Monday, May 30, 2016

70 Gilchrist Avenue - A milestone anniversary for our family home

So today is a special day for me personally. Today, May 30th 2016 marks the 30th anniversary of the day my parents purchased our family home at 70 Gilchrist Avenue. My Dad loved this house, and I love it just as much. I think, or actually I know, that sometimes friends and family even probably think I love the house too much. It's a great old house, with so much character and charm - and also so much family history now within it - and so today, I thought I'd just share a little information and a few photos of it. I think 30 years in a home is a pretty major milestone to hit.

So as I've mentioned here before, my family has lived in the area for over 100 years on both sides of my family (nearing 150 years on my Mom's side). Growing up in the 80s, I was lucky to have both sets of grandparents living within three blocks of me, plus most of my aunts and uncles too. When I was first born my parents had been renting a home on Holland Avenue, half a semi, owned by long-time alderman Rolly Wall. Soon after I came along, elderly neighbours of my grandparents on Cowley were selling their home, and so my parents bought. We lived there 5 years, at 200 Cowley, before the family grew again, and the 1.5 storey house was no longer big enough. My parents had made an agreement to purchase a new-build in Orleans, but the developers announced mid-construction that they were not able to legally build the house on that lot, and they had to cancel the whole arrangement. They offered instead a house on a different lot. My parents, perhaps (thankfully) having second thoughts about an Orleans move, decided to try to stay in the area, but timelines were now tight, since their house on Cowley had already sold and we had to be out in a couple of months. They bought a home in Britannia Heights, where we remained for less than a year, but they weren't happy there.

My Dad Bruce Allston worked at Tunney's Pasture and so he drove and parked at my grandparents on Western each morning and walked to work from there. One day on the walk back home, he spotted the house for sale on Gilchrist and fell in love.

Dad in front of 70 Gilchrist in I think the fall of 1986

70 Gilchrist Avenue was built in the late summer and fall of 1927 by local small-time house builder George Swain. He also built the two homes next to it at 66 and 68 Gilchrist, at roughly the same time.

Ottawa Citizen - January 12th, 1928


The house was completed by the end of the year, and put for sale in 1928. It was purchased by Augustus Gladstone Long and his wife Muriel for $5,200, and they and their four children (at the time) moved in to the home.


The Long family in 1933 (Brady and Harry in back row,
baby Eddie, Muriel, Margaret, Augustus and Gus in front)

Augustus Long was a WWI vet, and was working as a clerk with DND at the time. The photo of the family above unfortunately was not taken at 70 Gilchrist. It was likely taken just months after the family moved out, as baby Eddie was born just after the move. Sadly the two brothers standing in the rear of the photo both lost their lives in WWII. Brady was lost at sea in April of 1941 and Harry died in February of 1944.

I had reached out to the Long family years ago to learn more about the family, and perhaps track down old photos of the house. We've stayed in touch since, and I was especially happy to welcome the youngest son Eddie Long and his family into the house in 2013 for a visit. Though Eddie was born just after the family had moved out, it was pretty neat for both of us, to make that connection back to the 1920s, inside the house where his family had lived. It's also worth mentioning too that Eddie is a well-known hockey star from his days in Ottawa, but particularly for his years playing pro hockey in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he became arguably the top player in franchise history, hence his nickname "Mr. Komet".  

A few years later I was successful in tracking down descendants of the family who resided in the home in the 1930s, and was sent a copy of the photo from the mid-30s of one of the children standing in front of the house. What is most eerie about it is that just a year prior to receiving this photo, I had redone the front porch, and built new lattice to cover the porch supports. The end result is a mirror image of how the house looked in 1935, right down to the identical trim, including the piece running top-to-bottom in the center.

70 Gilchrist Avenue in mid-30s

The family who my parents had bought off of had resided in the house since 1964, so a few years back I reconnected with them and was able to get a photo from the 60s too:

70 Gilchrist in the late 1960s
Another neat story I heard from a former resident who once dropped in years ago was that our house was the first on the block to have a TV, and thus all the neighbourhood kids used to assemble on the front porch and watch TV through the front windows when it was still a novelty - the same original windows which I still battle with to install and switch-out every spring and fall.

In the mid-1950s, our house was involved in a house trade between two families, who both had listed their respective houses for sale, had found each other's houses and fell in love. Even more ironic perhaps was that out of the blue in 2010 I was hired by the owner of the house on Brennan Avenue that had been traded for 70 Gilchrist, to do the history of her house!

My parents downsized in 2008 and moved to a modest bungalow on Tweedsmuir, and that was when I purchased the house from them. A couple of renovations later (new bathroom/kitchen, and complete foundation replacement + dug down 3 feet through mostly rock to have a finished basement) and the house lives on proudly occupied by my wife and I with our two kids (and #3 on the way this July!). My Dad passed away suddenly in 2011, but I like to think that a big piece of him still lives on in our wonderful family home, and in the gardens which he loved so much. Well-respected Canadian artist Patrick Mason (http://www.patrickmasonartist.com) kindly agreed to do a commission piece for me a couple of years ago, of my Dad in the backyard garden, and outdid himself with this incredible piece, which I will use as the perfect way to end this post, celebrating 30 years of the Allstons at 70 Gilchrist Avenue!

"Allston Garden" by Patrick Mason (2014)

1 comment:

  1. Thank-you, David-a great historical story-have a great day, Patrick.

    ReplyDelete