187 Billings Ave

Ottawahh has just posted a short story about the oldest house in Junction Gore (and perhaps the city), along with a gallery of the older housing in the Alta-Vista area. Aside from the very interesting built history – including the number of extensions and resulting almost maze-like structure – Alta-Vista has come to develop more of a reputation as Ottawa’s first postwar, modern-style suburb. Of course, it was also the stomping grounds of the Billings family, but that’s less the popular (though not unknown) image in my experience.

From the article:

The oldest extant house in Junction Gore (and perhaps the whole city) is 187 Billings Avenue in Alta Vista. It’s been there in some shape or form since around 1823 although it will probably be demolished later this year.

I certainly hope that it may receive a last-minute stay of execution through heritage designation. It’s valuable on the basis of age, its relation to the Billings family, the extensions are a testament to our past relationship to our homes (insofar that they often grew with us), and an example of how that growth was not often regulated in the serious ways that it is now.

Take a look at the complete piece here.

The Road to Good Intermunicipal Relations

Source: Ottawa Citizen, May 1, 1953
Source: Ottawa Citizen, May 1, 1953

The relationship between the Village of Rockcliffe Park and the City of Ottawa has often been a strained one. I recently explored the brou-ha-ha surrounding the renaming of Butternut Terrace to Acacia Avenue and the reaction of Charlotte Whitton to it. Though her outrage was largely symbolic, perhaps a symptom of an individual whose response knob to anything she disliked was always set to 11, the political and administrative rivalry between the two municipal bodies was quite real.

It would not be unfair to point out that the (now former) boundary between Ottawa and Rockcliffe is not a natural one. To be certain, while the legacy of wildly different zoning regulations has rendered the difference between the two readily apparent, there exists no real natural boundary such as a river, valley, or unnatural one, like the Green Belt. The boundary existed running down the centre of a number of streets.

Within the village, Rockcliffe was often characterized as something of a reluctant bride when threatened with amalgamation with the much larger City of Ottawa. [1] A conception that was not entirely without merit – given the dramatic size difference. Of course, the picture painted by those boosting for Ottawa painted the village as a snooty, wealthy enclave on the same level of Westmount or Rosedale. This conception was also not without merit – given the relative financial health of the Villlage, value of real estate therein, and the powerful, wealthy, and influential individuals who called it home.

Following Ottawa’s annexation of significant portions of Nepean and Gloucester Townships (notably including Manor Park and Westboro), it appears that the level of anxiety and conflict increased. Once again, it would be the roads – and the differing visions and needs on either side of the boundary – that would be the location of the kerfuffle.

On May 1, 1953, the Citizen reported on Rockcliffe’s annual ratepayers’ meeting, at which then Clerk of the Privy Council, J.W. Pickersgill recommended that the “village should accept the city’s ‘most reasonable offer’ to rebuild Hemlock Road.” [2] Ottawa’s vision for it would be to lay a modern road with a concrete base topped with asphalt, the costs to be shared 50-50 with the Village. This would also match the similar improvements that were made to Hemlock between Birch and St. Laurent the previous year. [3] For their own part, Rockcliffe Council rejected what they saw as an extravagant project because it was expensive and, after all, Ottawa required such luxurious roadways for its own Ottawa Transportation Commission buses. Since Rockcliffe neither had nor wanted public transportation, a simpler and cheaper roadway is all that was required.

Future Mandarin or not, Pickersgill's argument fell on deaf ears.
Clerk of the Privy Council or not, Pickersgill’s argument initially fell on deaf ears.

Pickersgill pointed out that Rockcliffe’s reluctance to cooperate not only opened them up to retaliation by Ottawa (“Rockcliffe could be made to contribute to the proposed new Sussex Street bridges which were used regularly by Rockcliffe residents”), but that the Province would also cover half of their share. Village council was nevertheless unimpressed by the argument and suggested that since the village paid the full cost of Princess and Lisgar Roads (neither of which fell in the village), that it should not be their responsibility.

Nevertheless, it appears that the two municipalities were able to set aside their differences of opinion over the nature of the work to be done on Hemlock. [4] At least, with some help from the Carleton County Council.

