Monday, March 30, 2015

Long-lost Hintonburg: The Alonzo Street section

Perhaps nothing has influenced change and development in Ottawa more than fire. One blaze can alter the growth of a community significantly. It can wipe out a subdivision, a block or a building of significance, which can eventually have a domino effect leading to a shift in the way a neighbourhood evolves.

One such incident occurred in April of 1910, when the original Canadian Pacific Railway roundhouse was burned in a fire. The affect it would have on the north east corner of Hintonburg would be significant. We still see the results of it today, when we see Tom Brown Arena on the east side of Bayview Avenue. If it hadn't been for that fire, it is likely that the Arena property between Scott and Wellington would today be a heavily populated area with 100+ year old homes, just as are the neighbouring streets to the west.

It is fairly common knowledge that where Tom Brown Arena now sits was once the CPR roundhouse, where trains were stored, worked on, etc. And though a roundhouse has existed in this general location since 1883, it may surprise you to learn that the one which existed on this spot until the 1960s was not the original roundhouse, nor was it originally located in this exact spot. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

The history of this piece of Hintonburg dates back to the early 1850s. Nicholas Sparks (the Ottawa pioneer landowner) had purchased the eastern part of what would later become Hintonburg from Joseph Hinton (who must have felt able to spare a little of his vast land in the area which he had acquired only a couple of years prior but had not moved onto yet; the village was still years away from developing), as well as the land immediate to its east running to Preston Street, in two separate transactions in 1850 and 1851. During his life, Sparks held an incredible amount of land throughout what is now central Ottawa, until his death in 1862.

After his passing, his children maintained ownership of the land, and in fact in 1874 and 1875, registered two plans for the new subdivision of "Bayswater" (Plan 60 north of Scott, and Plan 73 south), dividing the large property into small builder lots, as many of the land-owners of the area had begun doing. It was this Plan 73 ("South Bayswater") which laid out the grid of streets as we know it today. Included in this grid was the section on which Tom Brown Arena stands today, but at the time was a series of builder lots east of Bayview Avenue (then called the "Little Chaudiere Road"), bisected by a little street called "Alonzo".

Part of Plan 73. The "Allowance" road at the top is now Scott Street,
"Richmond" at the bottom is the far east end of Wellington West, and
the "Road from Little Chaudier" is Bayview Road. Tom Brown Arena
exists almost entirely north of Alonzo in "Block 5". Alonzo would be
located about where one today would drive into the arena's parking lot.
Also note the tiny street connecting Alonzo to Scott at the top right,
a short street called "Richmond Street".

Lot sales would be quite slow, as builder lots in the area were plentiful in the 1870s. However, as Richmond Road was the main thoroughfare into Ottawa, and the Little Chaudiere Road was the key access road to the north and the river, the lots at this corner were an easy sale. In July of 1876 the lots on the north side of Richmond were sold to James Clarke (lots 3 and 4), a book keeper and the manager of the Sparks Estate (which was a business entity of its own), and to James Riddell (lot 5), a CPR foreman.

Both immediately built houses on their lots. James Clarke constructed a large 2 1/2-storey brick home on his property (the future 877 Wellington Street) to house his 10 member family, while Riddell built a smaller 2-storey wood-frame home (the future 30 Bayview - later renumbered 157 Bayview). Both were completed by early 1877.

Clarke later in 1877 acquired lot 6 at the corner of Wellington and Bayview, giving him the adjoining three lots along Wellington.

The next key development was the construction of the new CPR roundhouse in 1883. A fire had destroyed the original Chaudiere roundhouse earlier in the year, so the CPR set about building a new one quickly. It was opened by December 12th on the north side of Wellington Street.

Ottawa Citizen December 13, 1883 - "The new round house of the
Canadian Pacific Railway Company at the Chaudiere is now
completed, and affords accommodation for twenty locomotives
and tenders."

