Built in 1909, the Warrington Apartments is one of the city’s older apartments and one of the oldest at the southern end of Elgin street.
In 1991, City of Ottawa planners travelled the streets of Centretown, cameras in hand, documenting the neighbourhood’s built heritage. Since I will be speaking for five minutes tonight at Heritage Ignite! about how Elgin street has inspired my love for Ottawa’s history, I figured that it would be nice to share some of those images. They were sourced from Accession 2009.0453.1 at the City of Ottawa Archives.
Last year, when I wrote a brief piece about the Kenniston, I neglected to include a photograph of the dining hall that was a feature.
Recently, on the Lost Ottawa Facebook group, an individual named Ronald Temchuk shared some photographs of Elgin street from the early 1980s. It’s not just because I’m a very happy Elgin resident that these stood out to me: I’ve written stories in the past about a few of these places (with many more in the hopper).
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.
About a year ago, when I wrote about the tragic experience of Ottawa’s Miss Harmon, I intended to continue and write about the subsequent development of this busy corner of Centretown. As it would turn out, the use of 171 MacLaren for educational purposes did not end with Miss Harmon’s suicide.
You may remember last fall when I wrote about the early beginnings of the Mayflower Restaurant at the south east corner of Elgin and Cooper streets. A legendary place of local communion in its own right, the Mayflower served its last in October and closed. Over the ensuing winter and spring, behind hoarding, the storied diner and pub (along with the neighbouring tailor) were transformed into Deacon Brodie’s pub.
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.