Thursday, July 2, 2020

The McKellar Golf Course - A Five-Part Series

It's perhaps the topic I'm asked most about, and certainly the one that newer residents of the neighbourhood express the most shock over. There are few who remain who experienced it, and to tell the story now sounds more like folklore, but it's true... Fully half of the McKellar Park neighbourhood was once a golf course!

I've promised for years to do a thorough history of the old golf course, and I've chipped away at researching it for a long time. The Covid lockdown has given me extra time to really dig in, and so I've finally put together a lot of research and investigation to tell the full story.

Up until now, there has been a couple of things written on the golf course. Joe McLean of Flagstick Magazine brought the whole story out of the attic in 2008 with his great article on the course, complete with a well-labelled old aerial map showing the location of each hole, and a description of each as well. Bob Grainger when he wrote 'Early Days' for Kitchissippi Times before me, did a great follow-up article as well in 2014.

But other than those two articles, there is precious little about the course online, and certainly a major dearth of photos.

Readers of this site know that my articles usually aren't short. I've put out some pretty long columns here over the last 5+ years, as I love detail, and try not to leave anything out. When I write for the Times, I restricted to a word count, so I cover only the critical points to tell the story. With the Museum, I can include anything I want, and usually try to build up the article with as many photos, newspaper articles, maps, etc. to help tell the full story. Can the history of a street, building or topic really ever be TOO long?

For the purposes of covering the McKellar golf course properly, I've decided to split it into five articles. Partly due to length. Also that it will allow me to get the pieces out individually over time, and not have to wait for the full thing to be finished. I should have the first part up within the next few days, and hope to have the full five parts published all within July. I'm still chasing down a few photographs and interviews, so it's possible that I may stretch a little into the summer, but I'll do my best to get them all up soon.

The five parts I've decided on are:
Part One: McKellar Park background, beginnings, and the general history of the Club
Part Two: The course layout and club boundaries
Part Three: The clubhouse and other buildings
Part Four: The Hall of Fame (Names/Faces, Winners, Holes-in-One, etc.)
Part Five: The closure of the Course & its many proposed & rumoured futures

For this series, I've had a lot of help in putting it together. I'm especially grateful to David Jeanes of Heritage Ottawa for his help in putting exact addresses to the course layout (and creating a kind of walking tour of the original course), Dr. Bruce Elliott for sharing some of his original research, and many others I've spoken with and interviewed.

I'm really excited to share this history, and bring the full story of the McKellar Golf Course to life. I hope you enjoy this series.

In the meantime, if you are reading this and have any suggestions/contributions on the subject, I would definitely love to hear from you. If you have any old photographs, momentos, memories, etc. of the course, or have a tip on who might, please let me know asap! You can contact me directly at daveallston@rogers.com.

Thanks all!


Friday, May 29, 2020

The end of a chapter in Kitchissippi: The motel/auto court era nears a close

The Kitchissippi Times is not publishing print editions of its newspaper this month, but we still have a digital edition. And I'm proud to share my column from this month, on a topic I initially thought might be a bit dry, but it ended up being a pretty interesting subject.

In the article, I explore the history of traveler/tourist accommodation in the Kitchissippi neighbourhood, and how it has paralleled the developments and shifts in North American transportation over the last century and a half. From the first inn on Richmond Road in 1864, through rough tavern hotels, prohibition, auto courts and cabinets, motels and large commercial hotels, Kitchissippi has experienced it all.

The article has a ton of vintage photos, and lots of info. Have a read at:
https://kitchissippi.com/2020/05/25/early-days-checking-out-motels-hotels-and-the-end-of-a-historic-era/

vintage Richmond Plaza photo circa 1960

Missed the scoop

Just a short post today, of a random article I stumbled on which I had to share. From the Citizen, June 2 1925:


Of course, Island Park Drive was never to have this name. I can only imagine a Citizen reporter misheard the name at the meeting and wrote it up as such. Or perhaps someone with a strong French accent told him the new name?  :)

Friday, May 8, 2020

1955 photo of a funeral in a home

Yes, this post has a real click-bait title, I apologize! But it is a strange photo that I came across, and thought was worth a quick share (and it's been a little while since I made a post, so why not). It isn't Kitchissippi related either, but still worth sharing.

So here is the photo:

October 10, 1955
(City of Ottawa Archives, CA-34667)

The photo is sourced from the City of Ottawa Archives website. The City Archives is a great place to go for random photo searching. They have millions of photographs, the bulk of which are largely uncatalogued. And only a tiny percentage digitized. It's a monumental task for them to go through everything they have, and digitize it. An impossible one really. The reason being is that they are, naturally, the repository for large photo collections from places like the Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Journal, City of Ottawa files, donated collections, family albums, etc. But of course they don't have the staff to catalog it all and get it digitized. Plus, a lot of it is not well labeled. They might have a box of envelopes of negatives from the Ottawa Journal from April 1973. All of the photos taken by Journal photographers that month. Each envelope has between 1 to as many as 50 negative slips (like the kind we used to get when we had our photos developed at a store in the 80s/90s). But typically the envelope will only say the date, and a few words to describe its contents. It might say "feature" or "Christmas party Chateau Laurier" or "hockey Civic Centre". The Journal used the photos for the next day's edition, then filed the envelope away. Dozens of great old photos sit on those negatives, but the details, the names, etc. are nowhere. This is not a criticism of the Archives. As I mentioned, it is just a monumental task to get these beyond a needle-in-a-haystack kind of search.

So it is from these collections, where a photo like the above comes from. The Citizen photo archives yielded this photo, and a couple of years ago the City Archives did have a project team digitize a year or so's worth of photos from the Citizen photo archives. A sampling of one photo from each envelope basically. The subjects are all over the place, but typically things that the newspaper would be interested in covering - sporting events, car crashes, award ceremonies, ribbon cuttings, new construction, etc. Some valuable stuff for sure that thankfully hasn't been discarded.

