Former Street Names: Fourth Street (1872-1912)
First established: 1872
|James A. Forward|
How named: The streets of Mechanicsville originally all had numbered streets. When Mechanicsville was annexed to the City of Ottawa in 1911, it obviously created duplicate street names. The Board of Control for Ottawa was asked to come up with new names for these duplicate streets. So, on June 27th, 1911 at a meeting of the Board of Control, Fourth Street was renamed to Forward Avenue to honour James A. Forward for all contributions to the west end in politics and business.
It's interesting to note that Forward Avenue was not renamed to match its Hintonburg counterpart on the opposite side of Scott Street and the CPR tracks. as others were (like Hinchey and Carruthers). The reason for this is that Forward was never a through street. There was never a crossing over the CPR tracks, like there was for Parkdale, Hinchey and Carruthers. So to minimize confusion and highlight the lack of a crossing, Fourth Street was given a new name, and not simply renamed Pinehurst, though I'm sure consideration was given to the matter.
Early Days & First Houses:
Forward Avenue is a particularly interesting street to profile, because so many of the original houses are gone. At its peak in the early 50s, there were approximately 71 houses on the street (including a couple of businesses). Of those 71, only 20 remain. So while all of the streets in Mechanicsville and Hintonburg have been affected be redevelopment, none has been harder hit than Forward.
Forward Avenue was first laid out in the original Mechanicsville plan. The plan was filed in July of 1872 by Blasdell and Baldwin, who operated lumber mills near the Chaudiere, and who looked to establish a residential area for their workers. In 1872 there were only a few farming homesteads west of Bayswater, and it was just the thin, rocky Richmond Road that ran to the west. The Canada Central Railway had just opened their line from Lebreton to Carleton Place in 1870, and so this small area between the rail line and the river was chosen by Blasdell and Baldwin as an ideal spot for their small subdivision. It also helped that the land was available cheap from the Nicholas Sparks estate. Lot sales in the new "Mechanicsville" section began in that summer of 1872.
Records from this era are extremely scarce, and it requires some deep digging to come up with information on the residents of the area. The city directories of these years did not include Mechanicsville. The first Census to include Mechanicsville would not be until 1881. And even land registry records at this time are incomplete; this is not uncommon from this period that land-owners would sell a lot, even assist the owner in building a home, but nothing would be officially registered with Carleton County (Mechanicsville would not become part of the City of Ottawa until 1911). In many cases, the land-owners reneged on their purchase, or abandoned ownership, and thus their names never appeared in any official documents. The best source of data for the 1870s is the old Nepean Township assessment rolls, and even these are iffy at best. In this era, the roll-takers often wrote names phonetically, thus with a large French population, names were often badly misspelled; "Guilbault" became "Gibo", "Boudreault" became "Budrow", and so on. Also the rolls, believe it or not, were inconsistent in their completion. Many lots would be missed or skipped, and the roll was taken over a three month time frame, therefore ownership may have changed in the meantime, resulting in some lots being listed twice with two different owners, etc.
Forward Avenue on the original plan extended only to the north as far as Burnside (then called Pine Street). Blasdell and Baldwin curiously though filed a new Plan 41 just four months later in November of 1872. extending Fifth (Parkdale), Fourth (Forward) and Third (Hinchey) an extra block to the north to Spruce Street (Emmerson), but yet no further than that. I can only guess that there may have been more of a demand from land buyers for lots closer to the River. Certainly evidence shows this northern portion became built up much quicker. Proximity to the River being more important at the time than proximity to Richmond Road.
Based on available sources, it can be determined that the first two houses built on what is now Forward Avenue were constructed within the first few months of the Mechanicsville subdivision being established. One of these houses even still exists today, a true original Mechanicsville home!
