Tuesday, October 12, 2021
In case you missed it, CBC published a story this weekend about the Laroche Park remediation work, and some of the discoveries they are unearthing as they dig. CBC interviewed me for the story! Check out the full article at:
How land speculation and three scenic islands led to the birth of Champlain Park and Island Park Drive
This month's issue of the Kitchissippi Times contains my article on the evolution of Champlain Park (or Riverside Park, as it was originally known). It's a great story all made possible by Robert H. Cowley, son of Captain Daniel Keyworth Cowley, who operated a farm just west of what is now Island Park Drive in the 19th century.
Cowley was a visionary, and it was his push that likely led to the western extension to the Queen Elizabeth Driveway (aka Island Park Drive) taking the path it does today, and arriving at what was once three scenic islands off the shore. Cowley's ownership of the land and push for the Driveway led to the establishment of Champlain Park, and eventually the arrival of Island Park Drive.
It's an interesting story, and for those who live in Champlain Park, a great bit of history on how the neighbourhood was first formed.
I've intentionally not written too much on Champlain Park over the past five years as I know fellow historian Bob Grainger is actively working on a book on the history of the neighbourhood. But this story was just too great not to share!
A few vintage photos and visuals, so hope you enjoy!
Thursday, September 16, 2021
My presentation is just two weeks away!
On the evening of Wednesday September 29th, at 7 p.m., I will be making a live, online presentation as part of the Historical Society of Ottawa speaker series, on the history of the Tunney's Pasture property. If you have not registered yet, I encourage you to do so now (click here: http://tinyurl.com/HSO-allston).
This will be a detailed history of the land going back through all its uses (and proposed uses) of the 1800s and 1900s, from its days as a mill site operated by Nicholas Sparks, a shantytown, a hub for the proposed Georgian Bay Canal plan, a residential subdivision, a heavy industrial site, an abbatoir... and yes, the spot where Anthony Tunney's cattle grazed. I'll speak to its evolution to a federal government hub, and maybe even a brief look ahead at the proposed redevelopment project that will change Tunney's over the next two decades.
There will be a ton of visuals and photos. This is not just a boring history chat... this is going to bring the most interesting tidbits of Tunney's Pasture history alive in a 60 minute presentation!
I'll be featuring a lot of new photos and new stories that I have never shared before.
I am proud to be asked to be a speaker for the Historical Society series. The HSO holds just a few presentations each year, and to be recognized in this way is very meaningful to me. I invite you to join me on this special evening.
Admission is free, and no membership in the HSO is required. You can simply jump online using the link and watch the show without any need to speak or share video, as if you're watching Netflix (but good luck finding anything half as interesting as the history of Tunney's on Netflix!)
To register click this link: http://tinyurl.com/HSO-allston, and just enter your name and email address. It will reserve a spot for you in the presentation (spaces are somewhat limited) and ensure you receive a reminder email with the viewing link prior to the 29th.
More information can be found at the HSO website for the event here:
Thank you, I am very much looking forward to this presentation!
In this month's Kitchissippi Times, be sure to check out my new column profiling the fascinating Holland brothers, Andrew and George and their significant impact on the early days of our neighbourhood. You'll be surprised to read about all of their professional accomplishments, and how they directly affected the development of our community, including many of the streets and its infrastructure.
The article also talks about the growth of Holland Avenue, a street which is growing in prominence as Kitchissippi continues to evolve (just wait until the Tunney's Pasture redevelopment begins!). Holland was the main street they designed as part of their subdivision plan for the area, a street laid out for the initial purposes of featuring the streetcars going south to the Farm, and later west to Britannia.
Read all about these two incredible individuals, and the history of Holland Avenue at:
Wednesday, August 11, 2021
Loads of Laundry: From faith healing church to Laundry Land, the history of a notable Westboro location
Check out the newest issue of the Kitchissippi Times for a neat article I've written on the history of the piece of land at the top of the Churchill Avenue hill. For years it has been a coin laundry/dry cleaners known as "Laundry Land", but I was surprised when my research took me back to when part of the building was originally a faith healing church as far back as 1900! It's been several other things since then, and has quite a colourful history.