     The Board reports that after considerable negotiation with the Village of Rockcliffe Park it has received a letter from the Clerk advising that the Council of Rockcliffe has agreed to bear 50% of the cost of the heavy type pavements on boundary roads known as Birch Ave. and Hemlock Road and that a bylaw has been passed by the Village for submission to the Minister of Highways and the Ontario Municipal Board for approval. In addition Rockcliffe is making application to the Municipal Board for approval of this expenditure under Section 661 of the Ontario Municipal Board Act. Whether the amount sought will be affected by the reduction in the Provincial Road Subsidy grant remains to be seen as the City of Ottawa is also affected by the reduction of the subsidy grant in its road work, the Board has invited Rockcliffe to join with it in approaching the Ontario Government with respect to the grant.

The Village of Rockcliffe Park was greatly assisted in arriving at its decision to co-operate with the City through the action of the County of Carleton Council in granting the Village a rebate of 75% of its payment to the County for road purposes.

Upon the satisfactory conclusion of the aforementioned procedures, the Board of Control will take steps to secure tenders for these pavement works.


(sgd.) CHARLOTTE WHITTON, Chairman,
J. POWERS. [5]

With an agreement in hand, the City moved quickly and accepted O’Leary’s Ltd.’s tender, which came in at $58,248. [6]

Interestingly enough, the merger of cities has not put an end to such arguments. When looking at the comments section of any article that concerns the construction of new infrastructure, the claim that “it does not benefit my neighbourhood so I shouldn’t pay [as much]” invariably comes up. In some ways the machinations of intermunicipal relations have just been replaced with inter-neighbourhood relations that are acted on at the amalgamated city councils.

[1] The “nightmare” did eventually come true in 2001 following decades of whispers, proposals, studies, and threats from Queen’s Park. For some discussion from the Rockcliffe point of view (noting the “reluctant bride” theme), see Edmond, Martha (2005). Rockcliffe Park: A History of the Village. Ottawa: The Friends of the Village of Rockcliffe Park, Chapter 9, pp. 139-43.
[2] “Boundary Roads Dispute Is Aired At Rockcliffe Ratepayers’ Meeting.” Ottawa Citizen. May 1, 1953. [1]
[3] In this case, the cost total cost of $88,000 was split between the city ($52,800) and the local property owners ($35,200). The contract was awarded to O’Leary’s Limited at their submitted tender price of $71,250. See Minutes of the Corporation of the City of Ottawa, 1952, June 16, 1952. [1]
[4] The City of Ottawa did seem to increase its efforts to compensate the Village of Rockcliffe for more of the costs associated with the boundary roads. see Minutes, November 17, 1952 [1], January 19, 1953 [1], and December 21, 1953. [1]
[5] Minutes of the Corporation of the City of Ottawa, 1953 (Volume 2). July 6, 1953, p. 939. [1]
[6] Minutes of the Corporation of the City of Ottawa, 1953 (Volume 2). September 8, 1953, p. 1158. [1]

Sharpshooters’ Ambulatory Memorial

Memories in bronze are also ambulatory.
Memories in bronze are also ambulatory.

In any number of ways, the 1885 Northwest (or Riel) Rebellion occupies something of an uneasy (when it’s not forgotten) space in Canadian history. Nevertheless, the Rebellion was one of the earliest opportunities that the young Dominion had to demonstrate some of its firepower and a number of cities erected memorials and statues dedicated to the event. In his classic standard Ottawa Old & New, Lucien Brault described the contribution as such:

When news of the Riel Rebellion reached Ottawa, military authorities ordered the formation of a volunteer militia corps in Canada. Ottawa’s quota was 53 sharpshooters, to be raised from the Governor General’s Foot Guards and the 43rd Regiment. The answer was so enthusiastic that names of volunteers had to be drawn. These soldiers served at the battle of Cut Knife Hill where the Indian Chief Poundmaker was defeated by Colonel Otter. During the action, two of the Ottawa Sharpshooters were killed. A monument on Elgin St., formerly at the entrance of Major Hill Park, commemorates their fait d’armes. [1]

The Ottawa Sharpshooters returning from the North West Rebellion, July 1885. Source: LAC, Topley Series E, MIKAN No. 3406961.
The Ottawa Sharpshooters returning from the North West Rebellion, July 1885. Photo taken at Smith’s Falls, ON. Source: LAC, Topley Series E, MIKAN No. 3406961.
Unveiling of the Sharpshooters' Memorial. November 1, 1888. Source: LAC, Topley Series E, MIKAN No. 3362496
Unveiling of the Sharpshooters’ Memorial. November 1, 1888. Source: LAC, Topley Series E, MIKAN No. 3362496

The Ottawa Company of Sharpshooters returned from the west in July 1885 and a fund was quickly begun in order to erect a monument to their achievement. By 1888, sufficient funds had been collected and that November, the new memorial was revealed at the entrance to Major’s Hill Park, where Chateau Laurier currently sits. Of course, the growing city did not have the luxury of keeping such a monument in what would become a central location and it was relocated in October of 1911 to make room for the hotel’s construction [2].

