November 7, 1939, p. 12. The hospital promised to cure (or at least treat) all manners of respiratory ailments, like asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, and even the effects of war gas. The treatment was the design of Rudolph Duke and David Fingard and was a heated mixture of creosote, phenol, iodine, aromatic substances, and essential oils. Patients would then sit for a time in front of a machine (pictured below) and breathe the mixture in. That the medical establishment saw little to no value in the treatment did not seem to matter: there were soon Duke-Fingard hospitals and the machines installed in a number of Canadian and English centres.6For more information about David Fingard and the Duke-Fingard patent, see Mallory Schwartz. “A Cup Full of Domesticity: The ‘Duke-Fingard’ Vaporizer,” Canadian Bulletin of Medical History 27, no. 1 (2010): 199-222; Donna M. Ivey. Clinic of Hope: The Story of Rene Caisse and Essiac (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2004): 270-273. The Ottawa location at 323 Metcalfe opened on October 23.7”Open Duke-Fingard Hospital on Monday,” Ottawa Journal, October 21, 1939, p. 22.

Guaranteed to clear up any respiratory maladies you may have. Image: Canadian Museum of Science and Technology, Artifact 1997.0289.001.
Guaranteed to clear up any respiratory maladies you may have. Image: Canadian Museum of Science and Technology, Artifact 1997.0289.001.

Though an expensive treatment, the Duke-Fingard hospital was near immediately popular. Representatives appeared before the Board of Control at the beginning of November to thank them for the smooth process of approvals and to report that there were already 30 patients, eight of which were being treated free of charge.8”Bourque Attacks Wood Peddlers Paying No Tax,” Ottawa Journal, November 3, 1939, p. 3. In Ottawa, it was reported by Edward Fingard that 25% of the patients were treated free of charge. See “Rule Hospital Private One,” Ottawa Journal, March 1, 1940, p. 12. The cherry on top was the hospital gaining a commendation from Dr. M.E.J. Stalker,9UPDATE (2016/11/01): Stalker was Ontario’s Inspector of Hospitals. See Journal of the Canadian Medical Association 94 (April 9, 1966): 821. the city’s medical inspector of public and private hospitals, and Mr. Telfer, the provincial inspector.10”Duke Fingard Hospital Commended by Dr. Stalker,” Ottawa Journal, November 24, 1939, p. 2. In the Citizen, Winston Mills provided very friendly coverage of the hospital’s efficacy: something to which numerous Ottawans appear to be willing to testify.11Wintson Mills. “Duke-Fingard System Is Drawing Ottawa Clients,” Ottawa Citizen, May 2, 1942, p. 22. Until the mid-1940s, the occasional testimonial continued to be printed in the papers.12”Successful Treatment,” Ottawa Citizen, July 15, 1944, p. 19.

The Duke-Fingard Hospital closed in 1946. Source: Ottawa Journal, March 29, 1946, p. 13.
The Duke-Fingard Hospital closed in 1946. Source: Ottawa Journal, March 29, 1946, p. 13.

Public or private, operating a hospital is an expensive venture. Combine that with most of everything being diverted to the war effort, it not yet being clear that the Depression was far enough behind, and technological advances, it did not make sense to continue to operate the hospital on Metcalfe. Once a sufficiently affordable home version of the Duke-Fingard System had been developed, the decision was made the fold all of the hospitals in 1946, save for the Toronto location.13Schwartz (2010); Ottawa Journal, March 29, 1946, p. 13.

Why sit in a hospital when you can give yourself treatments at home? Image: Canada Museum of Science and Technology, 1999.0028.
Why sit in a hospital when you can give yourself treatments at home? Image: Canada Museum of Science and Technology, 1999.0028.

Once the hospital had been cleared out and equipment sold,14Ottawa Journal, March 25, 1946, p. 20. the building was sold. In place of the hospital was a women’s rooming house called The Homewood Club, advertised as a “cool, shady spot” and “the ideal place for rest and relaxation in the city.”15Ottawa Journal, July 6, 1946, p. 21. As a women’s only operation, it does not appear to have been much of a success and it was put up for sale at the end of 1947 for $25,000.16Ottawa Journal, December 16, 1947, p. 20. It appears to have been picked up by local bond dealer John Graham, as he turned around and sold the property to Irene Viau in 1949 for $23,500.17Ottawa Journal, July 16, 1949, p. 7.

Irene Viau poses with a partridge she caught in her sunroom at 323 Metcalfe. Source: Ottawa Citizen, October 19, 1951, p. 10.
Irene Viau poses with a partridge she caught in her sunroom at 323 Metcalfe. Source: Ottawa Citizen, October 19, 1951, p. 10.