Working on this story has also yielded one of the biggest coincidences of my life. I'd been poking at the story for a couple of weeks back in June, when one day into my inbox I read the subject line "Hornerite Church on Churchill". It was an email from esteemed historian Bruce Elliott. I'm always glad to hear from Dr. Elliott on any subject, and in this case he was kindly forwarding something he had randomly come across that he thought I might be interested in. What a huge coincidence, as I was already in the midst of researching the Hornerites and the history of that Church! For about ten seconds when I read that subject line, I was stunned. How does anyone even know I'm working on this, I wondered. Anyways, what a coincidence, but the article did reveal a few details that led me to making the important confirmation that the Church was actually moved, and not demolished and replaced by a new commercial building. So great timing on that for sure.
Anyhow, it's a sad story, the closing of Laundry Land, and who knows what lies in store for that impressive piece of land in the heart of Westboro. So I'm happy to share the history of the property, and the building.
|(Photo credit: Francis Ferland/CBC)|
Saturday, July 31, 2021
I love the Island Park Metro. I've spent my entire life living within short walking distance, and as a kid, it was the place where my family did most of our shopping. Before the arrival in the neighbourhood of the big box stores like Superstore and Sobey's, the Metro was one of the few grocery store options in the area, and believe it or not, one of the biggest.
Opinions on the Metro seem mixed amongst people I've spoken to. Some love it because it's close by, small, and has that old-school charm. Or others avoid it for the perceived lack of selection, small size, or whatever. To me, its almost like shopping at Morris Home Hardware. A smaller location, but the selection is pretty impressive, the staff are awesome, its just a short walk away, and it just has that extra neighbourhoody feel to it.
I was in the Metro two days ago and realized I didn't really know the history of the store, and had never written about it.
And since it has been way too long since I've written something for the blog, I thought it would make for a nice, shorter piece. So here we go...
* * *
The Metro property actually has a grocery store as part of its history going all the way back to 1908! In that year, prominent Hintonburg businessman William George Wilson built a 2-storey red-bricked house at the corner of Carleton and Richmond (fronting Richmond, but on the far west edge of the property, which is now the Metro parking lot). The ground floor was built as a commercial space, with an apartment upstairs. The house was leased to 24-year old Henry Porteous and his family, who moved in upstairs and opened a grocery store downstairs. The would go on to operate this store for the next 19 years, until 1927.
The neighbourhood was growing steadily at this time. Though the Ottawa Land Association property east of Western would remain empty fields until 1920, the little pocket of homes north of Richmond along Carleton and Rockhurst, and south of Richmond along Piccadilly and Mayfair was enough to keep the store busy.
Business must have been good; Porteous later bought the building from Wilson in 1917, and around that time as well purchased the house on the other side of Carleton fronting Richmond for his family to move in to (they then rented out the apartment above the store).
|May 6, 1922|
Porteous sold the grocery store property in 1927, and opened a small hardware store out of his home next door for two years, before passing away in 1929 at the young age of 45.
James M. Shouldice purchased the grocery store in 1927, and after a brief stint as "Shouldice & Rogers", became Shouldice Brothers in 1929. The store would have been for several decades the primary grocery store for the area east of Westboro and west of Parkdale Avenue.
|Shouldice Brothers Grocery|
(illustration by Lorne Parker)
I don't have a photo of the grocery store, but this illustration by long-time resident Lorne Parker survives. Parker grew up with the Shouldice store in the 1930s and 1940s, and wrote this about it several years ago:
"The Shouldice Store was on of the focal points that attracted us youngsters for one reason or another. They sold a full line of groceries plus most of the requisites of everyday living, a forerunner of the present-day department stores. Unlike today, the owners were present to serve and chat with the customers, young and old. No need to have a credit card for your purchase, just tell them you'll drop by tomorrow or "put it on the bill" til payday, which to their consternation, sometimes never came. The Shouldice Brothers, Rug and Jim, often handed out free candy to the assembled kids who occupied their front veranda and window sill for most of the daylight hours, six days a week. Sunday was then a day of rest, which the majority of people required after working nine and ten hour days. Another use for the front entrance of the Shouldice Store was a dropping-off spot for the Ottawa Citizen and Journal papers, for delivery to customers on the "paperboys" route in the area."
In 1945, it became known as "Island Grocery & Meat Market", around which time the Shouldice Brothers sold to Morris Krantzberg, who soon after sold to Max and Lillian David, who continued business under this same name.
|Ottawa Citizen - May 16, 1946|
In 1957, the grocery business was changing, and larger grocery store chains had arrived and moved into the neighbourhood. The smaller shops could no longer compete with the chains who had access to discounted products and shipping lines. The Davids leased the building to Esbar Kouri, who opened a restaurant here called Kouri's Restaurant, and by the mid-60s had become Island Park Variety (a convenience store with a lunch counter).