When raising funds for the statue, the band did not play on without pay. Perhaps they weren't quite as interested in the Rebellion as others.
When raising funds for the statue, the band did not play on without pay. Perhaps they weren’t quite as interested in the Rebellion as others. Source: Montreal Herald, October 8, 1888
The unveiling of the memorial was well-attended.
The unveiling of the memorial was well-attended. Source: LAC Topley Series F, MIKAN No. 3394679

The memorial was next placed on the grounds of Ottawa’s City Hall (constructed in 1877), just down Elgin, past the Russell House Hotel. That did not mark the end of the journey for the memorial, however. In 1931, City Hall burned down. [3] Although city hall was gone, the Sharpshooters’ memorial, along with the more recent Boer War statue, remained on site until the construction of the National Arts Centre began in 1965.

Sharpshooters' and Boer War memorials outside Ottawa City Hall.
Sharpshooters’ and Boer War memorials outside Ottawa City Hall. Source: LAC, Department of the Interior Photographic Records, Series OT (Ottawa), MIKAN Nos. 3359048 and 3359047.
Crews clearing the site located a medal. Source: Vancouver Sun, February 4, 1965.

Once again, the memorial had to move. Site preparations for the construction of the new Canadian Centre for the Performing Arts (now the National Arts Centre) began in 1964/65. When crews were removing the statues (to Confederation Park), a jar containing a commemorative medal and some paper was found in the base. [4] Both memorials remained at peace until 2006, when the Sharpshooters’ Memorial was moved across Laurier to rest outside of the Cartier Square Drill Hall. The Boer War memorial, however, remains in its more sylvan home at Confederation Park.

[1] Brault, Lucien (1946). Ottawa Old & New. Ottawa: Ottawa Historical Information Institute, pp. 164-5.
[2] Brault, Lucien. “The Sharp-shooters of 1885.” Ottawa Citizen, May 16, 1946. [1, 2, 3]
[3] Taylor, John H. (1986). Ottawa: An Illustrated History. Toronto: Lorimer, p. 99.
[4] “Jar Found Under Statue.” Vancouver Sun, February 4, 1965, p. 26. [1]

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.

Slanted and Enchanted

48 Crichton St
48 Crichton St
1902 Goad's Atlas (1912 Revision)
1902 Goad’s Atlas (1912 Revision)

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. [1] In the 1885 City Directory, McElroy was identified as a contractor, rather than a carpenter. [2] Perhaps a mark of success in business, McElroy vacated the premises and relocated to 68 Crichton. [3]

McElroy in the 1881 Ottawa City Directory. Earlier directories did not give the suburban areas the same street-by-street treatment as Ottawa proper.
McElroy in the 1881 Ottawa City Directory. Earlier directories did not give the suburban areas the same street-by-street treatment as Ottawa proper.

As sawdust is useful in the absorbing of liquids, Charles Garrow opened his butchery in 1886. [4] In 1891, William Short took over the butchery. [5] Short only remained on the scene for two years and in 1893, Charles Martel tried his hand at operating the butchery. [6] Similarly, Martel’s tenure in the building was short. It was taken over by John Gleeson in 1895. [7] 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. [8] By 1909, Adjutard (Adjutor) Bedard was operating the premises as a butchery, where he remained in business until the late 1920s. [9]

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.

[1] Report to Planning and Environment Committee, April 12, 2007.
[2] Ottawa City Directory, 1885, p. 344.
[3] Ottawa City Directory, 1886, p. 352.
[4] Ibid, p. 351.
[5] Ottawa City Directory, 1891-92, p. 83.
[6] Ottawa City Directory, 1893-94, p. 77.
[7] Ottawa City Directory, 1895-96,  p.79.
[8] Ottawa City Directory, 1901, p. 66. Note: I do not have city directories from 1902-1908.
[9] Ottawa City Directory, 1909, p. 63; Report to Planning and Environment Committee, April 12, 2007.

