Back in March, I transcribed the list of apartment buildings from the 1945 Might’s Directory of the City of Ottawa and ran some minor analysis of the proportion of apartment buildings in each of Ottawa’s neighbourhoods. I decided to jump ahead to 1955, as a massive transition in the Canadian housing market was well underway.
If you’ve run into me lately, you were doubtlessly entreated to some words about apartment buildings in Ottawa. I can’t help it, the topic has been rolling around in my mind for a decade or so.
Note: as with any new toy, it will be used a fair amount more than it strictly necessary at first. That is, since I finally found a footnote tool that I like, I can finally add notes to these stories. Once the novelty wears off, I’m sure that I will use them more sparingly.
Business, such as it is, can either seem to be eternal or ephemeral. It sometimes feels that a business will last a century if it can last a year. Of course, the space a business occupies can also be as permanent or as fleeting. 680 Bank, at the south west corner of Bank and Clemow in The Glebe, has definitely seen its share of both types. To boot, both before and after the occupation of its longest-lasting tenant (Olympic Sport Shop, at nearly 40 years), this little-storefront-that-could has not once – but twice – served as temporary quarters for a Bank Street neighbour ravaged by fire.
Occasionally, a parcel of land will remain vacant long after those around it have been constructed on and the south west corner of Bank and Clemow is one of them. Plans come and go, but issues in timing, the raising of capital, or just plain lack of desire may see the lot remain empty. This lot, at least at one point, was coveted by a small consortium of local builders that had hatched a plan to construct a $200,000 apartment building. Just another example of unbuilt Ottawa.
This small building at 680 Bank Street in The Glebe first appeared in the Ottawa City Directories in 1948 as an office for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA). 1It has been somewhat difficult to reconcile the advertisements which appear in the local news papers with the record in the City Directories. While there do appear to be discrepancies between the advertisements published in the local papers and the listings in the directories, it would seem that company advertisements would be the more accurate of the two. This arrangement did not last long, however. This was probably due to the completion of the Veterans’ Memorial Building (East Memorial Building) in 1949 – allowing the number of small DVA offices around the city to be placed under a single roof.
On January 26, 1950, a large fire broke out up the street at 394 Bank causing an estimated $400,000 damage. 2It wasn’t even the first electrical fire that the building faced. During the summer of 1945, a short in the fuse panel in the National Labour Hall rendered the residents in the apartments on the third floor homeless. One of those residents was Mrs. Britton, whose husband Lionel was overseas at the time. In addition to leaving 10 homeless, a number of businesses also found themselves without a premises. Three of the businesses were destroyed in their entirety by the fire: the Colonial Art Glass Company, United Refrigeration, and most relevant to this story, the Canadian Tire Associate Store. 3CCB Electric Works, the Burroughs Adding Machine Company, and the National Labour Hall received considerable smoke and water damage The cause of the fire, as reported by Ottawa’s Fire Prevention Bureau, was a short circuit in Canadian Tire’s neon sign. Like most neon signs, it contained a 15,000 volt transformer and the short heated the wires enough to melt the metal covering. 4Ottawa Journal, January 27, 1950, pp. 1, 16. The Fire Prevention Bureau was established by the Ottawa Fire Department in 1914.
Of the businesses rendered homeless, it seems that none were more popular than the Canadian Tire Associate Store. Established in 1935 by business partners Ed Leroy and Malcolm MacNish, the store quickly outgrew its first premises at 398 Bank and by 1939, it had moved to the much larger storefront at 394 Bank.
Following the destruction of the store in 1950, Leroy & MacNish moved quickly to find a temporary location from which to conduct business. The chosen location was none other than the recently-vacated premises at 680 Bank. The reason why it was a temporary location is because plans had already been made for the construction of a larger modern store. The Canadian Tire Corporation purchased a lot at the corner of Laurier and Kent from the Kirby Realty Co. for $30,000 back in February of 1945.