It seems to be the case that the new owner had a potentially more profitable use for the premises. On July 16, 1950, Irene Viau was convicted of “keeping a premises for immoral purposes” and sentenced to 15 days in jail and to pay a fine of $200 plus costs. As she could not pay the fine, she was ordered an additional 15 days in jail. The Ottawa Police’s Morality Squad staked out the home for more than a month. Noting that the tourist home appeared to be quite popular, “few of these people carried luggage.” Indeed, of the 100 people who entered on July 1, only two were seen carrying a suitcase. Finally, Sgt. Conley, in the commission of his investigation, “watched the lights in the two front room windows go off on a number of occasions.”18”Woman Jailed on Immoral Charges,” Ottawa Citizen, July 17, 1950, p. 16; “Disorderly House Charge Brings $200 Fine and Jail,” Ottawa Journal, July 19, 1950, p. 16.

A couple emerge from the recently named Metcalfe Court tourist rooms. Image: Rosemary Gilliat Eaton / LAC
A couple emerge from the Metcalfe Court tourist rooms. It was used as a polling station in this 1960 photograph taken by Rosemary Eaton. Image: Rosemary Gilliat Eaton / Library and Archives Canada.

Either Viau found a way the keep the red lights less conspicuous or the 30 days was sufficient to keep the “immoral” activity away or to one of her other Centretown properties.19Ottawa Journal, April 7, 1945, p. 18; Ottawa Journal, June 19, 1952, p. 28. Whatever the reason, the Homewood Club kept a regular low profile. Around 1957, it was rebranded to Metcalfe Court, still offering rooms for tourists.20Ottawa Journal, July 4, 1957, p. 33. The name “Homewood Club” seems to have held considerable cachet, as advertisements for the establishment noted that it was “formerly the Homewood Club” five years following the rebranding.21Ottawa Journal, November 27, 1962, p. 31.

Rosemary
That wallpaper. 1960. Image: Rosemary Gilliat Eaton / Library and Archives Canada.

By the 1970s, the rooms-for-tourists business was becoming outmoded, coming to be replaced by the quaint bed and breakfast. While these began to proliferate across the city during that time, it does not seem that Metcalfe Court was included in the festivities. The last time that specific branding was advertised was in 1966 and 1973 was the last year it was advertised as a place to rent.22Ottawa Journal, May 5, 1966, p. 49; Ottawa Journal, September 15, 1973, p. 51.

Metcalfe Court (and its neighbour at 329 Metcalfe) had been demolished by 1976. Image: geoOttawa.
Metcalfe Court (and its neighbour at 329 Metcalfe) had been demolished by 1976. Image: geoOttawa.

By 1971, the lot and rooming house had come into the possession of lawyer Ben Marcus, who had developed a plan to construct a senior’s apartment complex. His proposal and request for rezoning was turned down flat by the Board of Control on the basis that it would obstruct the views of the museum and that the historical significance of the neighbourhood. Marcus was, of course, unimpressed, as there were a number of apartment towers in the immediate vicinity, including the Elphin, Governor Metcalfe, and the Executive. Moreover, he contended that “there is no historical value in rundown rooming houses,” pointing to the dilapidated state of what was once considered a fine mansion. Marcus was additionally frustrated by the involvement of acting Mayor Lorry Greenberg, whose Minto Construction developed the Executive Apartments on the other wise of Waverley. Rather than continue the fight, Marcus decided to keep the rooming house in operation.23Rick Lyons. “Home for elderly rejected, rooming house will stay,” Ottawa Journal, February 9, 1973, p. 4. The 1974/75 edition of the Centretown plan downzoned24An act seen in numerous cities across North America during that era, including Toronto. which annoyed numerous Centretown merchants and property owners, including Ben Marcus.25John Ferguson. “Centre Town: First volley in the battle,” Ottawa Journal, February 7, 1974, p. 3. That mayor Lorry Greenberg had interest in two buildings in the downzoned areas did not escape Marcus’ notice.26John Wylie. “Greenberg vote ‘not in conflict’,” Ottawa Journal, September 8, 1976, p. 39. Marcus tried again in 1978 to have his lot upzoned but was rejected.27”Planning board refuses to ease zoning bylaws,” Ottawa Journal, April 21, 1978, p. 13.

Metcalfe Court's 1984 replacement: the Metcalfe Place condominiums. Image: July 2016.
Metcalfe Court’s 1984 replacement: the Metcalfe Place condominiums. Image: July 2016.