Development and its Discontents

Urban development – particularly when large-scale and rapid – had long been a cause of discomfort and difficulty for nearby residents and local government alike. One does not have to look much further than the local news to find examples of local opposition or tales of legal and political conflict, some falling to the feet of the Ontario Municipal Board or even the courts. When situated in the context of local government reorganization, annexation, and amalgamation, the growing pains have sometimes required a higher level of intervention from the province.

Ottawa Citizen: April 7, 1953
Ottawa Citizen: April 7, 1953

On April 6, 1953, Ottawa City Council agreed to request from the province a Commission of Inquiry into three specific developments that were near or recently completed. The three developments in question were a) Manor Park, b) Honeywell Farm, and c) “certain aspects of the Strathcona Heights development.” [1] A number of the concerns were, of course, familiar. The Honeywell subdivision (around Carlingwood) became problematic as “[the] people who had built single dwellings out there… had understood that they were building in a restricted area. Now, they were to have apartment housing facing them.” [2] In the case of both Manor Park and Honeywell Farm, development charges were in dispute.

Notice of Public Hearing
Notice of Public Hearing

The following month, the province appointed a lawyer from the St. Catharines area, M.A. Seymour, Q.C. to head up the commission. On May 16, a notice was published in the Citizen inviting any interested parties to attend and file documents. As scheduled, the hearings commenced on May 21. Testimony was opened up John Gillis, then proprietor of 75½ St. Laurent and the former Alderman Archibald Newman. Gillis presented to the commission to protest the expropriations the city undertook to make way for the subdivision. For his own part, Newman expressed disappointment that the developers of Manor Park had originally promised a more centrally-located shopping centre (bounded by Eastbourne, Braemore (Braemar), and Jeffry (Jeffrey) streets – where Mr. Gillis lived) but had since shuffled it off towards the east side of St. Laurent. A similar complaint was made about the Strathcona Heights development at Mann Avenue. Finally, Newman testified that there were tax irregularities associated with the expropriated parcels of land. [3] The allegations of irregularity of taxation (including Manor Park residents being over charged on their assessments for local improvement charges) would be what was most frequently reported and would come to be what ultimately resulted in the most explosive headlines. [4]

On November 30, Commissioner Seymour released his report. The headline in the Ottawa Journal was “Seymour Report: Urges $93,000 Cut For Manor Park” [5] while the Citizen ran with “Seymour OK’s Manor Park: Report Lauds Backers On Houses, Street Plan.” [6] The Journal summarized Seymour’s findings:

The report, prepared by Ontario-appointed special commissioner M.A. Seymour, QC, of St. Catharines [sic], after an exhaustive 12-day public probe of land development in Ottawa, also:

  1. Clears the Manor Park developers (chiefly A. W. Beament, QC, and R. Bruce Davis and their associates in various enterprises) of any “suspicious wrongdoing”.
  2. Compliments Mr. Beament and his associates on their excellence of their housing projects and the manner in which Manor Park was built up.
  3. Finds no justification for some of the criticisms made by Mayor Whitton in a report to city council last December 15 which gave rise to the probe.
  4. States the filing system of the City of Ottawa is “sadly in need of overhauling” and adds that if “full and correct information” had been available to the mayor from the files her report to council might have taken a different form.
  5. Strongly criticizes the board of control and city council of 1950 which permitted carrying our of expropriations in a manner in some cases illegal and in others legal but “harsh and arbitrary”.
  6. States that the city should be paid $578.42 by Manor Park developers in compensation for tax losses involved in certain expropriations.
  7. Shows that the pre-annexation Gloucester township council acted illegally in installing private water and sewer services from the street lines to the walls of the buildings in Manor Park.
  8. Charges the 1950 board of control with “slackness” for failure to conclude a formal agreement with Mr. Beament respecting the expropriations to be made.
  9. Terms “most unusual” and “improper” the action of the 1950 board of control and council in handing over to Mr. Beament’s law firm the conduct of the negotiations between the city and the expropriated owners.”
  10. Warmly commends the city’s new subdivision controls first applied in the Westwood (Honeywell farm) subdivision and states Ottawa is now following a “sound course”.
  11. Finds that a shopping centre was included in the original plans for the Mann avenue project (Strathcona Heights) but was eliminated when no chain store could be induced to locate there.