The house at 134 Forward Avenue impressively has stood on this spot for 144 years. It's a small little wood-frame house, with two short additions added over time, but it has somehow survived from the beginning, and it may well be the oldest house in Mechanicsville. It was constructed in 1872 by a fairly prominent Ottawa contractor Richard Abbott, who four years earlier had worked closely on the construction of the first dam at the Chaudiere falls. The first occupant was 30-year old Thomas Chess (little other biographical information can be found on Chess), but soon after became the long-time home of Gilbert Dinnelle and his family, and later Daniel and Mary Lahey. It is certainly significant that this house still stands!
|134 Forward Avenue in 2016 (courtesy Google Streetview)|
The other house built between 1872 and 1873 was #148 Forward, a home that was originally just 1 1/2 storeys and 3 rooms, built by 65-year old Irishman Samuel Cook. This house was later renovated to 2 1/2 storeys, and survived until the early 1960s. On a personal note, this was also the home where my grandfather Ted Sauve was born in 1927! The Sauves resided there for a short period in the late 20s and early 30s. Since it was always a pretty roughly constructed house, when the City was embarking on their "urban renewal" project in the late 1950s, it was photographed from front and back before being demolished.
|Ted Sauve, 1928 at 148 Forward Ave|
|148 Forward view towards the street, circa 1956|
(Source: City of Ottawa Archives, CA-25253)
|148 Forward view towards the backyard, circa 1956|
(Source: City of Ottawa Archives, CA-24669)
The next two houses built on Forward were at the north end of the street by the corner of Emmerson.
70 Forward was a thin, 1 1/2-storey wood-frame house built by Donald McLean between 1873-1874, and first occupied by 57-year old labourer John Cummins. It survived until the 1980s, when the north end of the block was demolished to make way for the Island View apartment building at 44 Emmerson.
No new houses were built until three years later, when a tiny, square-shaped 1 1/2-storey wood-framed duplex was constructed in 1877 by 24-year old Baptiste Lafleur. This house was located on the east side of Forward, fronting on to Emmerson (#40/42 Emmerson). Of course, this whole area of Forward and Emmerson doesn't even exist anymore, it's just a fenced-off grassy field owned by the NCC. This portion was part of the Parkway expropriation in the late 1950s, so by the early 60s, all of the houses were demolished in order for the NCC to have a, well, fenced-off grassy field. Kind of senseless, in retrospect.
1877 also saw the construction of 99 Forward, a long, wood two-storey house. It along with the rest of the houses on the east side of Forward north of Burnside were demolished in the early 1970s to make way for the Riverton Park apartments complex.
Between 1879-1880, a house was constructed at 190 Forward near Scott Street by well-known butcher Joseph F. Hanrahan, but it was lost to fire by 1883. A new house on this lot was built 20 years later, a small one-storey home that was enlarged around WWI to 2-storeys, as it remained until it was demolished around 2010, along with the cool home next door at 192 (which was built just after 1910). This property has sat as a parking lot for several years.
|Unique cool houses of Forward Avenue now lost. This is|
192 (left) and 190 (right). 190 was built by butcher
Unfortunately, most of the original swath of Forward Avenue houses have disappeared. The earliest houses have been lost for a variety of reasons. The primary reason is simply that most were likely no better than a shack or shed. They were all of wood construction, often just one storey, sometimes comprised of just two rooms (that's not bedrooms, that's rooms total). The houses were built by workers at the mills, improved gradually as they could afford it. Of course there were no sewers, no electricity and no water at this time, so truly these houses were little more than sheds.
By 1886, there was a total of 15 houses on the street (development was fairly slow until the 1890s with a slow economy), and of those original 15, only the one shown above (#134) still remains. By 1891, there were 25 houses on the street, of which just two remain, #134, and the next-oldest house that still remains on the street, 133 Forward Avenue. #133 was built between 1889-90 by Thomas Coakley, a 39-year old general labourer, who had just immigrated from England with his wife and six children.
|133 Forward in May 2016, the Coakley house, the|
second-oldest remaining house on Forward Avenue.
This house below, a duplex at 154-156 Forward was built around 1885 by James Newton. It remained until the mid-1990s when it was demolished to make way for the large group of townhouses at the south end of Forward.
|154-156 Forward, circa 1990.|
(Photo courtesy of Maureen Cullingham, who impressively
has taken photos of all of the houses in Mechanicsville on
a regular basis dating back to the late 1980s).
History of Businesses on Forward Avenue:
There have been a few businesses which have existed on Forward, some of the quite notable in the history of Mechanicsville.