So within the pile of photos they digitized was this photo, and to me it only raises the question why the photo was taken in the first place. I've hunted through most of the negative archives, and I can assure you that funeral photos are uncommon. The person who died wasn't a particularly important person, and the funeral occurred in a normal way, without incident. So why the photo, who knows?

However, I am glad it exists, because it gives a small glimpse into how death was handled back in a previous era, one which isn't that long ago. It was only in the middle of the century where funeral homes began operating. It is of course common to have the preparation of the body, the visitation and service at a place like Tubman's or Kelly's. But for many years, some of that would occur in a private home, typically the home of the deceased. The undertaker would remove the body, prepare it for burial, place it in a casket, then return it to a prepared room in the person's home for the visitation and funeral.

In this case, the room has been decorated with an incredible amount of flowers. A wall of flowers. The casket has been placed next to the piano, and two sitting chairs placed right in front. Trying to imagine dozens if not hundreds of visitors making their way through the room seems crazy. 

A random snapshot in time, from 65 years ago, of something so common then, but so foreign now. A rare view into something like this, where photos just weren't commonly taken (of course a generation or two prior, it was very common to take photos of the deceased themselves! If you want an unsettling internet read, Google Victorian era post-mortem photography).

As for the deceased in this photo, it was the former Florence May McCandlish, married name Mrs. George C. Birnie, of 195 Gladstone Avenue, who passed away at age 72. The photo was taken on October 10th, 1955. Her husband George Birnie was noted in a newspaper in 1961 as having made 55 trips across the Atlantic in his life. He was one of Ottawa's biggest early proponents of soccer in the late 1800s and early 1900s. He died in 1962. This was the brief summary of the funeral written in the Citizen the day after (a common thing for the paper to report on):

Ottawa Citizen, October 12, 1955

Meanwhile the home at 195 Gladstone, where the funeral occurred, no longer exists. It was one of several along Gladstone expropriated for the widening of Gladstone from 30 to 60 feet east of Bank Street in the early 1960s. 

A neat random old photo. Every picture tells a story...  

Monday, April 27, 2020

The end of an era: Goodbye 210 Cowley Avenue

Here on the Museum, I've recently mourned the loss of the O'Neil House (formerly Bella's) on Richmond Road near Island Park Drive, and just this week 89 Richmond a little further to the west. But there is one pending demolition in the neighbourhood which is going to hit a million times harder.

This is an issue facing many of us, and sadly increasingly so with the growing number of fine old homes in our neighbourhood being torn down for typically no reason other than the financial greed of developers. Streets are changing so quickly, that it almost feels out of control, and I get the sense from many that they wish so much to be able to stop it, but feel helpless to do so. The recent overturning of the City's ruling on infill on Roosevelt Avenue in Westboro by the LPAT (former OMB) makes things even worse. Neighbourhood planning studies are out the window, and anyone is afraid to even ask the question - can it get worse? Because I think we all fear that it even can. Yet many of us yearn to take a step back from where things are at now - and sadly there is little optimism to be felt. This can almost make you feel like you're watching a relative suffering and dying, while the antidote sits on the bedside table ignored. We want so badly to grab it and quickly cure our pained family member, but it's impossible. And maybe this is a bit of an extreme analogy, but I know there are a lot of people sad to see the charm and character of Westboro, Hintonburg, Mechanicsville, Champlain Park, etc. slowing slipping away, with no one with influence seemingly willing or able to stop it. It hurts.

The house I'm writing about today will leave me with the feelings of loss when it is torn down. However it doesn't actually quite fit into the scenario described above. My grandparents old home on Cowley Avenue has probably lived its full life. It's still a well-built and beautiful house, at least on the inside for sure (and beautiful on the outside, at least to me!). But it's old, and small, and with the property values in Champlain Park sky high, I understand why it needs to go. I can't say for sure who the developer is, or what their intention is. It doesn't really matter to me in this case, because it's my grandparents house. My second home for almost my entire life. My mind's eye mental picture of Cowley Avenue, of Champlain Park, immediately conjures up an image of this house. And probably always will.


This house at 210 Cowley Avenue, as many of our parents and grandparents homes are, was a happy place for me, in a childhood that was so fortunately full of happy places. When I was a tot, we lived just two doors down, so I basically lived in three backyards (with apologies to the Lecompte family in between!). My parents never once in my life had to hire a neighbourhood babysitter. My grandparents were always happy to have me, and I loved being at their house too. Particularly when they had an above-ground pool installed around the time I was starting kindergarten!

My grandparents, Ted and Jean Sauve, were well-known in the neighbourhood. Characters of the "old" Champlain Park that is slowly disappearing. My grandma was known for her kind heart and generosity to all in the neighbourhood; there were many kids on the street who thought of her as a bonus grandma I think. But my grandpa was the real character of 210 Cowley Avenue. He retired too early (so said my parents) and so he had many years of strolling the street, usually with his dog Dinah, chatting to anyone and everyone, always willing to help with anything he could. If he wasn't walking the streets, he was sitting on the small front porch, watching the neighbourhood pass by. He called himself the "neighbourhood watch", but I'm not sure how effective he was - my family loves to joke about the time he watched the aforementioned Lecompte family's home get emptied out by burglars while my grandpa sat and watched, assuming it was a hired moving or junk removal company.

My grandparents arrived on Cowley Avenue in the era where you purchased your home, moved in, and that was it. That was your home for life, where the kids grew up and left, where you spent your retirement. And it truly was that home for them. They never knew any other home, not even (thankfully) a long term care or senior home for them. 210 Cowley was it, for 48 years (1962 to 2010).

