Butternut Terrace Becomes Acacia Avenue, 1949

Acacia Avenue (nee Butternut Terrace)
Acacia Avenue (nee Butternut Terrace)

Urban and municipal affairs are not generally at the forefront of disciplines such as Political Science, Public Administration, History, or Geography. Intermunicipal relations are even less so. Indeed, in her chapter entitled “Neglected Aspects of Intergovernmental Relations and Federalism,” Beverly Cigler identifies Intermunicipal relations as one aspect that requires much more significant study. [1] Of the (admittedly few) scholars focused on intermunicipal relations, the majority have been interested in the larger issues: the regional planning and coordination of transportation and sewage infrastructure, emergency services, development, property tax arbitrage and service provision, and emergency services. The bulk of these studies have, in turn, been focused on the popular and widespread use by provincial governments of two-tied municipal structures. [2, 3] Although such weighty concerns were undoubtedly the most common and pressing, the relations between municipalities have also included more mundane ones.

Note that Butternut Terrace was indicated to be an unimproved (dirt) road on this 1948 map.
Note that Butternut Terrace was indicated to be an unimproved (dirt) road on this 1948 map.

Beginning in 1888/9 and until the annexation of certain lands from Gloucester Township by Ottawa in 1950 (chiefly Manor Park), the eastern boundary of the City of Ottawa was described as “…thence easterly along Beechwood avenue to Butternut Terrace; thence along Butternut Terrace to Acacia Avenue…” [4] The west side in Ottawa and the east side in Rockcliffe. Of course, today the boundaries have been much-enlarged and there is no longer a Butternut Terrace. Instead, Acacia Avenue runs all the way from Beechwood to the Rockcliffe Parkway. As it would turn out, the renaming of Butternut Terrace to the more-harmonious-with-Rockcliffe Acacia would be a longer-term project and not without a certain measure of acrimony: at least from one familiar individual.

Source: Might's Ottawa City Directory, 1915
Source: Might’s Ottawa City Directory, 1915
Might’s Ottawa City Directory, 1949. Notice that it’s once again listed as part of Acacia Ave.

Might’s Ottawa City Directory, 1915 is the first to indicate that the name of Butternut had been changed to Acacia, in harmony with its lengthier component in the then Police Village of Rockcliffe Park. In her Rockcliffe Park: A History of the Village, Martha Edmond notes that, emboldened with their new status as a Village (and therefore enjoying greater autonomy from Gloucester Township), Council passed By-law 29 in 1927, which renamed a number of streets – including Butternut Terrace. [5] Of course, Rockcliffe was at best able to rename that segment of Butternut between Maple Lane and Mariposa. In order to realize their desire to see Acacia Avenue stretch from Beechwood to the river, they would have to convince Ottawa City Council. In 1928, Rockcliffe formally petitioned the City of Ottawa to change the name, which was recommended for approval of Council by the Board of Control.


At the request of the Village of Rockcliffe Park, and with the approval of the Acting City Engineer, the Board recommends that Butternut Terrace be renamed Acacia Ave., and that a bylaw be introduced to give effect to the change. [6]

Given that the name of the street was not changed that year, it appears that Council rejected this recommendation and the issue was not considered to be sufficiently important to vigorously advocate for – neither on the part of the Board nor on the part of Rockcliffe Park. [7] Although I have not been able to locate Ottawa’s rationale for rejecting the name change, it might simply be a matter of Council feeling that there would not be any major confusion. At least, there would not be had Rockcliffe not renamed the segment between Maple Lane and Mariposa. On maps dated 1895, 1908, 1913, and 1920, Butternut and Acacia do not actually align: there is a slight incongruity at Mariposa Ave.

Maps from 1895, 1908, 1913, and 1920 show a Butternut Terrace and Acacia Avenue that do not align perfectly.
Maps from 1895, 1908, 1913, and 1920 show a Butternut Terrace and Acacia Avenue that do not align perfectly.
This map, from 1936, shows that the roadway realigned to be continuous.
This map, from 1936, shows that the roadway realigned to be continuous.

In Might’s Ottawa, Butternut Terrace was already a memory by the First World War. Even the 1923 edition (the last I have in my personal collection) does not list any Butternut Terrace: either in Ottawa or Rockcliffe. The Ottawa Public Library’s collection of city directories picks up again at 1941. [8]  In that year’s edition of the directory, we once again see Butternut Terrace listed and described as “[part] or Old Acacia av”. [9] This state of affairs remains until 1949, when the Might’s Directory describes Butternut Terrace as being “now included in Acacia av” and transferred all listings to that street. [10] It was in 1949 that, once again, the Village of Rockcliffe Park would request that the City of Ottawa change the name. Once again, the Board of Control would recommend that the change be adopted.


The Village of Rockcliffe Park has requested that the name of Butternut Terrace be changed to “Acacia Ave.” and has expressed willingness to bear the cost involved.

The Board therefore recommends that the street name be changed accordingly, the Village of Rockcliffe Park to bear the cost. [11]


This map, dated 1936, retains the street's name as Butternut Terrace. Source: Lucien Breault's Ottawa: Old and New (1946)
This map, dated 1936, retains the street’s name as Butternut Terrace. Source: Lucien Breault’s Ottawa: Old and New (1946)
Acacia Ave., as listed in Might’s Directory (1916). Note that it runs the entire length.

Perhaps the coverage of costs is what proved to be enticing, or perhaps it was simply a matter of the City not seeing it worth obstructing the Village of Rockcliffe on, but council proved to be much more receptive the the prospect of changing the name of Butternut Terrace. Indeed, this time would be for keeps and the city passed By-Law No. 55-49 on May 2nd.


A By-law of The Corporation of the City of Ottawa changing the name of Butternut Terrace.

WHEREAS that certain street known and designated as Butternut Terrace and shown on Plan Number 189537 and Plan Number 70, registered in the Registry Office for the Registry Division of the City of Ottawa, is in direct alignment with Acacia Avenue in the Village of Rockcliffe Park;

AND WHEREAS it is expedient to change the name of the said street as hereinafter provided;

AND WHEREAS the County Judge of the County of Carleton appointed Friday the 22nd day of April, 1949, at the hour of 2.30 o’clock in the afternoon, at his chambers in the Court House, Nicholas Street, Ottawa, as the day, hour and place for considering this by-law, and for hearing those advocating and opposing the said change;

AND WHEREAS a notice of such application in a form approved by the said Judge was published in The Ontario Gazette on the 2nd day of April, 1949, and once a week for four successive weeks in the Ottawa Journal newspaper, namely; on the 29th day of March 1949, and the 5th, 12th and 19th days of April 1949, pursuant to the direction of the said Judge;

AND WHEREAS the said Judge has by his certificate dated the 22nd day of April 1949, approved the changing the name of the said street as hereinafter provided;

THEREFORE, the Council of The Corporation of the City of Ottawa, by a vote of at least three-fourths of all the members thereof, enacts as follows:

1. The name of that certain street now known and designated as Butternut Terrace and shown on Plan Number 189537 and Plan Number 70, both registered in the Registry Office for the Division of the City of Ottawa, is hereby changed to Acacia Avenue and the said street shall hereafter and be known and designated as Acacia Avenue.

2. This by-law shall come into effect on the day on which a certified copy thereof is registered in the said Registry Office.

GIVEN under the Corporate Seal of the City of Ottawa this 2nd day of May, 1949.

(Sgd.) N.R. OGILVIE, City Clerk                        (Sgd.) E.A. BOURQUE, Mayor [12]

In general, any change or development – no matter the size or scope – in the general vicinity of Charlotte Whitton’s home on Rideau Terrace seemed to arouse both her suspicion and opposition. In her February 9, 1950 column in the Citizen, she wrote the following:

‘For Sale – That desirable property situated on corner of Rideau Terrace and Butternut Avenue, New Edinburgh, east of Mr. Graham’s gardens: about 4½ acres. This is the only property now left of this natural terrace. With southerly exposure. Five shade trees, city water. Price low and easy terms or will exchange for house in central locality.’

There it is, word for word exactly as it ran in an advertisement in The Citizen on New Year’s Day, January 1, 1900. And as I write this, fifty years later, I look out from that southern exposure on the natural terrace while the sun streams in my study window and lights up all my desk. I can look down even now upon an odd butternut tree but they have felled most of the shade trees to run up houses in the last ten years though a few tall elms are still etched against the sky and on Rideau Terrace two of the grave grey beeches greet one graciously at dawn and dusk.

It is rather lovely here where I have lived and worked for more than two score years: here, and at a similarly light sunroom table, overlooking Francis’ Gully in my own home at Renfrew. And for sixteen summers now I have scrawled away, high on the abrupt ridge above McGregor Lake where my little log cabin is now settled into its long winter sleep.

The Rideau and Butternut Terraces for years met here at the top of the hill and, joining hands, merged and went on together as far as Maple Lane, as gravely and happily as a young couple leaving the church of their marriage. Then the boundaries of Rockcliffe were set and, like most people who leave Ottawa for the svelte village, the meandering extension of the terraces turned its back on its humbler, solid origin and became Acacia, where never an acacia tree nor flower would bloom.