Train in front of the new CPR Ottawa West roundhouse, 1884 (LAC PA-203972)

(For some cool detail of the area in 1885, as well as the extent of the CPR and CAR infrastructure, plus the importance of lumber piles and mills, and also to see the roundhouse in it's original location, check out this great plan at: http://data2.archives.ca/e/e428/e010694965-v8.jpg  which shows the roundhouse at the top right, along with just a partial view of the Bayview/Alonzo section of Hintonburg at the extreme top right corner.)

The next to build in this area was Henry Cowan, a mason, who acquired lot 2 on Wellington and built a small stone house for his small 4-person family, between 1885 and 1886.

Thus by 1888, this portion of Hintonburg looked like this:

1888 Fire Insurance Plan of Ottawa. That is Richmond Road
(Wellington) running from the bottom L corner to the top R.
The Riddell, Clarke and Cowan houses are shown from left
to right, along with a series of sheds in the backyards.
There was still no construction in the Alonzo-Bayview section north of the houses along Wellington, and in fact Alonzo Street existed at this time only on paper.

In 1889, Henry Clendenning, a CPR engineer (and also a skilled contractor), who had purchased the Riddell house on Bayview, purchased lot 6 at the corner of Bayview and Wellington, and constructed a brick 2-storey mixed commercial and residential building of an odd shape that bordered both Bayview and Wellington. He sold the property in 1890 to butcher & grocer Frank O'Malley, who opened up his business in the large shop. O'Malley essentially functioned as a general store for the quickly growing neighbourhood.

Ottawa Citizen - April 29 1893 - The list of all liquor licenses
issued by the City of Ottawa in 1893, or as it was officially put,
"Vendors of Intoxicants". O'Malley, a new applicant, was
rejected in 1893, but would be approved in 1894.
This store would remain in this location for over 60 years, though with varying uses over time.

In 1895, Alonzo Street was finally opened up for construction, and lots were sold by the Sparks heirs. The first to buy on Alonzo was Camille and Armeline Latreille, who purchased lot 7 on the south side for $500 in 1895. Camille, employed as a sawmill hand, built a small wood-frame home facing on to Bayview Road (34 Bayview) for he, his wife and their incredible 13 children (all born between 1880 and 1900).

In 1896, homes began to be constructed on Alonzo Street. John Craigie, a carpenter by trade, built 14 Alonzo, while the land owner of lot 6 on the north side of Alonzo, Edmund Wood Clark (owner of Clark's Dairy in Bayswater) built 15 Alonzo, a small 1 ½ storey wood frame home, which he rented to tenants.

In late 1897, Simeon Boudreault started on 18 Alonzo, but fell into financial troubles, and lost the homes to William Mason & Sons, who had provided the lumber on account. The house was advertised for sale by Mason (the only instance of Alonzo Street ever being mentioned in any newspaper I could find). The asking price was $995, but it sold not until July of 1899 for the much more reasonable price of $751 by fish dealer Edwin Stratford.

Ottawa Journal - August 12 1898

By 1901 there were eight houses built on Alonzo, a number which would grow to 15 by 1910. These were all relatively small, wood-framed houses. Most were rented to tenants, and their occupants changed almost annually. The majority of the occupants were railroad workers, which was convenient as the roundhouse and Ottawa West yard was literally in their backyards.

The 1901 Fire Insurance Plan contains the only view of this part of Hintonburg during its existence. There are no aerial photos available prior to 1920, and by the 1912 Fire Insurance Plan, the area was wiped out. Therefore this is the only view showing the development of this community in its heyday:


The first significant change to the area came in 1909, when the City of Ottawa finally began construction on the Wellington Street viaduct in a response to the need for a second western entryway to the City of Ottawa (as I wrote in a recent article, the great fire of 1900 saw the Somerset Street bridge burn, essentially cutting off the entire west end from Ottawa). Following construction of the viaduct, property owners Tilley and Cowan put in a request for compensation for their properties, which they argued had been devalued (or ruined?) by the viaduct. Several property owners in the area joined them in the battle for restitution, and in September of 1910, it was decided that the City would purchase the properties at a significant overpayment (arguably more than double).