The house stands out now as a small old house in a vastly changing neighbourhood of massive singles and semis, a complete change over the last 20-30 years, the likes of which I doubt any other neighbourhood in the city has experienced. It makes sense, I get it. The proximity to central Ottawa, to the River, to the NCC lands and bike/ski paths, the transitway/LRT, Tunneys, etc. It's very appealing. Super walkable, gorgeous features, very friendly people. You can see why land values exploded and demand went sky high.

The history of Champlain Park is very unique (to be told in detail someday), but essentially, it started life as a resort village for residents of Ottawa, with seasonal cottages and camp grounds that were very popular as a summer escape from the city. Almost all of the first structures built on its streets were small cottages, which later had to be converted to accommodate electricity, then water, and finally year-round living. There are still some of these early cottages left. 10 years ago there were many. Soon there won't be any.

My grandparents house doesn't quite fit into that category. It doesn't date back to the cottage era. It was, however, built to fit in to the area at the time it was constructed, in 1947.

Herbert and Edith Williams were a couple in their mid-50s who acquired the vacant lot on Cowley in February of 1946 for $300 from Nepean Township (it had previously been surrendered due to unpaid taxes), took out a mortgage for $3,400 in June of 1947, and had 210 Cowley Avenue built.

Herbert was employed as a letter carrier with the Post Office. They lived in the house with their son James, who was a draftsman with the Alex Fleck Company, and eventually his wife, the former Marion June Spence who he married in April of 1950. The couple then had a daughter in January of 1951, making it a pretty busy house, being just a small 2 bedroom.

Ottawa Citizen, April 17, 1950

The Williams family remained in the house until about the Spring of 1962, when Herbert and Edith moved out to Victoria, BC, where their daughter Betty was living.

The house was put up for sale, and my grandparents purchased the house for $12,500 on April 27th, 1962. Amazingly, my grandfather kept the original real estate listing sheet from way back then!



210 Cowley was the first (and only) house they ever owned. My grandparents raised their two children here, my Mom and Uncle, who were of course just kids when the family moved in. Being just a two bedroom provided a challenge once they got a little older, so my grandfather walled off the dining room (essentially about half the downstairs) and created a third bedroom.

My grandfather and a neighbour circa 1970?

The location of the house was ideal for my grandpa, who worked at the CPR yards and Roundhouse at Bayview, just down Scott Street. However, it closed in the mid-60s, and instead he was transferred out to work on trains at the National Research Council at Uplands.

My grandfather Ted Sauve, circa early-1970s

One of the life highlights my grandparents used to always talk about was when MP for Ottawa West, Lloyd Francis, attended their 25th Anniversary party, held in the basement, in 1974. Here is a photo from that event:


And of course, here are some photos of how I best remember 210 Cowley, and my grandparents (and Dinah), sitting on the front porch in the early 1990s:





My grandpa died back just before Christmas of 2009 (sadly just a month before my first son was born), and my Grandma a year later in November of 2010 (so happy she got to meet him, and shared the first year of his life), and then the house was sold out of the family.

It was occupied by tenants over the last 8-9 years, until it was sold last fall (2019). The owner Jim Cocks, very kindly gave me the opportunity to have one final walk through in November before it transferred to the new buyers. It was kind of neat to walk through the house I'd spent so much time in through my life, but it sure felt different than it used to. It was definitely not as as sad as my final walk-through back in 2011 when it was sold. That was a tough day. Last fall, there were a few remnants of my grandparents in the house, most notably my grandpa's workbench!

Basement of 210 Cowley, November 3, 2019

I can't find any permits or plans posted on the internet yet, so I don't know what the future holds. The house has been vacant since the tenants moved out in the fall (obviously so, with no curtains up, and clearly nothing inside).

[Edit 4pm 28 April 2020: I was informed this afternoon that indeed there indeed is a redevelopment proposal that involves two semis that was distributed to immediate neighbours recently. As it is just at the pre-application phase, and the developers are just preparing plans and the Committee of Adjustment application, I wouldn't feel right posting any further details, but suffice to say, the demolition I expected seems to be imminent. Thanks to those of you who wrote offering optimism that this small, but beautiful home might survive. Appears not to be the case]

Certainly, it will be sad to see the house demolished, and I'm pretty sure I don't actually want to be there on the day it gets pulled down. Driving by and seeing the empty space, or whatever is built in its place will be sad too. Though we thankfully of course have our great memories of the house, it just isn't the same when the house is gone. And neither is Champlain Park, as each piece of the old neighbourhood is lost. I still love Champlain Park of course, but I will miss 210 Cowley a lot.


Monday, April 20, 2020

Farewell 89 Richmond Road

One benefits of this new era of Covid social distancing/isolation is that I suddenly have a lot of extra time that I'd always kind of wished for. As a result, I'm finding time to finish old topics that I'd started before. This is one that I meant to get done before the building was gone, but alas, I was too late. Still worth publishing as a sort of "obituary" for the old place. I wrote 90% of this a year ago, and am editing it to run today.


The old houses along Wellington and Richmond are disappearing one by one, and the latest to go came this week with the demolition of what was left of 89 Richmond Road. Destroyed by fire on a cold day in late December 2017, 89 Richmond historically would be most associated with Akeson family, who resided in it from just after construction until 1965. It was re-purposed in 1977 as a mixed commercial and residential, where it had a variety of uses over its final 40 years. Prior to the fire, from outside appearances the house seemed to have some life in it yet, but it was beginning to show its age a little.

The property is now slated for redevelopment for construction of a six-storey building that would feature a spa and health centre on the main two floors, and 14 residential units on the top four floors (more information available here: http://kitchissippiward.ca/content/89-richmond-rd-official-plan-amendment-zoning-law-amendment-site-plan-control-applications). The proposal has apparently passed through committee and is with Council (as of February) for approval. (more info here: https://app01.ottawa.ca/postingplans/appDetails.jsf?lang=en&appId=__BHK595).

I thought it might be interesting to dig into the history of the house, and briefly tell the stories of the families and businesses that have occupied the home over the last 94 years. 