The old building's life came to an end in July of 1965 when the assets of Island Park Variety were sold by auction. The Davids had sold the property to M. Loeb Ltd. in October of 1963.
Now the adjoining lots are also part of the story in what makes up today's Metro property. The Porteous/Shouldice/David lot was "lot 7" on Richmond Road. Lot 8 to the east had a house on it built also in 1908 by sawfiler John James Clark (later the long-time home of the Bennie and May families). This house was purchased by Max David in 1954 and included in the sale to Loeb in 1963.
Lots 9 and 10, which is the east end of the parking lot and the Island Park Dental building today, was the long-time home of the 'Ottawa West Garage', a very early neighbourhood car repair shop opened by Charles Weatherdon in 1922.
|May 6, 1922|
It later became Young's Service Garage (1936-1939), McNally's Service Station (1940-1955), Brazeau Motor Sales (1956-1959), Bytown Motors Ltd. (1960-1962), Goodwin Motors (1964-1965), and Wally Biggs (1965-1966).
The small service station building was demolished in 1966, and the property in lots 9 and 10 leased to M. Loeb Ltd. (it's kind of interesting that the Metro does not and never has owned the eastern half of the property - or at least did not until the 2000s if it ever has).
Meanwhile, there were three houses fronting onto Garrison Street (then known as Perth Street) which had to be demolished to make way for the big supermarket. In May of 1964, Leonard and Edna Schan sold their house at the corner of Carleton (341 Carleton, a small, wood-frame 1 1/2 storey house); in September of 1965 Palmerino and Maria Nicoletta sold their house at 18 Perth (a 2 1/2 storey brick house); and in July of 1965 Rene Ladouceur sold the house at 14 Perth (a 2 storey wood-frame house) to M. Loeb Ltd.
Though I do not have handy any photos of those buildings or houses, the aerial photos of 1958 and 1965 from GeoOttawa show the detail of where those houses were located, and also shows the site in 1965 in mid-transition, with the used car lot and old Shouldice Grocery still standing, along with the Ladouceur house on Perth still there. All three buildings would be gone within a year.
|1958 aerial view (GeoOttawa)|
|1965 aerial view (GeoOttawa)|
* * *
Construction on the Metro store would have begun sometime in the late fall of 1966. The store had it's grand opening as IGA Foodliner on Tuesday July 18th, 1967.
|Ottawa Citizen, July 14, 1967|
|Ottawa Citizen, July 19, 1967|
Here is a classified ad looking for clerks just after opening:
|Ottawa Citizen, September 22, 1967|
Moses Loeb came to Ottawa in 1912 by way of Cincinnati, in search of new business opportunities. He purchased a store in LeBreton Flats and began selling groceries. He also began selling candy and tobacco to other grocery stores with his horse and wagon, growing his business so that the family's Eccles Street home was essentially a warehouse. The wholesale business was profitable, but the Loeb business did not take off until son Bertram returned from WWII and purchased the first Independent Grocers Alliance (IGA) regional franchise in Canada, and started signing up small neighbourhood grocers. By 1952 they had 34 stores, doing $3.5 million in annual business. Bertram then took the IGA concept across Canada and in to the US, and took the company public in 1959. He was the first to implement computerized inventory, and also intrdouced Gold Bond Stamps (which shoppers could exchange for toasters and blankets). Loeb in radio ads in Ottawa began to use the slogan "I Give Away" to represent IGA. The Island Park IGA opened when Loeb was at its peak, with sales and profits franchise-wise increasing 40% annually.
|Example of the interior of an Ottawa IGA store|
at the time. This was taken at the IGA Foodliner
on Merivale Road in April of 1964
Here are two views from just overheard taken on May 13 1969. The second photo is similar but is taken more to the west so you get a bit of a view of the front wall (unfortunately the photo is cut off as it is at the edge of the photo):
Here is a better shot of the store taken in 1974:
|July 1974 (part of Ottawa Archives CA-10408)|
Below is a profile of then-manager of the Island Park IGA, Ray Moise:
|Ottawa Citizen, August 9, 1972|
Ray Moise would be in the newspaper quite a bit over the next four years, adamantly fighting the Sunday store closure laws. It all began in May of 1972, when Moise began fighting what was known as the Lord's Day Act, which required that larger stores be closed on Sundays. He argued that he was losing a lot of business to smaller stores. "I was forced to open by Mac's Milk and the other supermarkets that were staying open in the area. I would lose my business otherwise and I can't afford to see a lifetime of work fly out the window" he stated in June of that year.
