Constantine and the Nelson Creed


Apartment, Development, Midcentury, Ottawa, Sandy Hill / Wednesday, September 28th, 2016
Maison L'Assomption - or The Albany, as it was briefly known as - was completed in 1966. Image: Google Maps.
Maison L’Assomption – or The Albany, as it was briefly known – was completed in 1966. Image: Google Maps.

As I recently wrote in a recent story about Le Versailles apartments on Henderson (1964), I find the midcentury apartments in Sandy Hill to be “just slightly a cut above” those in the remainder of the city. Although it may lack the flourish of Le Versailles, Constantine Zourdoumis’ Albany Apartments at 305 Nelson is a tidy example of the style.

In 1898, the trustees of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church hired Werner Noffke to design a school on Nelson street. As a member of the congregation, Noffke was the natural choice for job.1See “Had A Pleasant Time,” Ottawa Journal, February 22, 1898, p. 3. The small German community in Sandy Hill had been growing and a dedicated place to educate its children along Lutheran principles was deemed necessary. The date stone was laid on September 18,2”Date Stone Laid,” Ottawa Journal, September 20, 1898, p. 8. and the two-storey school was officially opened to students on January 16, 1899.3”German School Opened,” Ottawa Journal, January 16, 1898, p. 4. Enrolment in those earlier days was around 100, though it was difficult to keep young boys at school when farm labour was plentiful. The Journal took pains to explain that the Lutheran school was separate from the mainline English language public system, but not “Separate” (ie. Catholic), that it was paid for by the German community, and that instruction was, contrary to what it may seem, as much in English as it was in German.4”German Boys on the Farms,” Ottawa Journal, September 26, 1905, p. 5.

The little fellows were getting on nicely in their studies, and it is too bad that they were forced to abandon them for digging potatoes.5Ibid.

For more than 60 years, St. Paul’s Lutheran School educated the children of the city’s German community.6There was a second school in New Edinburgh on Dufferin, so it was not a monopoly. See “A Fact A Day About Ottawa: German Schools,” Ottawa Journal, November 16, 1927, p. 6. By the mid-1960s, however, the nature of the community had changed sufficiently that the Trustees of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church closed the school and put it up for sale.

Just as a buyer had been found, fire destroyed the 67 year old building. Source: Ottawa Citizen, April 15, 1965, p. 1.
Just as a buyer had been found, fire destroyed the 67 year old building. Source: Ottawa Citizen, April 15, 1965, p. 1.

On the evening on April 14, 1965, fire broke out in the school, resulting in its complete destruction. Fortunately, it had already been emptied and was only being used to hold Scout meetings. The cause of the fire was thought to be children playing with matches.7”School Wrecked By Fire,” Ottawa Journal, April 15, 1965, p. 3. What was not noted in the Journal’s reporting on the fire was that the school had already been sold and the buyer had plans to demolish it to construct an apartment building.8Bob Cohen. “Old Sandy Hill Lutheran school destroyed by fire,” Ottawa Citizen, April 15, 1965, p. 39.

The burnt-out shell of the former St. Paul's Lutheran School was visible in the 1965 aerial photos, taken April 22, just one week after the fire. Image: geoOttawa.
The burnt-out shell of the former St. Paul’s Lutheran School was visible in the 1965 aerial photos, taken April 22, just one week after the fire. Le Versailles is visible at the bottom left. Image: geoOttawa.

Purchase of the school, which was completed May 11, was made by local engineer Constantine Zourdoumis and architect Peter Douglas(s) for $58,0009Ottawa Land Registry Office, Plan 14349, Lots 4-7, East Side Nelson, Reel 4AR121. and after having drawn up plans for the apartment, on September 30, a $490,000 6¾% mortgage was taken out to finance the project.10Ibid. On July 7, the Journal’s Charles Lynch reported that “C. Dourdoukis”[sic] was set to begin construction on a 56-unit $480,000 apartment at 305 Nelson.11Charles Lynch. “New Bridge to Hull Ready for Use October 15,” Ottawa Journal, July 3, 1965, p. 27. The project did not proceed without some trouble: In August, the company plead guilty to two charges for violating the Trench Excavators’ Protection Act and fined $1,000.12”Broke Safety Act, Firm Fined $1,000,” Ottawa Journal, August 25, 1965, p. 24. Just as seriously, as was the case with many developers in the early-to-mid 1960s, Zourdoumis learned how quickly apartment construction was able to consume capital. By the following spring, the Mechanics’ Liens and court actions relating to around a dozen post-due payments accumulated against the project.13Ottawa Land Registry Office, Plan 14349, Lots 4-7, East Side Nelson, Reel 4AR121; For examples, see Mechanics’ Lien, Instrument 508171, Reel 5-1979; Mechanics’ Lien, Instrument 508697, Reel 5-1981; Certificate of Action, Instrument 510930, Reel 5-1989; Judicial Order, Instrument 512217, Reel 5-1993.

Dubbed the Albany Apartments, occupancy was to begin in the Spring of 1966. Source: Ottawa Journal, March 31, 1966, p. 31.
Dubbed the Albany Apartments, occupancy was to begin in the Spring of 1966. Source: Ottawa Journal, March 31, 1966, p. 31.

As it would turn out, Ottawans would not get the opportunity to take advantage of the heated pool, recreation room, or professionally decorated lobby. At the end of June 1966, Zourdoumis’ Albany Development Co. Ltd. sold the recently-completed project to the newly-formed St. Paul’s University14Technically speaking, it is vice-versa, that the University of Ottawa is the “newer” institution. St. Paul’s was split from the University of Ottawa in order to secure provincial funding that was limited to secular institutions. Also see “To Qualify For More Grants: Oblates Giving Up Control of U of O,” Ottawa Journal, May 27, 1965, p. 1; “Non-Denominational Group: Name 24 to New U of O Board of Governors,” Ottawa Journal, May 28, 1965, p. 17. for nearly $630,000.15Ottawa Land Registry Office, Plan 14349, Lots 4-7, East Side Nelson, Reel 4AR121; Indenture, Instrument 512221, Reel 5-1993. The transaction included $193,871.59 cash and an assumption of the $435,000 outstanding on the property. As part of the University of Ottawa’s split from St. Paul’s, the 66 Oblate Fathers needed a residence in which to live, as they were to depart the University of Ottawa’s administration building in order to allow a full conversion to administrative functions.16”Oblate Fathers move premises after 63 years,” Ottawa Citizen, July 19, 1966, p. 3. The name Albany Apartments did not fit the new use and it was renamed Maison L’Assomption (Assumption House) quickly following the relocation.

The building appears to have been sold to a private concern recently and is now being rented out on the private market.

Constantine Zourdoumis may not have had dreams of the next Bob Campeau or Bill Teron, but he nevertheless left his mark on the city. I have been unable to verify this to be the case, though construction of the Albany appears to have been Zourdoumis’ only fully-realized development venture. Where his business acumen may not have been sufficient to lead to a significant career in development, he designed and was involved in the design of a number of Ottawa buildings. Below I outline the buildings – most likely not an exhaustive list – that Zourdoumis either designed or was a member of a team that did.

On October 24, 1964, Charles Lynch of the Journal reported that plans had been prepared for a new 21-unit motel “on Carling Avenue near Webb’s Motel” and that Zourdoumis was the architect.17Charles Lynch. “Real Estate: Performing Arts Centre Tenders in Late 1965,” Ottawa Journal, October 24, 1964, p. 31. In a subsequent report, Lynch added that it was a joint project of Webb’s Motel and Auto Course Limited. The new building (and modern new direction for Webb’s) was expected to cost $120,000.18Charles Lynch. “Real Estate: Optimistic Forecast For Real Estate,” Ottawa Journal, January 30, 1965, p. 27. It seems to be the case that Webb’s opened the new expansion without fanfare or celebration, with the only real evidence being a number of new want ads placed in the local papers.

Zourdoumis was the structural engineer on the Douglas and Ross-designed Hull-Ottawa Plating facility on Sheffield Road. Source: Ottawa Journal, December 16, 1968, p. 11.
Zourdoumis was the structural engineer on the Douglas and Ross-designed Hull-Ottawa Plating facility on Sheffield Road. Source: Ottawa Journal, December 16, 1968, p. 11.

Around the sale of the Albany, Zourdoumis also took the opportunity to contribute to a pair of industrial properties. The first, was the design of a plant for Durie Mosaic and Marble, located at 24 Bentley Avenue just south of Hunt Club in the Merivale Industrial Park.19Charles Lynch. “Real Estate: Winter Housing Program Now in Full Swing,” Ottawa Journal, December 11, 1965, p. 35; Ottawa Journal, May 6, 1967, p. 5. Two years later, on the other side of town, Zourdoumis served as the structural engineer for the Douglas and Ross-designed Hull-Ottawa Plating Ltd.’s plant in the Sheffield Industrial Park at 2950 Sheffield Road.20Ottawa Journal, December 16, 1968, p. 11.

In 1969, Zourdoumis was hired by Continental Construction to do the engineering for a 14-storey apartment building at the corner of Carling and Grenon. The 135-unit $1 million building was expected to take six months to construct. Although builder Pat Boyce was unable to meet that particular deadline, units in the Cortina Apartments began renting the following autumn.21”14-Storey Apartment Planned,” Ottawa Journal, March 19, 1969, p. 36; Ottawa Journal, August 8, 1970, p. 28; Ottawa Journal, September 11, 1970, p. 39; Ottawa Journal, October 3, 1970, p. 29.