Ottawa Journal - September 9, 1910

Fire Insurance Plan from June 1912. The new Wellington Street bridge
is visible. The Cowan stone house and brick duplex are gone, and the Tilley
brick house (#913) remains, but would be demolished soon after. The
CPR round house which previously was located where the bridge is
now shown in this plan, is also gone as of the fire of 1910.

In the early morning of April 12th, 1910, a fire burned most of the original CPR roundhouse.

Ottawa Journal - April 12, 1910

Plans were made by CPR to rebuild, but it was desired to expand the Ottawa West-Lebreton yard, and relocate the roundhouse to the north-west slightly. Offers were extended to virtually all of the property owners in this Bayview-Alonzo section. Each person negotiated their own deal, but generally they received a hefty over-payment from the CPR. Some owners had doubled or even tripled their investment in a matter of a couple of years, some even in a few months. For the residents of this area, it was essentially as if they had hit the real estate lottery.

The CPR ended up spending $56,050 to purchase all of this property, and all sellers were handsomely well-paid. The highest profiting seller was also the person who had most newly-acquired their property. Edward J. Delaney had purchased lot 7 on the south side of Alonzo (34 Bayview, the Latreille house) from Latreille in February of 1910 for $3,450. In September, he sold it to the CPR for $6.000.

Ottawa Journal - August 25, 1910

In the end, the CPR purchased all the lots in this entire section, except for a couple of the lots along Bayview at the south-west corner of Wellington.

In the fall of 1910, the CPR tore down the 23 residences and began preparations for construction of the new CPR round house. It opened in the late spring of 1911.

1912 Fire Insurance Plan, showing the new CPR roundhouse which had replaced
the former Little Chaudiere-Alonzo section of Hintonburg

Following 1910, the only structures to remain on this section were the O’Malley business at the corner, and the two houses fronting Bayview (these three buildings can be seen at the bottom right of the plan above).

On May 2nd, 1921, Jacob Taller purchased the former O'Malley commercial building on lot 6 at the corner of Bayview and Wellington for $3,000. For several years various shop-owners had shared the different units within the building - a plumber, butcher, barber, a tiler, the West End Social Club headquarters, a confectionery/corner store, a harness manufacturer, etc. However during WWI the entire building sat mostly vacant, as O'Malley seemingly lost ownership due to foreclosure by the Capital Trust Corp. Taller purchased the building and converted the entire main floor of the building into a mattress manufacturing factory.

Jacob Taller was born in Russia and had come to Ottawa in 1905 at the age of 22. He would become, through his mattress business and his involvement in the Ottawa business scene, one of the first prominent Jewish businessmen in Ottawa. His business was known alternatively as Taller Bedding and the National Bedding Company. He, his wife Ethel, and their ten children (five sons and five daughters) resided upstairs until 1930, when a large fire destroyed most of the business. The newspaper accounts of the fire made it sound as if it had totaled the property, however it appears Taller rebuilt the factory after the fire, and continued in business beyond 1930. Due to the nature of the business, Taller never had insurance and so the fire was a total loss to the family. 

Aerial view of Bayview Road and the surrounding
neighbourhood from May of 1928.

Fae Taller, daughter of Jacob Taller, standing next to the
Taller mattress factory, on the Bayview side, circa mid-
1930s. (Source: Ottawa Jewish Archives and the personal
collection of David Kwechansky)

Following the fire, the family moved in to the connected house next door at 63 Bayview, which Taller also owned, and had been renting to tenants.

According to a brief history of the business acquired from the Ottawa Jewish Archives, written by David N. Kwechansky, "National Bedding made inexpensive thin mattresses with padded filling. They were a far cry from luxury, but in the Depression few could afford luxury. The business did well and his large family lived nicely, but WW II turned it into a gold mine. The Canadian military had an endless need for cot mattresses—right up Jacob’s alley. While big guns boomed in Europe and three sons were there serving in uniform, his business boomed big at home, enough so that at war’s end, and by then in his mid 60’s, he shut it and comfortably retired. At some point one or more of his soldier sons almost certainly slept on mattresses made in their father’s factory."

According to records, it appears Taller closed the business sometime around 1942, and modified the building once again, to rent it out as individual apartment units. By this point in time, the building was in poor condition, and attracted a rough gang of tenants - many newspaper reports of the mid-to-late 1940s reported on the crime-breaking activities of its various residents.

Finally, in 1950, the building met its official end when a fire struck at 10 a.m. on the blistery cold Ottawa morning of February 20th. At the time, an incredible 36 people lived in the fairly small building (11 adults and 25 children), and once again Taller would have suffered quite a loss, as the building was assessed at $35,000, but was insured for only $4.000. Roland Charette and his wife were two of the tenants of the house, and luckily were away when the fire hit. The couple, who had 14 children already, were on their way to the hospital where Mrs. Charette was to deliver child #15.

Ottawa Journal - February 20, 1950
The photo above is the only photo I can find of the original O'Malley-Taller building which stood at the corner of Bayview and Wellington for 60 years. (If anyone reading this has an old photo of it, I'd be very interested in acquiring a copy!). In fact, this is the only photo I've ever found that shows any of the structures from the lost Hintonburg section of Alonzo-Little Chaudiere.

Following the fire, the two houses on the east side of Bayview remained in existence until August of 1961, when the City of Ottawa purchased them "for the widening of Bayview Road" (which does not appear to have ever occurred), and then the last two houses were both demolished shortly thereafter. The last structure still standing was #157, the James Riddell-built house from 1877 (it was gone in 1967). The round house was next to go, as it was torn down in the spring of 1968. From 1967 to 1980, the entire block of land sat empty, until Tom Brown Arena was built commencing in November of 1977. The City continues to leave the spot of land at the south of the property empty, but it could be a spot for future development.

And so there you have it - the story of a lost piece of Hintonburg. If it hadn't been for that 1910 fire of the original CPR roundhouse, it is possible we might still have the houses on Alonzo and the east side of Bayview today!

Current aerial photo of the area, with Tom Brown Arena. The Wellington Street
continuation can almost be seen reaching over to City Centre, and the ghosts of
the old properties along the north side of old Wellington and the east side of
Bayview can almost be seen in the dead grassy areas that exist there now.

(Special thanks to the Ottawa Jewish Archives, and particularly Archivist Saara Mortensen for contributing information on the Taller family for this story, and for forwarding on some great photos and details from the Taller family, especially Mr. David N. Kwechansky).

4 comments:

  1. Love to read the history of Ottawa and you tell it so well I was born and raised there and lived there all my life, as did nearly all my family, until just last September when I gave in to the cold and snow and moved to the Costa del Sol. Ottawa will always be home though; going home beginning of May for a month and can't wait

    ReplyDelete
  2. Interesting. I'm very curious about one place name here: the "Road from Little Chaudier" (sic). Of course, the "Little Chaudiere Rapids" are the rapids North of the badly misnamed "Remic Rapids Park". But most intriguing to me, I wonder why they'd call them "Little Chaudiere" - which seems to imply a waterfall rather than rapids. Was there perhaps a small waterfall near Lemieux Island that was later inundated by the ring dam?

    ReplyDelete
  3. This has been very interesting read for me as I lived at 157 Bayview Rd. In the 50's

    ReplyDelete
  4. I truly like to reading your post. Thank you so much for taking the time to share such a nice information. I'll definitely add this
    great post in my article section.
    best electrician toronto
    best electricians toronto

    ReplyDelete