* * *

89 Richmond Road was built on the front lawn of what was originally the Cowley family homestead.  The impressive stone mansion would have stood barely 100 feet directly behind the house. In fact the remnants of the home (which had been burned out in 1903) sat in a dilapidated state until after 89 Richmond was built, and into the 1930s.

Daniel Keyworth Cowley died in 1897, the fire ruined the home in 1903, and his son Robert H. Cowley would begin subdividing the family's old farm in bits and pieces. In 1922, he divided up the area between Scott and Richmond, Patricia and Rockhurst.

The lots fronting Richmond Road were of course the first to sell. Theophile Ladouceur, a 67-year old contractor who had been building houses in Ottawa all the way back to the 1880s acquired the vacant lot on Richmond from Robert H. Cowley for $400, and borrowed $1,300 to build 89 Richmond. It was complete by early 1925, and he, his wife Lea, and 22-year old daughter Pauline moved in.

They did not live there for long. On April 8th, 1926, Ladouceur sold the house to his son-in-law's niece Marie Irene Cain and her husband Andrew Akeson, for the sale price of $3,700. Andrew and Marie were a young couple, just 24 and 22 respectively, who had married just a year prior. Andrew was employed as a printer with the civil service. They would later have two daughters, Pauline and Dorothy.

As mentioned, the Akeson family would remain here for the long haul.

Midly interesting to note, the house was originally numbered 83 Richmond. In the mid-1940s, the buildings on this block were all slightly renumbered. Why were they? Because prior to that time, there was no consistency in odds/evens on Richmond - as you can see with the struck numbers, both odd and even numbers appeared on the north side. So when the federal Post Office established rules of civic addressing, there was a forced change for this block.

1948 fire insurance plan clip showing this block.
Patricia Avenue at left, Island Park Drive at right.

Back to 89 Richmond... In 1953, a second apartment was listed for the first time within the house, and over the next ten years, tenants would be listed. In the early 60s, Teck Chiodo and his wife Lucy resided in the house with their only child, son Harold. Harold was with the RCAF, and in the spring of 1961, was posted down to Barrie, to RCAF Station Edgar.

1961 was a sad year for life in the house. Irene Akeson died in January, at the young age of just 59. And then on December 28th, 23-year old Harold Chiodo, LAC (Leading Aircraftman) with the RCAF, was killed in a freak car crash. He and a fellow serviceman were out driving at night, crashed through a fence, and came to a stop on CPR tracks at the exact moment a train was coming. It dragged the car half a mile down the track.

Harold Chiodo (source: Ancestry)

Andrew Akeson remained in the home for a couple of years as a widow, eventually deciding to sell in 1965. Lawrence E. and Edward L. Leduc purchased the house for $22,500.

A year ago, I spoke briefly with Linda Leduc, daughter of Lawrence Leduc. The Leduc family ran the restaurant that previously existed where Napolis does today, just two doors down. "Napoli's was originally called Charlie's Diner ...and looked like a bus", she wrote. "My Dad and uncle took over from my grandfather Charlie and eventually it became The Diner...they sold 40 years ago...funny though so many folks from the west end remember it."

She also had a neat memory of the house: "One unique part of the house is that the front upstairs bedroom overlooked the Visitation, and in the winter you could see the sisters tobogganing in the apple orchard!"

Of course by the "Visitation" she means the former Convent which now sits in heartbreakingly decaying condition.

I'd hoped she might have an old photo of the house in the family albums, but unfortunately she did not, and nor did any source I've checked.

The best I could do for a unique older photo is from a May 1969 aerial photo. It shows a little detail of the block between Patricia and Island Park.

May 1969 aerial photo showing 89 Richmond Road
(Patricia at left, Island Park at right)

In 1977, the house was acquired by Archie McDonald Ltd., and converted into a mixed-use building with ground-floor commercial space and residential upstairs. McDonald paid $50,000 for it in March of 1977, and sold it August 1979 after listing it for nearly two years, for $74,000. In the interim he had rented it out to tenants, and for most of 1978 and 1979, a used car dealership operated out of the property.

Ottawa Citizen, April 5, 1978

Ottawa Citizen, July 6, 1979

In early 1980, Ken Beaton and his wife Sally closed up their jewellery shop, Ken Beaton's Jewellers, at 322 Richmond, corner of Churchill, where they had been for 30 years and moved to 89 Richmond. It was around this time, that the pair retired, and their daughter Bonnie Beaton took over the firm.

Ottawa Citizen, April 19, 1983

By 1990, it was Ottawa Chinese Medical Centre, and later Wu's Penetrating Chinese Massage. The sign out front also read "Ottawa-Gatineau T.C.M. Centre" for a while.

The photos below were from a real estate listing sometime around 2013:












I can't recall if the Chinese Medical Centre was still in operation when the fire hit in December 2017. I believe it may have been vacant at the time, but I'm not sure!

The fire happened on an extremely cold day on Friday December 29th, -20 degrees according to the Citizen photo below.

Ottawa Citizen, December 30, 2017

Source: 1310News

Source: Ottawa Citizen

Source: CBC

And so for the last 28 months, this is how the house has sat, in burnt-out condition, before being demolished sometime in the last couple of weeks.

89 Richmond Road is no more. April 19, 2020.

Of course it needed to go, with it being destroyed by the fire. But always a little sad to see a familiar part of the neighbourhood disappear. Farewell 89 Richmond Road.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Street Profile: The History of Hilda Street

One of not only Kitchissippi's most unique streets, but all of Ottawa. I love Hilda Street, a small, thin street at the northeastern corner of Hintonburg that is steeped in history. It is one of the few streets that still basically looks exactly as it did 100 or even 130 years ago; every house has a colourful history in step with Hintonburg as a whole. Hilda even has a fantastic original name that I'm kind of sad disappeared over 100 years ago, not to mention its very unique 20-foot width. For the full detailed history, read on below!