Of course, Seymour’s recommendations were just that: recommendations. It remained up to the City to act on them. I will explore the issue further at a later date.

[1] “City Council Asks Province To Probe Land Developments.” Ottawa Citizen. April 7, 1953, p. 6.
[2] Ibid.
[3] “Says Original Plans Not Followed In Home Project.” Ottawa Citizen. June 22, 1953, p. 16. [1, 2]
[4] “Asserts Mayor’s Charge Is Without Foundation.” Ottawa Citizen. June 24, 1953, p. 20. [1, 2]
[5] “Seymour Report: Urges $93,000 Cut For Manor Park.” Ottawa Journal. November 30, 1953, p.1. [1]
[6] “Seymour OK’s Manor Park.” Ottawa Citizen. November 30, 1953, p.1 [1, 2]

Chateau Charlot: Redux

The view from Whitton's front stoop today.
The view from Whitton’s front stoop today.

There is one thing that I neglected to mention in my discussion one of the chapters in the story of Robert Campeau and Charlotte Whitton. From 1926[1] until 1963, she lived at 236 Rideau Terrace, at the corner of Acacia Avenue.

Rooke & Schnell described Whitton’s new home:

Coincidental with this realization of professional ambition was the most of Whitton and Grier from their modest apartment on James Street into 326C[sic] Rideau Terrace, a charming lead-windowed house in an elegant and quiet neighbourhood near Government House. The home that the two women created was largely a reflection of Margaret’s tastes. While the study was Whitton’s domain, ‘elsewhere Margaret ruled.’ The furniture consisted of pieces of old French of exquisite design, a petit-pont stool, Irish candles in old brass, numerous china figurines from a variety of countries, and splashes of green potted ivy and indoor flowers, ‘and over it all a sense of muted color, a delicacy and daintiness, for Margaret’s favorite colour was pastel green, and in her bedroom … and in the living room the same softness.’ In contrast, Whitton’s study was cluttered with parliamentary papers, statutes, pamphlets, scrapbooks, numerous sharpened pencils for writing her drafts, and a library of 1,000 volumes, one-tenth of them about Elizabeth Tudor. Portraits of Elizabeth decorated the walls. and the queen’s death mask was kept on a shelf. [2]

Whitton and her partner, Margaret Grier, would spend more than twenty years living at the address together until 1947, when Grier passed away.

Whitton’s distaste for Campeau and his work was already well-established, and it may well have been that his successful move to construct the unwanted residential tower on her doorstep provided enough motivation for her to consider a change of scenery. In 1963[3] (the year the Towers was completed), Whitton decamped her house on Rideau Terrace and purchased a home at 1 Renfrew Avenue in the Glebe adjacent to Central Park. She remained there until her death in 1975.

When addresses were more public. Ottawa Citizen, April 1, 1958.
When addresses were more public. Ottawa Citizen, April 1, 1958.


[1] P.T. Rooke and R.L. Schnell (1987) No Bleeding Heart: Charlotte Whitton, A Feminist on the Right. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, p. 67.
[2] Ibid, pp. 67-8.
[3] Rooke & Schnell (1987) notes that it was 1967, while a number of other sources indicate the date to be 1963.

Then and Now: Timmins Daily Press

Here is a quick hit Then-and-Now from my hometown.

The Timmins Daily Press launched the Thomson Media empire.
The Timmins Daily Press (“Thomson Building”): c.1936 and c. 2010

In spite of passionate community opposition, the Timmins Daily Press (Thomson) building was demolished in 1997.

But in Thomson’s world, sentimentality can only be stretched so far. In Timmins, where father Roy got his start, some of the old-timers still fondly remember young Ken from his stint as a reporter in 1947, says Syl Belisle, publisher of the now Hollinger-controlled Timmins Daily Press. Thomson returned in 1984 to donate the old press building as a historic site to the city of Timmins. It later fell into disrepair and was demolished. But The Daily Press is thriving since the Thomsons sold it in 1996, Belisle says. “We’re bigger now. We’re up to 16 pages minimum. We’ve added more staff, new products. We’re even putting out a phone book.” There is still life after the Thomsons move on. [1]

Although the paper survived (and perhaps thrives) without the Thomson family, the physical history of their empire did not.

The words about Timmins were touching, the town and the paper, one would think, corporate icons. But the empire’s origins had already been extinguished by the bottom line.

