If you’ve been following this blog and the things I’ve written elsewhere, you’re no doubt familiar with my own interest in the rapid development of Ottawa since the Second World War. In spite of my own unshakable preference for Centretown living and complete rejection of a life dependent on driving (or even public transit), there are two midcentury developed areas of the city which hold a special spot in my mind. One of them is the Prince of Wales complex at Hog’s Back, the site of my first off-campus apartment in 2001.
I can say that I always appreciate some street photography. While I can personally shoot buildings well enough, others, such as Ottawa’s own Mink Williams can catch some city action in ways that I can only dream of. This captured action, in turn, can certainly get a number of wheels turning. When photographers from Toronto advertising agency Gilbert A. Milne Co. were unleashed on to the streets of Ottawa on June 17, 1957 for an unknown campaign, they left us with ten of such images. As the Midcentury Modernist has already taken us through the ten (in the quality way we’ve come to expect), I’m content to focus on one of the images, shown above.
What I love about an image like this is that there are literally dozens of short histories that can be written based on what was captured. For my own part, it’s the neon of the Rainbow Restaurant that catches my attention. The Rainbow was the venture of Bill Saikaly and was opened as the second location of his popular Rainbow Restaurant at 283 Elgin Street. This second outlet at 39 Queen Street was opened in June of 1955.
The “Uptown Rainbow” would later become “Queen’s Restaurant”, then the “Old Vic” and finally “Victor’s Restaurant”. The building was subsequently demolished as part of the NCC’s Central Chambers project.
Saikaly’s first Rainbow on Elgin opened around 1945 and it was dramatically modernized in 1952. 283 Elgin, by-the-by, is the current location of the Fox & Feather and is the site of the Harmon Apartments (c. 1912-13).
The restaurant (not the building, which remained with the Saikaly family) was subsequently sold to Eddie Malouf. On June 4, 1965, the restaurant went up in smoke. Following a brief stint as a book store (Don White & Sons) after the renovation, Elgin Street’s establishment as a restaurant destination was just too much to ignore. It then became My Cousin’s Restaurant, then Swagman Jack’s, and now the Fox & Feather.
As I have written about before, Elgin Street was not always the commercial and restaurant destination that it is today. Like a number of Ottawa neighbourhoods, it began as predominantly residential in nature and as the city grew, commercial uses came to be seen as a higher, better, and ultimately more profitable use. This meant, of course, the demolition of the old homes and apartments to make way for commercial blocks.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about the Saucy Noodle on Ottawa Start and didn’t quite know what happened in the end. A small mea culpa on my end, I always seem to forget that anyone with a computer at home and an Ottawa Public Library card can search the Ottawa Citizen going back to 1985 via ProQuest. While imperfect (no images, for example. I rather wish that the run of the Citizen and perhaps the Free Press were available on Newspapers.com), it does give me a more contemporary view as the Journal stopped publishing in 1980.
In any event, the Saucy Noodle closed down in 1987 and was replaced by the Osteria Luigi, a restaurant that took a distinctively more upscale approach and one that apparently specialized in veal dishes. The Citizen’s Elizabeth Elmsley opened her review as such:
Is it Osteria or Ostaria? The menu spells it one way, the phone book another. No matter. Whichever way you spell it, Osteria Luigi _ we’ll go with the menu spelling _ is a vast improvement on the Saucy Noodle that once occupied the premises at 409 Somerset St. W., just across from the Somerset Theatre.
Gone is the Saucy Noodle‘s rather tacky ambience; Osteria Luigi’s decor is bright, airy and elegant _ with mirrors, half pillars stained a soft green and art-deco wall sconces.
Reminiscent of the elegance of Stefano’s, this is not a red-checked tablecloth, Chianti bottle candle holder, strolling violinist type of place. This is northern Italian, urban chic.
Ottawa Citizen, May 6, 1988, Page B5.
It doesn’t appear that Osteria Luigi wouldn’t last too long, however. The last mention of the restaurant in the Citizen was in August 1991. It seems that Centretown’s appetite for veal dishes was somewhat limited. Perhaps Mama Teresa’s competition was too hot. In the Spring of 1992, it became On Tap II and when it was gutted by fire in the late fall, it was known as Joe Bloze Bar & Grill.
An early Saturday morning fire caused more than $200,000 damage to a recently opened Somerset Street bar.
“Right now I would say it’s unsalveagable,” said Darryl Brown, co-owner of Joe Bloze Bar & Grill, which opened in July.
The blaze at 409 Somerset St. near Kent Street began shortly before 5 a.m. Brown, who had left the location business around 3:30 a.m., said the fire was restricted to the second and third storeys of the 70-year-old building.
Ottawa Citizen, November 22, 1992, Page A7.
So then that was that. The hulking shell was demolished and the resulting gravel lot remains with us today. Perhaps archaeologists will some day come across a stray spoon or some other artifact of the hotspot that once stood.
Nearly 54 years ago, one of Ottawa’s best mid-century commercial signs was affixed to a newly-constructed two story commercial building at the corner of Carling and Holland – “the crossroads of the west end”. The Civic Pharmacy officially opened on Saturday, September 17, 1960.
The Civic Pharmacy was a venture of Wallace “Wally” Cherun, who’s father Alexander Cherun ran a grocery in the Deep Cut (now Golden Triangle) at 61 Waverley.
This quirky little building has been standing in quiet dignity on Crichton Street in New Edinburgh since the early 1880s and has served a number of purposes. Identified on the 1888 Goad’s Atlas (1898/1901 Revision) as a one-storey wooden Store, it was once attached to its neighbour at No. 44. Before it became a private residence some time in the early 1970s, No. 48 served a variety of purposes. According to a recent heritage report, it began as a woodworking shop, owned by a John McElroy, and in operation until approximately 1885.  In the 1885 City Directory, McElroy was identified as a contractor, rather than a carpenter.  Perhaps a mark of success in business, McElroy vacated the premises and relocated to 68 Crichton. 
As sawdust is useful in the absorbing of liquids, Charles Garrow opened his butchery in 1886.  In 1891, William Short took over the butchery.  Short only remained on the scene for two years and in 1893, Charles Martel tried his hand at operating the butchery.  Similarly, Martel’s tenure in the building was short. It was taken over by John Gleeson in 1895.  Gleeson remained at No. 48 until 1901, when it was taken over by Thomas Green who was not identified as a butcher and may not have used the premises for that purpose.  By 1909, Adjutard (Adjutor) Bedard was operating the premises as a butchery, where he remained in business until the late 1920s. 
Once Bedard left No. 48 in favour of the larger newly-constructed facility at No. 67 Crichton, it became a corner store, operating as Trudel’s Confectionery until the early 1970s, when it was converted to a private residence.
 Report to Planning and Environment Committee, April 12, 2007.
 Ottawa City Directory, 1885, p. 344.
 Ottawa City Directory, 1886, p. 352.
 Ibid, p. 351.
 Ottawa City Directory, 1891-92, p. 83.
 Ottawa City Directory, 1893-94, p. 77.
 Ottawa City Directory, 1895-96, p.79.
 Ottawa City Directory, 1901, p. 66. Note: I do not have city directories from 1902-1908.
 Ottawa City Directory, 1909, p. 63; Report to Planning and Environment Committee, April 12, 2007.