Between 1901 and 1902, the first business opened on Forward Avenue (then still Fourth Street). Adelard Bisson opened a grocery store at the south-east corner of Pine (Burnside) in what was 123 Forward/56 Burnside (this building was torn down in the 1980s to make way for the apartments at 50 Burnside) . Bisson was a 36-year old former cab driver. Business must have been good in the early days, as in 1907, he had the house bricked, only the second house bricked on Forward Avenue.
In 1908, a second business was opened, a grocery store was opened on the opposite corner (the south-west corner of Pine) by Alexandre Latreille in what is now 122-124 Forward & 64 Burnside. Latreille had it bricked in 1909. This store by the mid-1920's became better known as the River View Hotel when it was purchased by Nelson Gibeault. As the River View Hotel, it had a small bar-tavern on the main floor, and the upstairs was rented out as rooms. Gibeault, who had been operating a grocery store at 109 Forward after WWI, ran the hotel at the corner of Burnside until 1942, then focused back on running a grocery business at 64 Burnside until 1956. He died in 1959.
|The former River View Hotel, 122-124 Forward in May 2016.|
|Ottawa Journal, February 13, 1942|
Tobin-Everedy had been located on Edison in Westboro, before opening in their expanded location at 193 Forward (in the old converted Artelle ice houses) in June of 1954.
|March 20, 1957|
|Another view of the same area, south end of Forward, |
aerial photo from December 20, 1967. Scott Street along
the right, Parkdale at the bottom.
|August 25, 1960|
|June 23, 1962|
|July 22, 1970|
Smallpox hit Mechanicsville, and especially Forward Avenue in the fall of 1901, when two children of the Cusson family and three children of the Saumur family came down with smallpox. At the same time, a child of Francis Meunier of Hinchey Avenue died from it, while there were many other cases throughout the village. The smallpox outbreak was significant in 1901 in greater Ottawa, and patients were treated at the isolation "hospital" on Porter's Island, which was a small wood shack and a series of outdoor tents.
One of Mechanicsville's earliest residents was Hyacinthe Latreille, who operated a grocery shop and small hotel and tavern on Hinchey Avenue in the 1890s at the north end when Hinchey used to extend to Emmerson. The family later moved on to Forward around 1901, and there the Latreilles would remain for nearly 100 years, into the 1980s.
|March 7, 1910|
The first house to be bricked was Alexander Dennault's house at 160 Forward Avenue, which was built between 1899-1901, and bricked upon completion. This house had survived until the 1990s. Dennault was a yard master for the CPR (he also had owned for many years the duplex house next store at 154-156 which he had acquired from James Newton in 1886).
The typhoid problems of Ottawa, but particularly the neighbourhood, of the pre-WWI era are well documented (here is a bit I wrote on Cave Creek last year: https://kitchissippi.com/2016/03/30/cave-creek-ottawa/), and in December of 1913, the Nordenfelt family was significantly affected. The father Oscar was an immigrant from Sweden, the couple marrying in 1897 and having recently moved to Mechanicsville from Dundas, Ontario.
|Ottawa Journal - December 22, 1913|
|April 3, 1918|
The last block of Forward Avenue to have concrete sidewalks installed was the southern block, from the CPR tracks to Lyndale. These sidewalks were included in the city's local improvements work orders in late 1923 or early 1924.
Into the 1930s, it was still common for Mechanicsville residents to keep animals on their property. The photo below was taken at 93 Forward Avenue in approx. 1928.
|Ronald Blais at 93 Forward, circa 1928.|
(Source: Facebook posted by
Aline Ullett, March 2015)
From the late 1800s until as late as December of 1970, fire alarm boxes were a feature of all neighbourhoods in Ottawa. They originally were required in the days before telephones were commonplace in all homes. A person would open a small door, pull a lever and then turn a knob or pull a hook. A spring-loaded wheel would then activate, tapping out a pulsed electrical signal corresponding to the box's number to the fire department headquarters, who would then send out wagons to that box. One of Mechanicsville's two fire boxes was located at the south-west corner of Forward and Burnside (just outside of the River View Hotel).