Current Street Name: Hilda Street
Former Street Names: Pine Alley (1874-1908) for the portion north of O'Meara; Emily Street (1884-1908) for the portion south of O'Meara.
First established: 1874

Anna Hilda Pinhey, date unknown.
(Source: Bytown Museum P1651)
Name meaning: Research has not yielded an answer that is 100% conclusive, but I am nearly positive that Hilda Street was named, like other in the area, by or for the Pinhey family (of Pinhey's Point), who have a series of ties to Hintonburg, most notably through early subdivision creator and financier Charles Hamnett Pinhey, son of Hamnett Kirkes Pinhey. There is Pinhey Street of course, while Merton was the name of the family home in LeBreton Flats, and Hilda was the middle name (but used always as almost a second first name) of Charles's youngest daughter Anna Hilda Pinhey.

Anna Hilda Pinhey was born June 6th, 1870 in Ottawa. She was the daughter of lawyer Charles Pinhey and Catherine Lewis, the sister of John B. Lewis, Pinhey's long-time law partner and first mayor of Ottawa.

Anna never married, and lived for most of her life on Clemow Avenue in the Glebe. She was one of the city's biggest philanthropists, giving frequent and sizable contributions to organizations such as the YWCA, the Ottawa Protestant Children's Hospital, the Infant's Home, Children's Village, the Red Cross, the Community Chest campaign, among others. Back in the pre-1950 days, the newspapers would often list charitable donation for various campaigns; Anna Hilda Pinhey's name appeared in many, and maybe even most of them.

She was a charter member (and longest surviving member) of the Historical Society of Ottawa, which formed in 1898, was a board member of the Ottawa Humane Society for nearly her entire adult life, and a board member of the Protestant Orphan's Home, the Bytown Museum, and the  Children's Hospital. She was also extensively involved with the Canadian Girl Guides, and particularly Camp Woolsey (also named for Pinhey descendants), where a building was named in her honour in 1938. She was also active in real estate, buying and selling multiple properties, while also lending money to many back before banks controlled the mortgage market. In Hintonburg specifically she was a frequent lender to young home buyers, and also contributed to the establishment and ongoing development of the Hintonburg YWCA in the pre- and post-WWI era.

How named: Hilda Street first established as "Pine Alley" in the 1874 subdivision of a large part of Carleton County Judge Christopher Armstrong's estate. It was given this name because it was initially planned to be truly a back alley behind grander houses that would front Bayview Road and Garland Street (then called South Street). However over time, with the abundance of lots available throughout Hintonburg, the lot owners realized that halving or quartering the lots, and establishing Pine Alley as its own street with houses fronting onto it, was the best option to maximize lot sales. As a result, the lots on Hilda have depths ranging from about 66 to 82 feet, or even less in some cases, which is well less than most anywhere else in the neighbourhood.

Early map (from 1894) showing the individual lots on Hilda
Street (then still Emily and Pine Alley). The "89" and "57"
refer to the individual subdivision plans, while the smaller
numbers represent the individual lots. Scott Street would
be on the bottom, Wellington (Richmond) on the top.

Of course, most notably, Hilda has the very unique feature of being only 20 feet wide, and it is for exactly this reason, that it was never intended to be an actual street with houses fronting it. Years later, attempts were made by the City to widen the street (by expropriating the front few feet of properties on either side, which would have forced the moving or demolition of most houses), but all efforts were shot do so were shot down by residents, leaving the street intact as it was back in the day.

The south end of Hilda, south of O'Meara where it jogs to the east slightly, actually originally had its own name (Emily Street), named for Judge Armstrong's eldest daughter (while Armstrong was originally named Caroline Street, named for his youngest daughter). In 1908, after Hintonburg had been annexed to the City of Ottawa, both Pine and Emily were duplicates of other streets in Ottawa, so the names were required to be changed (along with many other streets in Hintonburg). A committee helped decide on the new names that were chosen for historic reasons, or from input by residents. For reasons lost to history, the name Hilda was chosen for the full stretch of the street, and was adopted officially in the spring of 1908.

Early Days & First Houses:
As mentioned above, Pine Alley existed at first to be a rear alley for houses to be built fronting Bayview and Garland. So though the street (alley) was laid out in 1874, it was not until 1886 that the first houses were built fronting the street. And what is especially cool is that 7 of the original 8 houses built in those first couple of years (between 1886 and 1889) are all still standing today, more than 130 years later!

Before we get to those houses, though, there is other history related to the street, and particularly the corner lots of the other streets, notably O'Meara Street.

Now even O'Meara had a cool original name, which was Cedar Walk. And where Cedar Walk met Pine Alley, was a house built in 1877 by a Nepean farmer Thomas Madden. This house still stands today as 23 O'Meara Street:

23 O'Meara Street in 2019, built in 1877 by Thomas Madden

23 O'Meara in 1949 (at least part of it), showing more closely
what it would have looked like back when first built.

Thomas Madden was a farmer who acquired the lot back in 1874 when Judge Armstrong first put his lots on the market. In the spring of 1877, when he was 33 years old, and with his first (and only) child on the way, Madden built the house fronting Cedar Walk, and moved into it with his wife. His son Francis was born that September. The Maddens remained in Hintonburg only briefly, renting it out for 2 years in 1880-1881, returning briefly, and then renting it out again in 1883 when the small family decided to move to North Dakota.

Madden then rented it to, and later sold to, his sister-in-law Joanna Kenna (formerly Fitzgerald), who was a 42-year old widow of 11 children ranging in age from 6 to 21. She was Irish-born, coming to Canada at 18. She remained at 23 O'Meara until her death in 1925, outliving 7 of her children. The youngest of the children, Agnes Kenna, would remain in the home until 1944.

The house has been improved since, but the structure remains the same, including the one-storey addition which dates back into the 19th century. Though technically not a Hilda Street address, it is still an important house in the history of the street.

Up at the north end at what is now Scott Street, was constructed the second house which stands along Hilda Street.

Originally called the Concession line (because it separated concession A from concession 1 in Nepean Township), and later Ottawa Street, this unpaved, barely maintained road ran alongside the old CPR rail line (now the Transitway) initially from about Parkdale to the CPR yards at Bayview. Though facing the railroad tracks that arrived in 1870 for the Canada Central Railway, the lots were quite prime in that it was a very short walk for workers to get to the roundhouse and CPR yards. Right out the front door and in the yard in seconds.

So this was also a prime location to acquire a lot, and Thomas Birch did just that back in 1885, when he built what is now 1360 Scott Street (aka 2 Hilda Street). Birch is a name that I have written about several times before, a name very important in Kitchissippi history, but in the west end of the ward. The Birch family was one of the first arrivals in the area back in 1838, and acquired a large amount of land on the east side of Churchill from present-day Carling all the way north to the Ottawa River. While the Thomson family had their land on the west, the Birch family established 'Birchton' to the east. Birch was the grandson of the family patriarch (also Thomas Birch) who settled the family in the area.

2 Hilda Street/1360 Scott Street in 2017

Birch was a mill labourer working the mills at the Chaudiere, and later an electrician. He not too long after also built 1364 and 1372 Scott as well, which were for renting to tenants. The house was later sold to his eldest son James Clark Birch, keeping it in the family for nearly 40 years.

Records seem to indicate that the house has two addresses (Scott and Hilda), and it appears in the mid-1920s was renovated to have two separate dwelling units. The rear half originally was a small summer kitchen off the rear with a shed or stable attached, but the shed/stable was renovated and the entire back half became one livable unit, and given the address 2 Hilda Street. The owner of the house, and ones occupying the rear section was Terence Fogarty and his wife Margaret. The couple was photographed in their home in June of 1955 when they were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

Terence and Margaret Fogarty of 2 Hilda Street.
June 1955. (City of Ottawa Archives, CA-33274) 

The initial building boom on Pine Alley (Hilda)

Whether Nepean Township made a specific change to allow construction of houses facing onto Pine Alley in 1886, or whether it was a coincidence is unclear to me. Regardless, between 1886 and 1889, the first 8 houses that fronted onto Pine Alley were built.

The first group of five were all built between 1886 and the Nepean Township assessment roll taking in March of 1887. These five houses include 6, 18, 19, 23 and 24 Hilda Street.

6 Hilda was constructed by 25-year old labourer Robert O'Connor, married with 1 child. It was later occupied by saw filer Robert O'Neil for most of the 1890s, before mill carpenter Dolphis Tessier moved in for the next 20 years. The house contained just three rooms in the early years, and has been modified several times over the years. A photo of the house in the 1930s (which I do not have) would have shown the house as an even smaller 1.5 storey house. The new expanded rear section and tan siding was added around 2010. Why the house was set so far back originally is an interesting mystery, and certainly makes it one of the more unique houses on the street.

6 Hilda Street in 2017 with expanded rear section

6 Hilda Street in June 2009

18 Hilda was constructed by 25-year old plasterer George Stanley and his wife Mary Ann. From available records, it appears this house has remained unchanged in structure since construction. The Stanley family remained for 17 years, selling in 1903 to move up north to the Nipissing area. When they built in 1886, they had no children, but by 1903 they had 7, with an 8th on the way. The house later became the long-time home of the Malboeuf family (Theophile and Natalie) from 1908-1945.

18 Hilda Street in 2017

19 Hilda was constructed by 30-year old labourer John McCrimmon, married with 5 children. It is the only house that was built during this year that no longer still stands. It was lost to a fire in May of 1896 that nearly wiped out the whole block (it mostly destroyed houses fronting Bayview Road and O'Meara Street; only 19 Hilda, and possibly 23, were lost in the fire). The article about the fire can be found in the last section below. At the time of the fire, Patrick McMullen, a coachman, had recently moved out of the home with his family, and it was rented to tenants. The fire was a total loss, and the lot sat vacant until the new 19 Hilda Street was built in 1906.

23 Hilda was constructed by 37-year old painter William Paul, who was married with 3 children (which grew to 5). 23 Hilda was also a victim of the 1896 fire mentioned above, but it is possible the house was not a total loss, despite the newspaper report. If it was a total loss, it was rebuilt immediately and occupied by August of that year, in the same size, location and with the same number of rooms. Which is possible. Therefore I'm going to assume Paul was able to salvage most of the home, and thus I am including it in the list. Regardless, the home appears to be unchanged in size/

William Paul was born in Dundee, Scotland and had married his wife Sabina Jane Pratt in 1877. The couple had five children in total, though within the space of a couple years around the turn of the century, two of the children passed away, Sabina died in 1900 at age 44, and William died in 1901 at age 49. Eldest son William Allan remained in the home and helped raise his brothers (one of whom would die at age 21 in 1905), the youngest being just 2 years old when William Sr. passed away. A sad family story for sure.

The house was owned by the Hodgins family (John and Mary at first) from about 1910 until 1972, but had a series of tenants in it for most of its life, most notably the Routliffe (1940s/50s) and Cruise families (1960s).

23 Hilda Street in 2019

24 Hilda was constructed by 33-year old carpenter and horse teamster George Scharf, who was married with 1 child. George had acquired the lot in 1885.

In 1889, George sold 1/4 of the lot to his brother Nicholas Scharf, who built 20 Hilda next door that same year.

Father Beacham Scharf of March Township, according to a couple of family trees on Ancestry had an incredible 17 children (with two wives). Nicholas had a sister who was 35 years old when he was born!