As the flames ravaged the location at 394 Bank, the wheels (tires?) were already in motion. A new store was indeed in the offing. One that would see the company step confidently into the new dawn of the postwar period (or at least, so the ad copy claimed). The modern 21,000 square foot store at Kent and Laurier opened on July 5, 1952. The event was marked by the presence of acting Mayor L.L. Coulter and every customer that passed through was given a free “Spanish style Gaucho hat.”
While occupying 680 Bank, it was quite clear that the premises was much too small for the popularity of the store. At only 3,200 square feet, Leroy and MacNish found themselves dealing with lineups out the door, no parking, and angry customers who showed their dissatisfaction by discarding their spent oil filters and tires nearby.
Of course, the Canadian Tire story in Ottawa continued further, with the opening of another store in Westboro two years later. Leroy continued with the Kent store while MacNish set sail for the Westboro location.
Following the departure of Canadian Tire in the Summer of 1952, the little building was once again put to use for federal government purposes: this time for the Department of Fisheries. As with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs before it, I am not certain about the function that the small office served for them. Once again, the Crown did not need the building for long and was gone by 1958. 5Though a small handful of advertisements in the Journal list Budget Motor Sales being at 680 Bank, the business was located at the back of the lot and had an address of 684 Bank. The 1956 fire insurance map shows the layout with 680 Bank as a Department of Fisheries warehouse and 684 Bank as a small structure at the back of the lot.
The next tenant in the space was the Ottawa Rehabilitation Institute. The Institute was formed at the end of 1957 by the Welfare Council of Ottawa in order to provide rehabilitation services to Ottawans with physical disabilities. The Rehabilitation Centre did not remain there for long either. By 1967, it had formed a partnership with the Royal Ottawa and occupied some space there before moving to its own premises on Meadowlands.
A Glebe institution, Olympic Sports Shop was established by Karl Havelcik in 1952 and quickly moved to 753 Bank Street. While the Olympic shop began as a smoke shop with sports equipment being sold on the side, Havelcik, who had experience selling sports equipment in his native Vienna, developed a solid reputation in sports equipment. In addition to a mixture of high quality and low prices, Havelcik’s business was doubtlessly bolstered by his high level of community involvement as a popular soccer coach.
Olympic’s grand opening took place on October 26, 1967 and it quickly solidified as one of the Glebe’s favourite destinations for sporting goods.
In 2006, after nearly 40 years in that location and 55 years in business, Olympic closed its doors for good. While a number of plans were floated (including for an Irish Pub), the next to open was Pannier, a food shop. The Pannier then closed in 2008.
Once again, it was time for 680 Bank to be an obliging neighbour. In April 2009, the Tommy & Lefebvre, again up the street at 464 Bank, burned. While they were rebuilding, they conducted business at 680. By September of that same year, Kunstadt Sports 6Kunstadt appears to have been established in or around 1992. At least, that’s the first citation I was able to locate in the Ottawa Citizen‘s archives. took over and refurbished the space and has been there since. They are doubtlessly building the same relationship with The Glebe that Olympic did before it.
|↥ 1||It has been somewhat difficult to reconcile the advertisements which appear in the local news papers with the record in the City Directories. While there do appear to be discrepancies between the advertisements published in the local papers and the listings in the directories, it would seem that company advertisements would be the more accurate of the two.|
|↥ 2||It wasn’t even the first electrical fire that the building faced. During the summer of 1945, a short in the fuse panel in the National Labour Hall rendered the residents in the apartments on the third floor homeless. One of those residents was Mrs. Britton, whose husband Lionel was overseas at the time.|
|↥ 3||CCB Electric Works, the Burroughs Adding Machine Company, and the National Labour Hall received considerable smoke and water damage|
|↥ 4||Ottawa Journal, January 27, 1950, pp. 1, 16. The Fire Prevention Bureau was established by the Ottawa Fire Department in 1914.|
|↥ 5||Though a small handful of advertisements in the Journal list Budget Motor Sales being at 680 Bank, the business was located at the back of the lot and had an address of 684 Bank. The 1956 fire insurance map shows the layout with 680 Bank as a Department of Fisheries warehouse and 684 Bank as a small structure at the back of the lot.|
|↥ 6||Kunstadt appears to have been established in or around 1992. At least, that’s the first citation I was able to locate in the Ottawa Citizen‘s archives.|
Yesterday, being the beautiful day that it was, I went out for a walk. Oh sure, there were book sales and a fantastic brunch at the Rochester Pub, but there was sunshine and a million things to shoot. To say the least, the case was successfully made for me to spring for a Juicepack. Here are three homes that I took shots of while on my walk, ordered from the Confederation era to today.