Moise was one of the first stores to fight the Act, following the lead of the Alta Vista IGA and Paquins Pay Less on Bank Street at Walkley, which began operating 7 days a week in January of 1972.
That July, Moise's Island Park IGA, as well as Fournier's IGA in Britannia (now Farm Boy) were charged under the Lord's Day Act (which dated back to 1906). When it finally got to court in April of 1973, Moise was acquitted of some of the charges on the odd technicality that "evidence failed to show whether or not he was the owner last June 11; a Sunday on which his store was open." (He was obviously the owner at the time). Paquin was found guilty and fined $25 (the maximum fine for each day of a store being open was just $40), and at court in August, other stores were found guilty as well. Moise was later brought up on other charges and fined the minimum $25, as the Judge took into account that Moise had stopped opening on Sundays once he was charged.
However, that seems to have changed by later in 1973, as Moise and other grocery store owners decided to remain open on Sundays "until the fines became too high". He said that "Sunday was as good a day for business as the rest of the week".
The fines piled up, and on July 4th, 1975, Regly Markets Ltd., operators of the Island Park IGA, and its owner Ray Moise were convicted of 60 charges and fined $4,080. A total of 186 charges for three stores resulted in more than $11,000 fines assessed.
Yet, that Sunday, Moise remained open (as did the two other stores found guilty and fined heavily that previous week). Ottawa morality detectives visited the store and sent reports to the Crown attorney's office for potential prosecution. Moise argued that many corner stores remain open Sunday and "if it's fair for them, it should be fair to me", and noted that he would keep his store open on Sunday's despite the threat of legal action. "We're going to try to see it through anyway."
By the fall of 1975, the unions of retail store employees began picketing grocery stores (which were now opening in abundance across Ontario - including 108 supermarkets on one Sunday alone in Toronto), arguing that employees should not be forced to work Sundays, and that the additional costs of overtime/increase shift premiums would result in the companies passing on the costs to the public.
On New Years Day 1976, new provincial law came into effect (the Retail Business Act), stating that stores with up to 3 employees with less than 2,400 square feet of floor space can stay open on Sundays. Larger stores face fines up to $10,000 for opening. This was enough to force Moise and all of the Ottawa supermarkets to close on Sundays. At other stores, there were layoffs due to the new Sunday closures, while Moise noted to the press that he hoped to absorb his additional staff into the weekly work schedule.
It would not be until 1989 when Sunday shopping would be allowed in some areas (Ontario Liberal new legislation allowed local municipalities set Sunday shopping rules), and then across the province in June of 1990 when Ontario Supreme Court Justice James Southey declared the legislation unconstitutional, allowing for wide-open Sunday shopping. Sunday shopping became one of the big issues in the fall 1990 provincial election, which saw Bob Rae's NDP emerge victorious under promises to eliminate Sunday shopping. In March of 1991, Ontario Court of Appeal ruled Sunday shopping had to stop, and it became a political issue for all of 1991 into 1992. Finally the government relented, and on June 7th, 1992, Sunday shopping became permanently allowed across the province.
Here is a view of the IGA from August 28th 1984:
|August 28, 1984|
The name of the store changed from IGA to Loeb in July of 1992, after Provigo (who had acquired Loeb Inc. in 1977) sold the IGA trademark and franchise rights to Oshawa Group Ltd.
I wish I had a photo of it at street-level from the 1980s or 1990s. (If anyone does by chance, please let me know!).
The best I can do is this old photo from Google Streetview from before it converted from Loeb to Metro, from September 2007:
|September 2007 (Google Streetview)|
The Island Park Loeb was one of the final 31 stores to carry the Loeb name. It was renamed with the new Metro branding in the Spring of 2009.
|Ottawa Citizen, August 8, 2008|
Which brings us to today, 113 years after Henry Porteous opened a small grocery store in a brick house on this spot, and the now 54-year old Metro building remains a distinct, familiar building on the Wellington West strip.