24 Hilda Street in 2019


In 1900, the house was bought by Ruglas (Ruggles) Birtch, who had a wife and a 3-year old daughter. Ruggles had built 13 Hilda across the street in 1894, and had lived there for several years, operating a wood dealership from the property. He moved the wood dealership over to 24 Hilda Street with him, again utilizing a series of sheds and outbuildings for his business. Birtch was also an elected trustee with the Hintonburg public school board.

The house has had a significant turnover of occupants over the years, and from going through old papers, no house on Hilda appeared more frequently in oddball ads and articles, so I've included a couple below, just to highlight old house prices, and other neighbourhood issues like fires and train smoke:

Ottawa Citizen, November 30, 1908

Ottawa Journal, April 30 1917

Ottawa Citizen, October 23, 1923

Ottawa Journal, October 5, 1955

Hilda Street development

Following that initial group of five houses in 1886-1887, the next three houses to be built were constructed one per year over the next three years. These three houses were: 12 Hilda, 1 Hilda and 20 Hilda. All three houses still remain today.

#20 was built by Nicholas Scharf as mentioned above. #12 was built by a 21-year old farm labourer named William Stalford, and was later the long-time home of the Beaman and Allard families.

1 Hilda Street has a bit more of an interesting history. Within the last couple of years, the exterior of the house has been impressively redone in a wood siding, with a new and enlarged rear addition put on.

1 Hilda Street in 2017

1 Hilda Street in 2009 before exterior reno

This property lot ("Lot 6" from the old Armstrong subdivision, which now includes 1, 3, 7, and 11 Hilda) has a pretty neat history.  1 Hilda was built first by John J. Clarke, a 27-year old sawyer at a Chaudiere mill, between 1888-1889. Next came 11 Hilda in 1894, built by Ruggles Birtch (mentioned above in the write-up for 24 Hilda). Ruggles established a wood dealership business here, and built a long connecting group of sheds and outbuildings from the back of his house, wrapping around and connecting to 1 Hilda. This is best demonstrated in a fire insurance plan map from 1899, which shows all the structures on the property:

1899 Fire Insurance Plan showing Pine Alley and Emily Street,
neither are labeled, but that's Scott Street on the left
("Concession") and Wellington along the right. Bayview is
"Little Chaudiere Road" and Garland is "South Street".
(pink is brick, yellow is wood, blue is stone, 
and grey are sheds/stables/outbuildings)

1912 Fire Insurance Plan

By 1912, the buildings were gone, and 7 Hilda now appears (built between 1909-1912). (3 Hilda Street would be built not until around 2002-2005.)

However on the spot where 3 Hilda would later be built for many, many years stood an old shack of a house at the far back of the lot. The City of Ottawa photographed it as part of their urban renewal project of the 1960s, so fortunately there is a very cool photo that survives of this unique house!

1 Hilda Street - rear detached house
January 3 1967. (City of Ottawa Archives, CA-25907)

Anyways, as for 1 Hilda Street, in November of 1906, it was acquired by James Finn, who had been a long-time house builder within the City of Ottawa, but by 1906, when he was in his early 50s, instead began operating a house moving company! Pretty unique line of work back in the day, but a successful one for sure, as many houses were being moved for a variety of reasons; houses weren't demolished so casually as they are today; often when a new house was being constructed, an old house previously on the lot was moved and salvaged. Plus as main streets were being widened, and bylaws and property lines began being more rigorously observed, many oddly-located houses were left needing to be moved. It helped that few houses (especially in this area) had basements back then, allowing for a fairly easy move, typically using a system of logs and horses.

Finn remained in business well in to the 1920s, and when he passed away in 1932, the Citizen ran a photo and write-up on the man that was as complimentary as I've ever read. "Throughout his life he was known as a man of sterling integrity and lovable geniality, and throughout the Capital and the Ottawa Valley a legion of steadfast friends regret the passing of a kindly, broadminded Christian gentleman", was just one such sentence from the article included below:

Ottawa Citizen, May 3, 1932

1 Hilda then became the long-time home of Robert and Lena Marshall and their family. Meanwhile the old backyard house in the above photo was likely demolished around the time the photo was taken.

***

One structure on Hilda Street that is long-gone is an old double that used to front on to the old Emily Street portion of the street, on the south side of Armstrong. This double had the address of 49-51 Hilda, and fortunately as well a photo existed in the City Archives:

49-51 Hilda Street just prior to demolition
October 23 1979. (City of Ottawa Archives, CA-25906)

49-51 Hilda was built by carpenter and millwright David Moffatt in 1891, and hosted a series of tenants over the years. It was scheduled for demolition as early as 1984 but appears to have not been torn down until 1991 after sitting vacant for a decade.

Perhaps the most notable thing about the building was its longtime owner from 1928 to 1963, Hermas Proulx. Proulx was one of the first ever hockey stick manufacturers, and had a successful business throughout the first half of the 20th century, with most of the NHL players using his sticks for several decades. His story is best told in this really cool profile that ran in the Citizen back in 1946 (see below). I realize it may be difficult to read on your screen, so your best bet to read it would be to right-click on it, select to save to your PC, and view it from there. Well worth the read!

Ottawa Citizen, January 18, 1946
profile on Hermas Proulx, long-time
owner of 51 Hilda Street

***

Part of the development of Hilda Street includes the development of its infrastructure, and random old newspaper tidbits help construct that story. The exact dates/years aren't that pertinent, but put together it tells the story of how an average street in Hintonburg slowly grew over the years with infrastructure amenities that today we take for granted, but back a century ago and more, resident had to wait many years for.

The first electric street lights arrived on Hilda Street in 1896, with lights added at the corner of O'Meara and Armstrong ("the corner opposite Pine Alley" and "opposite Mr. David Moffett's"):

Ottawa Journal, June 11, 1896

Monday November 27th, 1899 was the first time Pine Alley and Emily Street received running water, as the Hintonburg Pumphouse was first put in operation, flooding water through the 4.5 miles of mains that had been installed all year. The first test was a success, and the added service was a huge addition to life for residents in Hintonburg.