And now, not content with that, this summer Acacia has apparently decided to have nothing more to do with her name and family before her “high faluting” marriage, and Butternut Terrace has been wiped from the face of Ottawa and of Rockcliffe and has become Acacia, right down to Beechwood Avenue.

It’s just not fair, because our side of the Terrace is still in Ottawa, and as such in the public garbage belt, but it has[?] to change its name to match the other side of the street which is in Rockcliffe – hitherto the annex – and with a collective private enterprise garbage system.

And more than that, at the bottom and the top of the Terrace, Rockcliffe has put up a most blatant sign: “You are entering the Village of Rockcliffe. Watch out for Children.” as if they hadn’t dogged and darted all over your way down Rideau, Charlotte, Saint Patrick Streets and Bridge: and along Beechwood, in such shoals as Rockcliffe may never hope to boast – well, not until it goes bilingual.

A Fortified Post

And now, a ray of hope! I have just been out to lunch in Rockcliffe: it doesn’t take a passport yet to cross the line. And they’re mobilizing, and all power to them, against the policy of aggression being followed by totalitarian Ottawa. They are signing up an Elite Guard and, as far as I can judge, the SS will be the women, and some of the shrewdest, ablest women in this city aren’t in it at all, they are in Rockcliffe.

And I am happy! Because I understand that things like leases are subject to such emergencies as flood, fire, famine, earthquakes and war. And it’s war – war between Ottawa and Rockcliffe, and here I am, in the veriest place for defensive or offensive attack in the East, at the top of the hill, on the very frontier, the outthrust peak where the boundaries merge. [13]

Emphasis mine.

Although I concede that the above is quite possibly a rank abuse of blockquote, it does demonstrate the rather strong feelings the then future mayor had about such things. Indeed, the renaming remained important to her, as she wrote nearly a decade later of nuthatches in her year-end column that “[they] are set solely on spying our and spearing the smallest insect and the tiniest egg in the bark of one of the few great elms that the wreckers have left on our old Butternut Terrace – though now it’s Acacia!” [14]

Although the above represents a tame example of the operation of intermunicipal relations, it is likely that it represents the most common sorts of interaction between them. Charlotte Whitton’s reaction to City Council finally granting the wish of the Village of Rockcliffe Park may have been simply hers. I have found little to suggest that it was representative of the sort of rivalry that she was attempting to paint.


[1] Cigler, Beverly A. (2011). “Neglected Aspects of Intergovernmental Relations and Federalism” in Donald C. Menzel and Harvey L. White (eds.) The State of Public Administration: Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, pp. 316-334.
[2] One example of such discussions is found in Lightbody, James (1997). “A new perspective on clothing the emperor: Canadian metropolitan form, function and frontiers.” Canadian Public Administration, Volume 40, No. 3, pp. 436-456. Other examples include Andrew Sancton’s Governing Canada’s City-Regions: Adapting Form to Function (1994), Merger Mania (2000), and The Limits of Boundaries: Why City-Regions Cannot be Self-Governing (2008). Additionally, former Westmount, QC mayor Peter Trent discusses such regional governance issues at length in his The Merger Delusion (2012).
[3] I have a piece centred on Murray Jones’ recommendations in the Ottawa, Eastview, and Carleton County Local Government Review (1965) coming down soon and will discuss the regional coordination and planning of services in more detail there.
[4] “City Limits and Ward Redistribution Under the new Arrangements.” The Ottawa Daily Citizen. February 20, 1888.
[5] Edmond, Martha (2005. Rockcliffe Park: A History of the Village. Ottawa: The Friends of the Village of Rockcliffe Park Foundation, p. 74.
[6] Minutes of the Corporation of the City of Ottawa, 1928. March 5, 1928, p. 105.
[7] No by-law renaming the street was subsequently passed.
[8] At the Main Branch, the collection picks up in 1940, however, that copy is missing the Street and Householders Guide.
[9] Might’s Directory of the City of Ottawa, 1941. Toronto: Might’s Directories Ltd.
[10] Might’s Directory of the City of Ottawa, 1949. Toronto: Might’s Directories Ltd.
[11] Minutes of the Corporation of the City of Ottawa, 1949. March 21, 1949, p. 188.
[12] By-laws of the Corporation of the City of Ottawa, 1949. May 2, 1959, By-Law No. 55-49, pp. 159-60.
[13] Whitton, Charlotte. “Rockcliffe, Rents and War.” Ottawa Citizen. February 9, 1950.
[14] Whitton, Charlotte. “Crazy Like Nuthatches.” Ottawa Citizen. December 29, 1959.