Susan Goldenberg visited the isolated town in her researches in the ’80s and found the Press, by then a daily, in total disarray, the look of it Dickensian. Blue paint peeled off the newsroom walls, torn pieces of plastic served as window blinds, reporters in a computer age still pounded away at wounded typewriters. In 1996 the Timmins Daily Press passed out of the Thomson fold like a ship in the night, sold quietly with a group of expendables. If the queen of English-language journalism, the Times of London, couldn’t survive Thomson’s bottom-line economics, how could the Daily Press? Emotion paid fewer dividends than front-page sewer stories. The founding paper was dismissed without even a note in the corporation house organ, the Thomson News, which handled the obituary as part of the sale of 14 unnamed Canadian papers “east of Thunder Bay, Ontario.”

“They don’t have an emotional bone in their body,” says Bill Sternberg, Thomson’s former Washington bureau chief who now works at USA Today. Sternberg spent seven years building up the bureau, then saw it gutted in one night over dinner at the J.W. Marriott Hotel, the staff to be told in the morning. The Washington bureau is now down to two reporters, one writing for Thomson’s Arizona papers, the other for the Wisconsin group. “Just look at Timmins. They sure had enough money to have kept the paper for sentimental reasons. But they didn’t. They don’t have sentiment and they don’t have ideology. The ideology is dollars.”

By the time of the bureau upheaval, however, in January 1997, both the overarching Thomson Corp. and Thomson Newspapers had moved into a dramatically new corporate era.

Historically, the newspaper business has been remarkably recession-proof. Fortunes were made off screaming headlines during the Great Depression and, despite constant hand-wringing, the business had a Wall Street reputation for holding up throughout the periodic recessions since the end of the Second World War. The recession of the late `80s and early ’90s was startlingly different. [2]

Doubtlessly, an inglorious end to a building that deserved better.

[1] Sheppard, Robert. 2000. “A License to Print Money.” Maclean’s February 28, 2000.
[2] Prochnau, William. 1998. “In Lord Thompson’s Realm.” American Journalism Review. October 1998, pp. 45-61.

Fire Station No. 6

Sussex Ave (between Stanley and John) c. 1940 and 2013.
Sussex Ave (between Stanley and John) c. 1940 and 2013.

Ottawa’s built-up areas have undergone a rather dramatic transformation in the last few decades. Although most popular discussions may sound more like “I remember when those were fields” or “we used to play on those rocks”, there are a number of areas in Ottawa that were either returned to fallow or converted into park land. Lebreton Flats [1] is easily the most famous example and the former CFB Rockliffe (CFB Ottawa North) is the most recent notable example of what was once a settled part of the city being now (largely) deserted. Although it never did reach that extent and may not be considered to be the same, the three blocks along Sussex Drive between Stanley Avenue and MacKay St. are nevertheless considerably more verdant than they were a short forty years ago.

For long-time residents of New Edinburgh, this history is no secret. Once the site of numerous mills and other industrial activity, the neighbourhood of the Prime Minister, Embassies of France, South Africa, Spain, and Vietnam, and the Governor General is now almost entirely residential. There are numerous industrial, commercial, civic, and institutional organizations that once called this part of Ottawa home and I hope to explore them in turn. Today, however, I’d like to present a short discussion of Fire Station No. 6.

No. 6 Firehall - North Sussex
Fire Station No. 6

The Fire Station No. 6 that is pictured above and to the right was not the first version. The 1888 Goad’s Insurance Plan of Ottawa (1901 Revision) shows the No. 6 Fire Station at 37 Sussex, in between a confectionery and a hotel and sharing a block with the Ottawa Street Railway Company’s car shed and – at the time – stables, hay storage, and oat storage. I have yet to find an image of the original facility.

On July 25, 1907, a fire broke out at the W.C.Edwards & Co. factory and planing mill across the street. [2] The fire caused what was “conservatively estimated” to be $350,000 ($7.1 million+ today) in damage. [3] In addition to Edwards’ numerous facilities, the fire destroyed C.J. Neate’s grocery, Michael Foley’s Rideau Hotel, and the Blackburn Mica Factory. Fire Station No. 6 was also lost. This was not considered to be a major loss as, while it was in good condition, it was “one of the oldest, having been erected when New Edinburgh was annexed to the city.” [4]

1902 Goad’s Atlas (1912 Revision)

The 1902 Goad’s Insurance Plan of Ottawa (1912 Revision) shows that the new No. 6 Fire Station was enlarged considerably, taking over the nieghbouring lot formerly occupied by the Rideau Hotel.

