Centretown’s Apartments, Civil Servants, and the Great Depression

Chamberlin (Chamberlain) Manor. Image: March 2016.

If you’ve had a chat with me in the last year or so, there is a good chance that I found occasion to slip something about apartments, Centretown, or both into the conversation. It should come as no surprise that during the Depression, construction of all sorts ground to a virtual halt. If you were take a look around the neighbourhood during those years, it would appear that someone forgot to let a small group of developers know that the party was over.

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Constantine and the Nelson Creed

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.

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A Ticket at Frank and Elgin (1960)

An officer writes a ticket at the corner of Elgin and Frank streets, 1960. Image: Ted Grant / LAC Accession 1981-181 NPC Series 60-695A.
An officer writes a ticket at the northwest corner of Elgin and Frank, 1960. Image: Ted Grant / LAC Accession 1981-181 NPC Series 60-695A.

Another photograph that caught my eye from the “Meter Maids” collection: this time, one of the new recruits writing a ticket at the corner of Elgin and Frank. One thing that stood out to me here is the Kenniston Apartments in the background, previous to the conversion of its basement to commercial and restaurant spaces.

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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).

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