Nineteenth Century (c. 1867)
Although there has been some disagreement as to the actual date this handsome stone home at 92 Stanley (at Union) in New Edinburgh, there is none that it’s a great representation of the earlier stone homes that were constructed in the community. As MacLeod purchased the lot from the McKay Estate in 1867, that date appears to be the accepted one now. Some sources have suggested c. 1850, however. According to the city directories available for the time, Dougal McLeod (also sometimes spelt “McCloud” and in later sources, “MacLeod”) was a miller and one time foreman in McKay’s New Edinburgh mills.
As much as it may have been a solid middle-class existence, working in the mills was not without its own set of risks. McLeod passed away at 53 on April 25, 1883 due to the all-too-common occupational hazard of Stonecutters’ Disease of the Lungs (Silicosis). He was buried at the nearby Beechwood Cemetery.
Following the death of her husband, Jane McLeod moved into the smaller home behind. The house was then occupied by another McKay foreman named G.A. French.
As New Edinburgh was in the early days of its sort of renaissance as the leafy and generally well-heeled neighbourhood that it is today (with the demolition of most non-residential elements being rapidly completed), the restoration and preservation of the MacLeod House was worthy of celebration. This piece from the March 21, 1970 edition of the Ottawa Journal gives a run down of the subsequent owners/occupants. It appears that it received its plaque in 1992.
Twentieth Century (c. 1935)
Later on during the day, as I was making my way to the book sale at First Avenue Public School, I happened across this beautiful double on First Avenue.
Admittedly, I haven’t been able readily locate a specific date of construction or an architect/builder. The west end of The Glebe (along Bronson) underwent a construction boom beginning in the early-mid-1930s and a number of builders were present. What I was able to locate, however, was its first resident: the ever-popular Dominion Church organist, Allanson G.Y. Brown. Brown was born in York, UK in 1902 and arrived in Canada in 1932. As a young man in England, it was patently clear that he had a knack for ecclesiastical music, replacing his parish organist in York during the First World War.
It appears that Brown was quite a frequent traveller back to to the United Kingdom. A number of records documenting his entries and exits are available at Ancestry.ca. If I were less frugal, I’d have sprung for the global access package, rather than the Canada-only one that I have.
Shortly after his arrival in 1932, he set down to work as the organist at Dominion United Church.
Of course, that was not going to pay all the bills, nor was it going to challenge him musically. The following year, he also began to offer lessons “keen students.”
After nearly eight years of service, he was elected as the chairman of the Ottawa Centre branch of the Canadian College of Organists.
Brown remained in Ottawa until the mid-1950s when he departed for Leamington, ON. His arrangements would actually go on to be used in services all over the continent.
He also won a number of prizes and accolades for his work.
Twenty-first Century (2010)
In the spirit of acknowledging that the privacy standards we operate on today are significantly different than they were in the past, I will refrain from the sort of discussion above. I will say that this modern home, constructed about four years ago is a real beauty and I appreciate it greatly every time I happen to walk past. In this case, it was on Saturday morning on my way to the Rockcliffe Park Library’s annual spring book sale. Always a real treat.
This is where a little bit of the historical fun comes in. Building Permit No. 907454 was issued in 2009 for the construction of a home at 203 North River Road. The contractor on the file was the award-winning G.M. (Guy) French Construction. If you’ll remember from above, following the death of Dougal McLeod, one G.A. French took up residence in the home at 92 Stanley. Before the Vanier Parkway was completed, North River used to be joined with Charlevoix and Mackay and was the road into New Edinburgh from Hurdman’s.