It does not appear that the new station was designed with permanence in mind, however. Within the next couple of decades, the station was considered to be too small, ill-equipped [5], and in a location that rendered its ability to protect Ottawa from fires ineffective. [6] The 1929 Ottawa Sewer Explosion, which tore through the city along with the destruction by fire of City Hall in 1931 may have shown the inadequacy of the city’s emergency services and shortcomings of its political fragmentation. [7] Of course, it may also be understood that the Depression made such expenditures both politically and functional difficult.

A report in the Citizen appears to have implied that the fire Chief had been advocating for a new facility for some time. By 1935, the city had already secured permission from the Province to issue a $20,000 debenture ($340,000 today), pending the sale of the old station, in order to construct a replacement in a better location. [8] Discussions took place in the following year, with the potential site for the new No. 6 being on three city-owned lots at the corner of MacKay and Vaughan (precisely where it was constructed) being suggested by Alderman S.S. Slinn. [9]

With the election of a new City Council in 1936 [10], the Fire Department’s pleas for a new station began to gain more traction. [11] On September 1, 1937, the Board of Control, on the advice of Mayor J.E. Stanley Lewis, recommended that Council proceed with the issuance of a $20,000 debenture for that purpose. [12] The following week, City Council approved it themselves. [13] The Ontario Municipal Board approved the issuance of the debenture. Planning then commenced for the construction of the new Fire Station No. 6, at the corner of Mackay and Vaughan, as Council had discussed nearly two years prior. [14, 15]

Station for sale. Ottawa Evening Citizen – October 25, 1938 (Page 16)

While the previous condition of selling the now old No. 6 on Sussex was off the table, it nevertheless remained surplus and a potential source of revenue for the city. Unsurprisingly, the asset turned out to be difficult for the city to divest itself of. When Canada joined the Second World War on September 10, 1939, the Dominion Government began to construct and expropriate buildings across the city in support of the war effort. Perhaps sensing an opportunity, Controller Finley McRae recommended that perhaps the now empty No. 6 would be of use. Of course, the Dominion could have it, with the “same consideration and compensation given to any other city.” [16] As it would turn out, the Dominion would have a use for it: in the Spring of 1941, it became the new wartime headquarters of the No. 1 Ordnance Store Co., Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps Reserve Army. [17]

Once the war was over, the building was once again surplus. Once again, however, the building found a new purpose. The conversion from Fire Station to Ordnance Corps headquarters left it in better shape and potentially of more utility. On June 1, 1954, the Ottawa Valley Nursing Assistants Centre opened its doors. [18] Its mission was to alleviate the shortage of Nurses that existed in Ontario and train girls with only their Grade 8 certificate to become a Nursing Assistant. This would reduce the pressure on the Registered Nurses working in hospitals, nursing homes, and the VON. An article in the Ottawa Citizen characterized the facility as a “miniature hospital.” [19]

I have been unable to locate when the Nursing Assistants Centre closed its doors. It does not appear that it remained in the old fire house for long, however. Although it was still advertising in 1958, it appears that the Province abruptly cut funding to the facility. On September 9 of that year, Charlotte Whitton, using her column On Thinking It Over, pleaded for a stay of execution, characterized the move as “drastic“, and concluded with a suggestion that it was a poor political move “with an Ontario electing in the offing and Her Majesty coming and all.” [20] It seems that the two classes which were in progress were able to complete, and during that time, there may have been some reconsideration as additional classes graduated.

1956 Fire Insurance Map

By 1965, however, most of the lot had been cleared.

