For my first street profile, I have selected what I consider to be one of the more interesting streets in the history of the area. But it isn't one you would have expected. I was also inspired to choose this street by the suggestion of a high school friend who realizes that the street still has meaning to her, even years after her family has since moved away. Stirling Avenue is a relatively short street that kind of bisects Hintonburg between Wellington and Scott, and has an unbelievable amount of interesting history stuffed into its 1,400 foot length. A perfect representative of the wild and crazy history of Hintonburg itself.
Current Street Name: Stirling Avenue
Former Street Name: was known as "Centre Street" up until 1908
First established: 1873
Name meaning: According to "Ottawa Old & New", it was named after Stirling, a City in central Scotland.
How named: Hintonburg was annexed to the City of Ottawa in December of 1907, and many streets required renaming. This was done by the Board of Control in 1908, likely under the recommendation of the outgoing Hintonburg town council.
Block VI (6), comprising a little over 7 acres, was given to daughter Agnes (married name Stewart). Agnes did not built on the lot, but maintained it for 10 years before selling in 1871 to Frances Magee, a widow and early Nepean Township settler who acquired a number of pieces of land. She was a trailblazer indeed, being a female real estate prospector in this era. It was in May of 1873 that Magee laid out what was registered as "Plan 43" at the Carleton County Registry Office. As each land-owner was free to lay out their subdivision as they wished, Magee chose to simply run a thin street down the center of the lot, and offer lots on either side. The street was called "Centre Street", and a total of 43 lots were drawn up, most being of 99' deep and 66' wide.
|The original Plan 43 (Richmond Road at left, Scott at right. The entire|
plan is essentially the full length of Stirling Avenue)
This background is part of a very detailed history of the early days of Hintonburg, but is excellent evidence of why the neighbourhood has a very unique layout of streets and lots. Essentially, Richmond Road existed well before any development began, and all growth happened around it's existing route. But as the area developed through a series of individual packets of property that were stitched together into the tapestry that became Hintonburg, it speaks to the character of the neighbourhood that makes it such an appealing place to live, with such an interesting history.
Magee conducted lot sales through her agent James Clark until her death in 1883. The lots fronting on the popular Richmond Road sold immediately in 1873. Richard Woodland, a butcher, purchased lots C, D, E, and 1 at the northwest corner of Richmond Road; while Peter Harvey, a blacksmith, purchased lot A. These lots were sold for roughly $100 apiece.
The Scottish-born Peter Harvey would be the first to build on the plan, constructing a small 1 1/2 storey wood-frame blacksmith shop fronting Richmond Road just east of the corner of Stirling (approximately now where the Al Jazeerah shop exists at 1101 Wellington) sometime in 1874-1875. The blacksmith shop would remain in this location until about 1910, later operated by David Moodie (1877-1890) and Thomas Blanchfield (1891-1910).
The other businesses fronting onto Richmond Road on Plan 43 would be built soon after as well. Magee House (the wonderful stone house still standing at 1119 Wellington) was built around 1880, and Francis H. Gilchrist's shop at 1111 Wellington (now Heaven's to Betsy) was built in the mid-to-late 1880s.
However the first houses that actually fronted onto Stirling Avenue itself were constructed between 1876 and 1877, when established builder Samuel McArthur built a larger 1 1/2-storey semi-detached house on lot 3 (formerly 108-110 Stirling, demolished in the 1990s, now the location of the newer row townhouses at 110 Stirling), while stonemason Richard Mathews built a smaller house on the north half of lot 5 (now the site of 92 Stirling), which was demolished sometime between 1902-1912.
|77 Stirling Avenue, which was restored|
beautifully in 2008-09, the oldest home
on Stirling Avenue, now 133 years old.
Development occurred quickly on Stirling Avenue, indeed as it had throughout Hintonburg during the boom of the late-1880s. By 1892 there were 32 completed houses on the street (compared to just 5 in 1885).
Businesses on Stirling Avenue:
|The 1912 Fire Insurance Plan,|
showing the "Moving Picture
Theatre" on Stirling Avenue.
No history of Stirling would be complete without mentioning the infamous Stirling House tavern and hotel, which operated at the south-east corner of Armstrong and Stirling from 1935 until the early 1990s. Part of the building actually began life as a movie theater built between 1911 and 1912. George Ventura who would go on to become a projectionist for 40 years in Ottawa theaters operated the "West End Theatre" at 123 Stirling Avenue during the era of silent films. The small 1-storey wood building must have been an incredibly eye-opening site to visit for Hintonburg residents while it was open from 1911 until about 1915.
|A rare ad from the Ottawa Journal newspaper on|
October 22nd, 1913 promoting the Theatre.
|The 1948 Fire Insurance Plan,|
showing the Stirling Hotel.
For those of you unfamiliar with the lore of the Stirling House, it is absolutely legendary in Hintonburg. While I was much too young to have ever been able to visit the tavern while it was open, I do remember driving by in my childhood, and hearing some of the stories about it from my Dad and grandfather. The newspaper archives are chock-full of unbelievable stories as well. It seems that barfights were practically a daily occurrence, and the local police were regularly called in for disturbances big and small.
|The former Stirling House. (Photo borrowed from the blog:|
After finally closing down in the early 1990s, when the Hintonburg transformation was just in its early stages, the building sat idle for many years, until the CCOC purchased it for $2, renovated it and converted it in to housing. So it is thanks to the CCOC that we can still walk by the building today and reminisce, and have this piece of history intact from such a unique and important part of Hintonburg's past.