In April 1983, The Citizen reported that Sal Khan’s Kandes Development was in the process of constructing a 20-unit condominium building on the lot and 16 of them had been pre-sold. All of the building’s units were 1,300 square feet and the building was to be completed in early 1984.28Ottawa Citizen, April 26, 1983, p. 52. The developer also constructed Gilmour Place, just around the corner. Both were marketed by Canada Permanent Trust.

Prime location for both Gilmour and Metcalfe places. Source: Ottawa Citizen, August 26, 1983, p. 93.
Prime location for both Gilmour and Metcalfe places. Source: Ottawa Citizen, August 26, 1983, p. 93.

Notes   [ + ]

1. Dave Mullington. Chain of Office: Biographical Sketches of the Early Mayors of Ottawa, 1847-1948 (Renfrew, ON: General Store Publishing House, 2005): 102-4. Also see “Civic Fathers of Bytown and Ottawa City,” Ottawa Journal, August 2, 1907, p. 10. His frugality, unlike some of his civic competitors, did not appear to extend to the establishment of a library system or to municipal ownership of utilities. See Mullington (2005) and “Books For The Library,” Ottawa Journal, April 6, 1905, p. 11.
2. The Ottawa City Directory, 1923 (Ottawa: Might’s Directories Ltd., 1923): 51.
3. Ibid, 326.
4. Ibid, 610.
5. The other two being situated in Winnipeg and in Toronto. See “New Hospital Opens In Sept.,” Ottawa Journal, August 24, 1939, p. 22; “Suggests Formation of Unit to Handle Gas Cases,” Ottawa Journal, October 16, 1939, p. 15; “91 Transfers of Property in October,” Ottawa Journal, November 7, 1939, p. 12.
6. For more information about David Fingard and the Duke-Fingard patent, see Mallory Schwartz. “A Cup Full of Domesticity: The ‘Duke-Fingard’ Vaporizer,” Canadian Bulletin of Medical History 27, no. 1 (2010): 199-222; Donna M. Ivey. Clinic of Hope: The Story of Rene Caisse and Essiac (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 2004): 270-273.
7. ”Open Duke-Fingard Hospital on Monday,” Ottawa Journal, October 21, 1939, p. 22.
8. ”Bourque Attacks Wood Peddlers Paying No Tax,” Ottawa Journal, November 3, 1939, p. 3. In Ottawa, it was reported by Edward Fingard that 25% of the patients were treated free of charge. See “Rule Hospital Private One,” Ottawa Journal, March 1, 1940, p. 12.
9. UPDATE (2016/11/01): Stalker was Ontario’s Inspector of Hospitals. See Journal of the Canadian Medical Association 94 (April 9, 1966): 821.
10. ”Duke Fingard Hospital Commended by Dr. Stalker,” Ottawa Journal, November 24, 1939, p. 2.
11. Wintson Mills. “Duke-Fingard System Is Drawing Ottawa Clients,” Ottawa Citizen, May 2, 1942, p. 22.
12. ”Successful Treatment,” Ottawa Citizen, July 15, 1944, p. 19.
13. Schwartz (2010); Ottawa Journal, March 29, 1946, p. 13.
14. Ottawa Journal, March 25, 1946, p. 20.
15. Ottawa Journal, July 6, 1946, p. 21.
16. Ottawa Journal, December 16, 1947, p. 20.
17. Ottawa Journal, July 16, 1949, p. 7.
18. ”Woman Jailed on Immoral Charges,” Ottawa Citizen, July 17, 1950, p. 16; “Disorderly House Charge Brings $200 Fine and Jail,” Ottawa Journal, July 19, 1950, p. 16.
19. Ottawa Journal, April 7, 1945, p. 18; Ottawa Journal, June 19, 1952, p. 28.
20. Ottawa Journal, July 4, 1957, p. 33.
21. Ottawa Journal, November 27, 1962, p. 31.
22. Ottawa Journal, May 5, 1966, p. 49; Ottawa Journal, September 15, 1973, p. 51.
23. Rick Lyons. “Home for elderly rejected, rooming house will stay,” Ottawa Journal, February 9, 1973, p. 4.
24. An act seen in numerous cities across North America during that era, including Toronto.
25. John Ferguson. “Centre Town: First volley in the battle,” Ottawa Journal, February 7, 1974, p. 3.
26. John Wylie. “Greenberg vote ‘not in conflict’,” Ottawa Journal, September 8, 1976, p. 39.
27. ”Planning board refuses to ease zoning bylaws,” Ottawa Journal, April 21, 1978, p. 13.
28. Ottawa Citizen, April 26, 1983, p. 52.

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