Aerial Image (1965) Source: City of Ottawa (http://maps.ottawa.ca/geoottawa/)
Aerial Image (1965)
Source: City of Ottawa (http://maps.ottawa.ca/geoottawa/)


[1] Jenkins, Phil (1996). An Acre of Time. Toronto: Macfarlane, Walter, and Ross.
[2] “Early Morning Blaze at Edwards’ Mill Costs $350,000.” Ottawa Citizen. July 25, 1907, p. 1. (Part 1, 2, 3, and 4).
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] “Court Costs Of Sewer Explosion Case $7,501.72.” Ottawa Citizen. May 30, 1934, p. 4.
[6] “Fire Chief Sees Parking Danger On Sparks Now.” Ottawa Evening Citizen. February 6, 1935, p. 1.
[7] Taylor, John H. (2001). “Engineering, audit, and fire: Governance and modernity in depression Ottawa,” in Keshen, Jeff; St-Onge, Nicole. Ottawa: Making a Capital. University of Ottawa Press. pp. 333–345.
[8] “Con. Lewis Secures Action On Scheme, Engineers to Report.” Ottawa Citizen. July 17, 1935, p. 4.
[9] “Proposed as Site for New No. 6 Fire Station.” The Evening Citizen. December 15, 1936, p. 9.
[10] Taylor (2001), pp. 344-45.
[11] “Sons Replace Fathers Who Are Incapacitated On City Fire Brigade.” Ottawa Evening Citizen. May 5, 1937, p. 5.
[12] “Board Recommends Debenture to Build New Fire Station.” Ottawa Citizen. September 1, 1937, p. 5.
[13] “Council Approves Pension Fund For Staff of Library.” Ottawa Citizen. September 8, 1937, p. 5.
[14] “Discuss Plans For New Fire Station To Replace No. 6.” Ottawa Evening Citizen. February 22, 1938, p. 18.
[15] I intend to discuss the construction and tenure of the New New No. 6 at a later date.
[16] “Asks Have Government Pay for All Buildings.” Ottawa Evening Citizen. October 27, 1939, p. 13.
[17] “Mobilizing Field Park Units For Active Duty.” The Evening Citizen. March 12, 1941, p. 17.
[18] “Nursing Assistants Train In Old Fire Hall.” Ottawa Citizen. June 10, 1954.
[19] Mackay, Jeanne. “Nursing Assistants’ Course Opens Door To Wider Field.” Ottawa Citizen. January 6, 1956, p. 24.
[20] Whitton, Charlotte. “To Ontario’s Health Minister.” Ottawa Citizen. September 9, 1958. (Part 1 and 2).

Then & Now: Brewers’ Retail

Front: 1958 and 2013

Located at 1860 Bank, the Brewers’ Retail warehouse and retail outlet was completed in 1958 and its design is credited to John B. Parkin & Associates.

As the organization’s warehouse and distribution centre, it was served by CP Rail’s Prescott Subdivision.

Then somewhat isolated along Bank St. and south of Walkley, the facility was sometimes an attractive target for theft.

Joyriding and stolen beer.
Not a well-replicated shot, but the idea is there.

It remains a Beer Store outlet to this day, while the warehousing facility has since been moved out to 2750 Swansea Cr.

Putman Quadruplets

69-81 Putman Avenue.
69-81 Putman Avenue.

These four six-plexes, located at 69, 73, 77, and 81 Putman Avenue, were erected some time around 1949-50. In May of 1949, an L. Beaudoin was issued a building permit by the City of Ottawa for $112,000 (approximately $1.125 million today). The June 11, 1949 edition of the Ottawa Citizen, reporting on Ottawa’s postwar housing boom, noted that the 207 building permits totaling $2,067,501 were issued that year – the highest since 1922.

As with most of Ottawa, the postwar housing boom re-shaped the city both quickly and dramatically and the development of housing along Putman Avenue, while much less grand, may be considered indicative. Between 1902 and 1922, for instance, aside from laying the street itself, very little activity took place. Indeed, during the mid-1930s, it was a nice place to pick flowers. By 1956, however, numerous apartments had been constructed.

1956 Fire Insurance Map

In addition to the apartments pictured above, some of 1949’s construction highlights included:

  • an addition to the Oblate’s Main Street Seminary on Main ($500,000);
  • addition to the Coliseum at Lansdowne ($383,855);
  • renovations to the Bank of Nova Scotia at 121 Rideau St. ($125,000);
  • renovations to the Dominion Bank at 214 Sparks St ($300,000); and
  • an addition to the Lady Evelyn School at 63 Evelyn Ave. in Old Ottawa East ($166,336).
68-81 Putman

The most significant and dramatic changes to the hilly terrain between Purman Avenue and Rideau Terrace were still to come, however. In a later post, I’ll discuss Robert Campeau’s Champlain Towers (which loom over the neighbourhood) and Springfield Mews (which replaced Charles Craig & Son Greenhouses).