Should apartments and industrial facilities not have been enough, Zourdoumis was also responsible for the design of churches. The first, Ottawa’s Greek Orthodox church on Prince of Wales, was designed in 1973/74 and completed in 1975.22Carter Hammett. “Churches: Labors of Love,” Ottawa Citizen, January 28, 1989, p. F2. The second, St. Elijah’s (St. Elias), at Riverside and Ridgewood near Mooney’s Bay, was designed by Zourdoumis in 1984.23Christopher Harris. “St. Elijah’s new building under way,” Ottawa Citizen, June 23, 1984, p. 45.

Constantine Zourdoumis passed away on November 24, 1992 at 90 years of age.24”Constantine Zourdoumis: In Memoriam,” Ottawa Citizen, July 24, 2012.

Notes   [ + ]

1. See “Had A Pleasant Time,” Ottawa Journal, February 22, 1898, p. 3.
2. ”Date Stone Laid,” Ottawa Journal, September 20, 1898, p. 8.
3. ”German School Opened,” Ottawa Journal, January 16, 1898, p. 4.
4. ”German Boys on the Farms,” Ottawa Journal, September 26, 1905, p. 5.
5. Ibid.
6. There was a second school in New Edinburgh on Dufferin, so it was not a monopoly. See “A Fact A Day About Ottawa: German Schools,” Ottawa Journal, November 16, 1927, p. 6.
7. ”School Wrecked By Fire,” Ottawa Journal, April 15, 1965, p. 3.
8. Bob Cohen. “Old Sandy Hill Lutheran school destroyed by fire,” Ottawa Citizen, April 15, 1965, p. 39.
9. Ottawa Land Registry Office, Plan 14349, Lots 4-7, East Side Nelson, Reel 4AR121.
10. Ibid.
11. Charles Lynch. “New Bridge to Hull Ready for Use October 15,” Ottawa Journal, July 3, 1965, p. 27.
12. ”Broke Safety Act, Firm Fined $1,000,” Ottawa Journal, August 25, 1965, p. 24.
13. Ottawa Land Registry Office, Plan 14349, Lots 4-7, East Side Nelson, Reel 4AR121; For examples, see Mechanics’ Lien, Instrument 508171, Reel 5-1979; Mechanics’ Lien, Instrument 508697, Reel 5-1981; Certificate of Action, Instrument 510930, Reel 5-1989; Judicial Order, Instrument 512217, Reel 5-1993.
14. Technically speaking, it is vice-versa, that the University of Ottawa is the “newer” institution. St. Paul’s was split from the University of Ottawa in order to secure provincial funding that was limited to secular institutions. Also see “To Qualify For More Grants: Oblates Giving Up Control of U of O,” Ottawa Journal, May 27, 1965, p. 1; “Non-Denominational Group: Name 24 to New U of O Board of Governors,” Ottawa Journal, May 28, 1965, p. 17.
15. Ottawa Land Registry Office, Plan 14349, Lots 4-7, East Side Nelson, Reel 4AR121; Indenture, Instrument 512221, Reel 5-1993. The transaction included $193,871.59 cash and an assumption of the $435,000 outstanding on the property.
16. ”Oblate Fathers move premises after 63 years,” Ottawa Citizen, July 19, 1966, p. 3.
17. Charles Lynch. “Real Estate: Performing Arts Centre Tenders in Late 1965,” Ottawa Journal, October 24, 1964, p. 31.
18. Charles Lynch. “Real Estate: Optimistic Forecast For Real Estate,” Ottawa Journal, January 30, 1965, p. 27.
19. Charles Lynch. “Real Estate: Winter Housing Program Now in Full Swing,” Ottawa Journal, December 11, 1965, p. 35; Ottawa Journal, May 6, 1967, p. 5.
20. Ottawa Journal, December 16, 1968, p. 11.
21. ”14-Storey Apartment Planned,” Ottawa Journal, March 19, 1969, p. 36; Ottawa Journal, August 8, 1970, p. 28; Ottawa Journal, September 11, 1970, p. 39; Ottawa Journal, October 3, 1970, p. 29.
22. Carter Hammett. “Churches: Labors of Love,” Ottawa Citizen, January 28, 1989, p. F2.
23. Christopher Harris. “St. Elijah’s new building under way,” Ottawa Citizen, June 23, 1984, p. 45.
24. ”Constantine Zourdoumis: In Memoriam,” Ottawa Citizen, July 24, 2012.

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