Other businesses have existed on Stirling Avenue over time. As was common in the late 19th and early 20th century, small grocery shops were operated out of front living rooms. Many of these came and went over the years, often not lasting more than a year or two. However, a couple of stand-out businesses did remain longer term and are worth memorializing here.
|ad for Verdon's grocery from the Ottawa|
Journal, November 28th, 1924.
At left is an old ad from the Grocery & Butcher Shop from 1924.
Verdon's Grocery, March 1965(CA-24662 - City of Ottawa Archives)
The building on the north-east corner of Stirling and Armstrong (105-107 Stirling) has long been the site of various mercantile endeavours. Auguste Roy built the house around 1891, and remained there until he died at the amazing age of 98 in 1958. He operated a cab company out of the home from 1889 until 1939 (I guess he would have started off with horses before switching to automobiles as the times changed). He also operated a restaurant out of the building commencing in the late 20s or early 30s, which was taken over by local businessman Joseph P. Nolan after his retirement in 1939. It later became the Stirling Grocery Market, and Cal's Confectionery. By the mid-1950s it became the Brentwood Vacuum Cleaners and Repairs shop, Morrison Refrigeration in the 60s, and likely had a few other names and purposes before converting to exclusively residential sometime in the 1980s.
Other landmarks & notable locations on Stirling Avenue:
In 1933, the St. Francois D'Assise Separate School opened up at 12-24 Stirling Avenue, providing a larger space than what the school had previously had at the Irving Avenue location. This school was used as an art gallery by the late 1980s and became the Odawa Friendship Centre in 1996, but of course is now under renovation to become part of a larger condo structure.
To the north of the school, where the gymnasium was just recently demolished, used to be a row of houses built in the mid-1890s as rental housing. They actually managed to stick around until the 1960s, and were literally falling apart when the City of Ottawa forced their removal as part of their Urban Renewal initiative of the late 1950s. The photos below were taken in 1960 shortly before they were demolished. Both a view from the front of the house and rear are shown.
2-4-6-8-10 Stirling Ave in 1960 (front view)(CA-20644 - City of Ottawa Archives)
2-4-6-8-10 Stirling Ave in 1960 (rear view)(CA-20645 - City of Ottawa Archives)
And this below is just another cool old vintage photo I once found of 82 and 84 Stirling Avenue in their 1954 glory. While doing final editing on this blog, I was actually a little surprised to see the house still exists today, nicely refinished! This house was also built by Richard Matthews, sometime around 1888-1891.
|(CA-24663 - City of Ottawa Archives)|
To conclude this look at Stirling Avenue, I thought I would do two things. Firstly, I wanted to write a paragraph on the original 98 Stirling Avenue, which has since been replaced with a new build. This was the house which my old high school friend had still felt a connection to, and in doing a quick research of its history, found it to be a perfect representation of a Hintonburg home. The original 98 Stirling was built during the winter of 1888-1889 by Samuel McArthur (the same builder mentioned earlier who had built one of the first two homes on the street in 1876; he also had built the original town hall on Parkdale and several other notable buildings in Hintonburg). McArthur was building up quite a collection of properties which he rented out to tenants. The house was given the number 59 Centre Street (interestingly, prior to the annexation to Hintonburg, all of the houses on Stirling were numbered in the opposite way, with odd numbers on the west side, even numbers on the east). The first occupants were Edmund Thompson, a 36-year old millwright from Lochaber, Quebec, his wife Hannah Scobie, and their five children. Hannah died in April of 1892, giving birth to their sixth child. The Thompsons moved out around 1894, replaced by Leonard Sauve, a lumber culler, and his young family. This began a chain of events typical of homes in the area, where the houses were sold often, and occupants changed practically every year or two. To list every owner and occupant of the house would take literally paragraphs. But the people share almost all of the same basic characteristics: francophone, working class, young with growing large families, such as Eustache Lacroix (1900-1906), Louis de Bourgogne Routhier (1906-1910), and Jean Fissiault (1910-1913).
|The Blais family of 98 Stirling Avenue, circa 1910|
(photo source: Ancestry)
The Blais family sold in 1947 to Adelard and Alexandrine Dinelle. Adelard was the proprietor of Dinelle Rug Cleaners at 839 Somerset West. The Dinelle family would remain until November of 1980, selling for $25,250 to Daniele Bourbeau, who flipped it a little over two years later in January of 1983 to the Clarke family for $47,000. The original house was replaced between 2002-2005.
|Ottawa Journal - September 22, 1909|
|Ottawa Journal - January 15, 1913|
|Ottawa Journal - March 7, 1913|
|Ottawa Journal - February 17, 1925|
|Ottawa Journal - January 26, 1935|
|Ottawa Journal - May 12, 1959|
|Ottawa Journal - July 11, 1961|