Below is an early, clear aerial photograph of Forward Avenue from 1933. showing the north end of the street. Parkdale Avenue is at the top, with Emmerson at right and Burnside at the left. Only two houses from this entire photo still exist today (82 and 84 Forward).
|Aerial photo from May 5, 1933 showing the north end of|
Forward Avenue and Parkdale
The 1930s and Onwards on Forward Avenue
|June 15, 1944|
On Canada Day, 1946, Reginald Gourgon, 36, of 125 Parkdale Avenue was killed at the corner of Burnside and Forward when he grabbed a live electrical wire which had been brought down by the branch of a tree which had broken off during a major 70-mile-an-hour storm that hit Ottawa. Gourgon had been walking along Forward after the worst of the storm, and noticed the wire on the sidewalk. Though a large group of men were close-by keeping children from approaching the wire, Gourgon suddenly attempted to move it off the sidewalk onto the road, and the wire, containing 2,200 volts instantly electrocuted him. He fell to the ground, his right hand still holding the wire. Albert Aspeck of 128 Forward forced the wire from his hand with a large rock. The fire alarm box located right next to the incident was pulled, and three stations replied immediately, but of course, nothing could be done for Gourgon.
The photo below is taken on Forward Avenue in 1952, though I can't quite tell where exactly it was taken.
|Forward Avenue, 1952|
(Courtesy of Maureen Mathurin-Kempster)
On June 29th, 1953, a fire hit 160 and 162 Forward Avenue, luckily with no injuries or fatalities, despite the enormous number of people occupying the two houses at the time! Defective wiring was given as the cause of the fire which broke out at the back of the two-storey home at 160 owned by Andrew J. Findlay, which tore through the wooden sheds at the back, and then jumped the laneway and gutted 162 Forward, owned by Alfred Tremblay. Mrs. Findlay was having dinner at 160 with her brother and her four children when the tenant who lived upstairs at 160 shouted down about the fire. Mrs. Findlay also had five infants in the downstairs bedroom (home daycare) and rescued them out two at a time, handing them to neighbours. Meanwhile, Mr. Tremblay and his wife and six children all escaped uninjured as well.
A major fire hit Forward Avenue on Sunday May 20th, 1956, when children playing with firecrackers burned down one of the old ice houses/warehouses at the south end of Forward, and caused damage to 18 houses on Forward and Hinchey. It was a blaze that actually threatened Mechanicsville as a whole. 191 Forward was fully lost to the fire. (I'll be covering this fire as an article of its own in an upcoming blog post soon).
In early 1963, some area residents were pushing for Forward Avenue to be opened up over the CPR tracks, as it was known that the end of rail traffic was coming (it had already been announced that passenger trains would be removed soon). But the Board of Control refused their request. Mayor Charlotte Whitton commented that it would cost $16,000 to create the access over the tracks. On top of that, there was still freight traffic planned to continue, which it did well into the 1970s. Had council agreed to establish the opening in 1963, it likely would be open at Scott Street today!
Here are a few photos from the mid-1960s:
|1963 view of the north end of Forward Avenue, looking|
west, with Parkdale at the top.
(cropped from Ottawa Archives photo CA-8697)
|1965 view of Forward looking east|
(cropped from CA-9085)
|The north-west corner of Forward at Burnside, showing the|
long house at 114 Forward which by then featured six
apartment units. Photo taken March 11th, 1965
(Source: City of Ottawa Archives, CA-24796)
|The long-time Chenier family home, at 194 Forward, circa 1956.|
(Source: City of Ottawa Archives, CA-25254)
How did I get this far and not mention the Joanisse family of Forward Avenue? The Joanisse family first arrived on Forward in 1885, and eventually at least four brothers (out of a family of 13 kids) and their families would reside long-term on the street. John (Jean Baptiste Jr.) Joanisse built 44 Emerson in 1885, and resided there raising his 12 children (according to a tree found online) until his death in 1940. He worked as a "riverman" for lumber baron J.R. Booth. Younger brother William built 88 Forward around 1890 and resided there until his death in 1930. Moise and Clara Joanisse built 172 Forward Avenue and Francis and Rose Joanisse built 170 Forward next door in late 1900 or early 1901. Moise was a mill labourer, and later worked with the City of Ottawa. He remained at 172 until his death in 1953, and at the time of his death he had 21 grandchildren and 36 great-grandchildren. Meanwhile his brother Francis who built next door was also employed as a riverman, and had no children. The photo below is of Moise's house:
|172 Forward Avenue, the long-time home of Moise and Clara|
Joanisse. Photo from May 3rd, 1965
(Source: City of Ottawa Archives, CA-25255)
Construction on the Ottawa River Parkway east of Parkdale began in May of 1966, and was completed in time for the opening in July of 1967. The Parkway severed Forward Avenue's direct access to the Ottawa River, and as mentioned above, was the cause of significant expropriation at the north end of the street.