Read more about the pumphouse and the establishment of water service in Hintonburg here: https://kitchissippi.com/2017/03/16/hintonburg-pumphouse/

Sidewalks were added to the street in 1915:

Ottawa Journal, September 10, 1915

Fire alarm boxes arrived sometime around 1910. These were laid out throughout the city so that resident could quickly alert the fire station to a fire. At the time few homes had phones, so this elaborate system helped signal for the fire services quickly. At the sight of fire, an individual would run to the nearest fire alarm box (which appeared on telephone poles, and looked like a mail box) open the front and set off the alarm. The alarm would be received at the fire station with the box number, and the fire department would head to that box. Someone would need to stay around at the fire alarm box to alert the fire department as to the exact location of the fire (if it wasn't already obvious). Hilda had two boxes at Wellington and O'Meara (as identified by the blue circles on the 1912 fire plan above). Of course, the enticement of the fire boxes to children led to many false alarms daily.

Ottawa Citizen, April 14, 1920

According to this clip from 1922, utility poles originally were located on the street, and had to be moved back on to the properties themselves, as the car was growing in popularity and the streets were getting busier.

Ottawa Citizen, July 21, 1922

And the street was finally paved in 1924 (approved by council in 1923, tendered and completed in 1924):

Ottawa Citizen, June 23, 1923

***

The story of Hilda Street includes the buildings at the far south end, at Wellington Street. However, I have already written about these properties at length in my article from last year on the "Hidden History" of the eastern end of Wellington West. Check out the article here: http://kitchissippimuseum.blogspot.com/2019/02/hidden-history-eastern-end-of.html

The buildings at the corner of Hilda are 959 Wellington (the old Baxter Hotel and Hinton Apartments), now the site of the large Ottawa-Carleton Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO) building, completed in 1994, on the east corner; and the multi-unit home on the west corner, 961-963 Wellington. A few rare cool old photos of all of these buildings can be found at the above link!


Vintage Video of Hilda Street

A couple of years ago, a post was made (in error) to the LeBreton Flats Remembered Facebook page, of what was believed to be old LeBreton Flats streets footage from 1949, courtesy of old National Film Board stock footage. Some astute observers noted that it wasn't LeBreton, but was actually Hilda Street! I've uploaded these incredible videos from 71 years ago, it's just over a minute of footage, but a neat window into Hilda Street in 1949. It can be viewed at https://youtu.be/IZ4ueyw3gIU


Commercial businesses on Hilda Street

Hilda hasn't had any commercial businesses on the street in the last 100 years or so, but in the early days, it did have a couple! Of course there was Ruggles Birtch's wood dealer yard discussed above. I also found evidence of piano lessons being offered by someone in the Dolphis Tessier household at 6 Hilda Street (then numbered 7 Pine Alley), as well as an ad for James Finn's house moving business!


Ottawa Citizen, July 27, 1905 ad for piano
lessons at 6 Hilda Street (aka 7 Pine Alley)

Ottawa Citizen, April 30, 1909 ad for James Finn's
house moving business at 1 Hilda Street


Other miscellaneous old stories and photos

This last section is a catch-all for other random photos and stories unearthed about Hilda's Street history. Enjoy!

25 Hilda Street was built between 1907-1909, and was burned in a fire in 1979. It was reborn as a municipal park for many years, but I noticed a year ago or so was reclaimed for development as part of the construction on Bayview.

May 2012 view of old 25 Hilda spot before construction

Here is the article and a photo from the 1979 fire:

Ottawa Citizen, February 12, 1979 - fire at 25 Hilda Street

Speaking of fires, like every Hintonburg street, Hilda Street has seen its share of fires. The first big one was the one mentioned above that destroyed the original 19 Hilda (and possibly the original 23 Hilda), owned by McCrimmon and Paul:

Ottawa Journal, May 26, 1896

Below is an interesting article about the development of a snow plow by James Finn:

Ottawa Citizen, January 5, 1910

I always like to try to make mention of residents of the street who went off to war, and I was able to find details of Hilda Street residents John Bowes of 7 Hilda, Oliver Finn of 1 Hilda, and W.H. Walder of 20 Hilda Street who fought in WWI.

John Bowes enlisted at Kingston in January 1918. He went overseas in April, and on October was wounded severely through the left arm, and with shrapnel in the neck and right shoulder. Returned in February 1919. Finn also came home, though he passed away at the age of 26 in 1923 (his obituary did not mention if his death was related to his war service).

Walder of 20 Hilda enlisted with the 59th Battalion and went overseas, where he was "badly shell-shocked in the first battle of the Somme", requiring medical treatment for the next two years. His newborn appeared in a newspaper photograph in 1919.

Ottawa Citizen, October 30, 1918

Ottawa Citizen, September 13, 1919

The following story covers a Hilda Street resident at 51 Hilda, Gaston Huard, who met up with his brother overseas in WWII unexpectedly:

Ottawa Journal, November 26, 1941

The following is just a random funny story from 1920 about a self-appointed repo-man:

Ottawa Citizen, May 17, 1920
Eventually Bonhomme was found guilty of a lesser charge of damaging of property, fined $5. The judge felt that the paperwork he had that he believed gave him the right to enter at any time to take the goods, unless they were paid for, was not legal, and recommended him take proper legal steps in the future.

Another few random funny articles that are mostly self-explanatory:

Ottawa Journal, January 2, 1925

Ottawa Citizen, July 18, 1927

Ottawa Citizen, December 30, 1929

Ottawa Journal, June 25, 1948

And finally, here are some cool oblique aerial photos of Hilda Street, the best I have in my collection, from 1927, and a few from the 1960s!

June 1927

May 1960

April 1966

1961 colour aerial

Hope you enjoyed this detailed look at the history of Hilda Street, one of Hintonburg's many unique and historic streets!