Then & Now: Woodbine at Queen East

Woodbine, looking north from Queen East, c. 1972. Image: Toronto Public Library, Beaches, LOCHIST-BE-40.

It has not been often that I’ve posted “then and now” photos here on Margins. While browsing the photographs that have been digitized by the Toronto Public Library this evening, I was reminded of one of the more influential-to-me discussion threads on the Urban Toronto boards: Miscellany Toronto Photographs: Then and Now. Although it has slowed down considerably in recent times, the nearly 900 page discussion is a rich one.

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Ottawa’s Building Permits, 1941

The Jackson Building received a $327,000 addition at the rear along Slater in 1941 for the RCAF. Image: geoOttawa.

1941 Ottawa was Wartime Ottawa. Of the top five building permits issued that year, four were issued to the Dominion Government to accommodate the expansion is wartime bureaucracy, and of those four, three were for the wooden so-called wartime “temporary” buildings.

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Ottawa’s Building Permits, 1945

James Beach and R.C. Greig teamed up to construct this apartment on Second Avenue at Bronson in 1945. Image: Google Maps (May 2016).
James Beach and R.C. Greig teamed up to construct this apartment on Second Avenue at Bronson in 1945. Image: Google Maps (May 2016).

Due to the wartime material and labour shortages I noted yesterday, construction in 1945 was, to say the least, pokey. Where there were 55 “important” building permits listed in the 1946 Annual Report, the number was only 24 in 1945.

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Ottawa’s Building Permits, 1946

Vignette of the British American Banknote Company's Gladstone Avenue facility. Source: British American Banknote Company. "90 Years of Security Printing: The story of the British American Bank Note Company Limited, 1866-1956."
Vignette of the British American Banknote Company’s Gladstone Avenue facility. At $800,000, it was the largest building permit issued for Ottawa in 1946. Source: British American Banknote Company. “90 Years of Security Printing: The story of the British American Bank Note Company Limited, 1866-1956.”

Although the Second World War had ended the previous year, in 1946, shifting Canada’s economy back from wartime production had proven a somewhat lengthier enterprise. Both materials and capital remained in short supply and, in spite of exceptional need, construction had not yet picked up. In spite of this, there were a few bright spots in Ottawa’s construction industry.

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Ottawa’s Building Permits, 1947

Strathcona Heights in 1984, before the 1989 restoration project. Source: Ottawa. City of Ottawa. City Living Developments. Ottawa: City Living Ottawa, 1984, p. 15.
The largest permit issued in 1947 was valued at $2,000,000 and for the Mann Avenue rental housing project. Image: Ottawa. City of Ottawa. City Living Developments. Ottawa: City Living Ottawa, 1984, p. 15.

“You really should be working on your thesis.”

That’s something I tell myself frequently, so it was a little surprising to hear it coming from the list of building permits issued in 1947 replicated in Ottawa Building Inspector C. Maxwell Taylor’s 1947 Annual Report. What was the source of those whispers?

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Ottawa’s Building Permits, 1948

Archibald, David, and Jacob Bennett, better known by their company Principal Investments, were already active in Ottawa before they became Canada's shopping mall kings. Image: Maclean's Magazine, February 4, 1956, p. 9.
Archibald, David, and Jacob Bennett, better known by their company Principal Investments, were already active in Ottawa before they became Canada’s shopping mall kings. As the developer behind both Billings Bridge Plaza and the Carlingwood Shopping Centre, Principal Investments would bring Ottawa retailing into the modern era. Image: Maclean’s Magazine, February 4, 1956, p. 9.

Continuing to work back on the building permits issued by the City of Ottawa, what really stands out about 1948 is that there were comparatively few large-scale or expensive projects that year. At $1,188,000, the construction of Fisher Park (Collegiate) High was the most expensive project and Ottawa’s first Comprehensive high school.1Janet Keith. The Collegiate Institute Board of Ottawa: A Short History, 1843-1969 (Ottawa: Kent Reproduction, 1970): 37.

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Notes   [ + ]

1. Janet Keith. The Collegiate Institute Board of Ottawa: A Short History, 1843-1969 (Ottawa: Kent Reproduction, 1970): 37.

Ottawa’s Building Permits, 1950

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At a combined cost of $1,722,000, Alvin Enterprises’ Manor Park Extension was the largest private sector construction project permitted in 1950.

Earlier this year in a pique of what I can only describe as a mixture of frustration about a lack of data and nostalgia for some of my field’s roots, I began to harvest more data about Ottawa’s development. It may have been a matter of being dissatisfied with the broad, sweeping motions and proclamations we make about the nature of midcentury development or maybe I just wanted to play with spreadsheets and pie charts like previous generations of urban historians did. Whatever the motivation, I got my wish and wrote stories like Ottawa’s Apartments, 1945Ottawa’s Apartment’s, 1955Laurentian View’s Apartments, 1955From East(wood) Park to West(wood) Park, and The Alta-Vista Drive Apartments and the Alta-Vista Shopping Centre (1956).

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Views: Bell’s Corners (1980)

Robertson Road in 1980. Image: City of Ottawa Archives, CA025336.
Robertson Road in 1980. Image: City of Ottawa Archives, CA025336.

I first encountered the above image of Bell’s Corners1I categorically refuse to leave the apostrophe out. in Bruce Elliott’s The City Beyond (1991). Although I don’t count many on my team of consummate fans of crass commercialism in the public realm, I’m willing to stand out and say that I’ve always been a fan of this sort of suburban view. In my mind’s eye, this sort of “messy” collection of signage is the suburban visual-equivalent of the ideal dense and walkable neighbourhoods that I cherish most deeply.

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Notes   [ + ]

1. I categorically refuse to leave the apostrophe out.