Update: Shenkman’s Park Square Apartments (1936)

The Park Square Apartments, 425 Elgin. One of the few remaining apartments in the city with a Deco or Moderne design and – most likely – a sister to the Normandie Apartments on King Edward. Image: C.Ryan November 2017

A few years ago, I wrote a short piece about The Park Square Apartments at 425 Elgin Street in Centretown for OttawaStart. As with pretty well anything written, there are a number of things that I would do differently now, but it still gets some of the basic idea out. 

This will be a brief update. The most common question that I get asked about Park Square is who the architect was that designed it. I still don’t know that answer, and besides, builders in those days would not always use formal architectural plans (in the sense we think of today) or they would recycle designs from a previous commission. In the case of Park Square, it’s pretty clear that it shares enough in common with the Normandie on King Edward, designed by (Cecil) Burgess and (Edwin) Gardner1For more on the buildings, see From Walkup to Highrise: Ottawa’s Heritage Apartment Buildings (Ottawa: Heritage Ottawa, 2017): 47-8..

Construction of Park Square appears to have occurred during a bit of a handover period in the growing Shenkman empire, in which Wolf Shenkman began stepping back a bit more in the family’s business while his son, (J.) Harold, became increasingly involved. So, in 1934 when the Journal reported that it was Wolf Shenkman who purchased the property, that wasn’t entirely accurate. In the lot’s property abstract, it is the name of his son that shows up as the purchaser.2The Journal reported it in October 4, 1934; See Land Registry Office, Ottawa, Plan 30, Lot 7, Elgin E. 

The 13-unit apartment with some moderne touches was, however, absolutely built on the cheap. It even seems to be possible that it was put up with leftover materials from the Normandie, or at least, the Shenkmans got a pretty good deal on two colours of rug brick at a time when construction was in a lull. That they chose directly-supervised day labour to construct the apartment rather than putting it to tenders only solidifies it. At nearly $1,800 per unit (that’s not a typo), it’s the least expensive build I’ve seen in any case.3See “New Apartment On Elgin Street,” Ottawa Journal, September 23, 1936. The Journal reported that the building permit was taken out for an estimated $23,000. A $24,000 mortgage with the Ontario Loan and Debenture Company at 5% was taken out in December 1936. Land Registry Office, Ottawa, Plan 30, Lot 7, Elgin E.  

Before the Park Square was constructed, the lot was occupied by William Stewart’s old carriage house. Source: Ottawa Citizen, May 8, 1937, 2.

The real motivation for this update is, however, the above picture reproduced in the Ottawa Citizen on May 8, 1937. I haven’t yet found out when it was demolished, but it does not seem to have made it into the twentieth century. 

Notes   [ + ]

1. For more on the buildings, see From Walkup to Highrise: Ottawa’s Heritage Apartment Buildings (Ottawa: Heritage Ottawa, 2017): 47-8.
2. The Journal reported it in October 4, 1934; See Land Registry Office, Ottawa, Plan 30, Lot 7, Elgin E.
3. See “New Apartment On Elgin Street,” Ottawa Journal, September 23, 1936. The Journal reported that the building permit was taken out for an estimated $23,000. A $24,000 mortgage with the Ontario Loan and Debenture Company at 5% was taken out in December 1936. Land Registry Office, Ottawa, Plan 30, Lot 7, Elgin E.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply