Friday, April 15, 2016

Richmond Road at Island Park Drive circa 1900

I stumbled across this photograph a couple of months ago and it has become one of my favorite photos of the early days of Kitchissippi. (Click on it to expand it)

It was in the Library and Archives Canada database essentially untitled, and after nearly flipping right past it, my eye was caught by the structure on the left. Could it be the convent building on Richmond Road? Looking for other landmarks, I see the three houses in the far background at right. Hey that looks like the O'Neil house (aka Bella's restaurant today). Could it be? Comparing against a recent photo, no mistaking it, that's the house! Which means, the house to the left of it is the old toll house, the very one I had tried with all my might to find a photo of last fall ( (and see more on the O'Neil house at

What this means is this is a photo of the convent building (now sadly hidden behind Condo Canyon on Richmond Road just west of Island Park of course) before it had even become the Convent in 1910. Since the toll house was built in 1895, Bella's in 1896, and the other house in view on the northwest corner of Carleton built in 1897, we can deduce it was after 1897. The Convent property (in the 19th century, known as "The Elms") was owned by George and Allison Holland until 1910, when it was sold to Les Soeurs de la Visitation. So the photo must pre-date 1910. Therefore it is somewhere in the range of 1897-1910. Not bad!

That farmhouse would have been demolished when the Soeurs moved in, as they completed the large addition of three wings by 1913.

Here is a close-up of the three houses, and below it, a view of the Bella's today (the features of the architecture of the home still the same today - The windows match up, and the very distinctive lower roof of the rear portion of the house, behind the chimney).

I feel particularly compelled to share this photo on the blog, as I know the O'Neil house's days are numbered. Mizrahi I believe is planning to demolish it sometime this summer in order to make way for the new condo building going on the lot. It will be a sad day when the wrecking balls and bulldozers pull this 120-year old building down in a matter of a minutes. Enjoy this landmark while you still can.


  1. Thank you for the information and picture of the O'Neil house. Joseph O'Neil was my great great uncle.
    It was nice to see the pictures.
    Margaret(O'Neil) Gauthier

  2. I'm pretty sure that no one keeps chickens at that address any more!