In 1971, a storm sewer outlet was contracted for an outlet from Forward at Emmerson, out to the Ottawa River, 461 linear feet of 84 inch diameter tunnel. This was called the "Hintonburg Central Outlet".
In July of 1973, the press began covering the saga of the boarded up houses on Forward and Hinchey north of Burnside. 14 houses had sat vacant for several months after they had been acquired by Toronto-based real estate developer Deltan Realty Co. The company purchased the houses and immediately ordered all residents to move out by May, as the company had planned to build apartment buildings (originally planned were homes for the elderly). The houses sat vacant, with no fencing around the properties. As a result, most homes were broken into by "groups of teenagers who have been exploring the houses", leaving most doors and windows broken and open. The other problem was that it was reported by the papers that "the area became infested with rats, and that people are using the buildings for trash dumps." Oddly, the hydro and water continued to operate in the homes, leading residents to worry about fire, or children playing in the houses to be burned, or cut by the glass. Roland Boucher who lived across the street at 82 Forward led the residents fight for the site to be cleaned up and fenced off. One photo appeared in the Journal in July:
|July 20, 1973 photo of one of the houses, showing the|
destruction and garbage that had occurred.
From 1973 onwards, there were two types of history happening on Forward Avenue. One was the demolition of houses and construction of new buildings. I don't have the exact dates/details of all the buildings that were built on the street unfortunately, and it would not be too easy to research. The second type of history were stories of crime. Mechanicsville in the 70s and 80s went through probably its darkest period, and there were many stories of break-ins, thefts and even murder on the street. Not too much positive or all that interesting to report on, I'm afraid.
One story of note was of the big fire on February 12th, 2007, which hit the Place Allard townhouse complex at 187 Forward,
|2007 fire on Forward Avenue|
(Source: Ottawa Fire Services)
|2007 fire on Forward Avenue|
(Source: Ottawa Fire Services)
The five-alarm blaze injured six fireman, three seriously, who had to jump from the third storey when the smoke and heat became overpowering while searching for trapped residents. The firemen survived thankfully, but 14 public housing units were destroyed, leaving 35 homeless, and causing an estimated $500,000 in damages. The fire exposed some major issues within Ottawa Fire Services, and led to significant changes to how Ottawa firefighters responded to fires. As the Citizen reported: "Much went wrong that day. Communications systems broke down. Critical transmissions were missed. Equipment malfunctioned or was mishandled. The system designed to account for the whereabouts of firefighters failed. And in the heat of rapidly unfolding events, some firefighters lost "situational awareness": the ability to make informed, rapid decisions." A 100-page report was produced of the near-tragedy, and changes to the OFS included all firefighters equipped with a portable radio, a new strategies and tactics manual, new search methodology, new ladders, fire dynamics program re-developed to teach firefighters more about the science of a fire, new thermal imaging cameras, and new self-contained breathing units, among other changes.
Meanwhile Place Allard (which was named for Joseph D. Allard, long-time Alderman and Wellington Street merchant in honour of his life-long dedication to the residents of Mechanicsville and Hintonburg) was rebuilt, and had an opening celebration just this past June.
Oddball & Interesting stories and articles
Here is a handful of old miscellaneous newspaper articles about people and places from Forward Avenue that I find interesting, and tell a bit more of the authentic stories from eras of long ago:
|From the Ottawa Journal, September 8, 1899, an ad for lost|
horses. Goulet resided for many years at 82 Forward
|From September 23, 1905. About half-way through, the|
story begins about some trouble on "Fourth Street" (aka
|June 30, 1927|
|November 8, 1932|
|January 10, 1933|
|May 11, 1935|
|August 4, 1948|
|August 23, 1955|
|Also August 23, 1955|
So there you have it, the exhaustive, but by no means complete history of Forward Avenue. So many stories and happenings over its 144 years of existence, I hope you found some of these highlights interesting to read! It's too bad Forward Avenue really has lost so many of its original houses, but at least the stories and memories will never be lost!