Retail & Commercial

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.

Civic & Infrastructure

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 (
Aerial Image (1965)
Source: City of Ottawa (


[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).