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.
Constructed in 1908/1909 by the Real Estate & Security Company and designed by architect Walter Herbert George, the Kenniston Apartments have been well-documented elsewhere, and is among Ottawa’s oldest purpose-built apartment buildings.1Ottawa Journal, April 21, 1909, p. 10; Ottawa Journal, March 1, 1910, p. 9; Ottawa Journal, March 17, 1910, p. 9; Ottawa Journal, October 15, 1910, p. 8.
Between its opening in 1909 and 1983, the Kenniston had little commercial activity and was not generally understood to be a mixed use development. There were exceptions, however. At opening, for example, it contained a dining room that was open to the public.2Ottawa Journal, February 6, 1909, p. 18. In the 1930s, the Kenniston Beauty Parlor opened in unit 359D,3Ottawa Journal, May 3, 1930, p. 10. and Mr. F.J. Ball opened an electro-therapy office in one of the units.4Ottawa Journal, October 24, 1932, p. 6. In 1949, the building was sold by Real Estate Security to Max Gold for $135,000.5”Kennniston Apartments Sold to Max Gold For Around $135,000.
After having been purchased in 1982 by a consortium of local investors, which included Charles Boushey, the money-losing Kenniston was given a fix-up. The plans were to construct eight commercial units in the basement and renovate the residential units above. While a number of tenants present at the time protested the move, Boushey and his partners commenced with the renovation.6Mark Kennedy. “Tenants protest apartment renovations,” Ottawa Citizen, October 23, 1983, p. 23.
In addition to the tenants forced to move, the folks at Heritage Ottawa were vehemently against the renovation, charging that there was “something vaguely obscene about putting shops in the until-now hidden basement of this stately old building — it’s as if they’re looking up its skirts.”7”Why Pick On 341-359 Elgin Street?” Heritage Ottawa Newsletter. Vol. 11, No. 6 (October 1983): 3.
I actually can’t help but vigorously disagree with the organization. The addition of the commercial mix to the property has contributed to the street life of Elgin in ways that a strictly residential (or even “more sensitive” renovation) could ever hope to. The story of Elgin street has been one that has seen the strip go from residential to commercial and from commercial to a restaurant and bar destination. As I have chosen to live in the area for that very purpose, it is difficult for me to lament the loss of the wholly residential character of properties along its length. Moreover, I do not believe that the basement retail/commercial spaces have detracted from the building’s heritage importance, and have in fact only strengthened it.
Of course, contending with the noise from the patios is something that required a little conflict and finesse.8Abby Deveney. “Noisy patios upset nearby apartment dwellers,” Ottawa Citizen, August 20, 1987, p. C2.
|↥ 1||Ottawa Journal, April 21, 1909, p. 10; Ottawa Journal, March 1, 1910, p. 9; Ottawa Journal, March 17, 1910, p. 9; Ottawa Journal, October 15, 1910, p. 8.|
|↥ 2||Ottawa Journal, February 6, 1909, p. 18.|
|↥ 3||Ottawa Journal, May 3, 1930, p. 10.|
|↥ 4||Ottawa Journal, October 24, 1932, p. 6.|
|↥ 5||”Kennniston Apartments Sold to Max Gold For Around $135,000.|
|↥ 6||Mark Kennedy. “Tenants protest apartment renovations,” Ottawa Citizen, October 23, 1983, p. 23.|
|↥ 7||”Why Pick On 341-359 Elgin Street?” Heritage Ottawa Newsletter. Vol. 11, No. 6 (October 1983): 3.|
|↥ 8||Abby Deveney. “Noisy patios upset nearby apartment dwellers,” Ottawa Citizen, August 20, 1987, p. C2.|