Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The eerie past life of the Ottawa Bagelshop!

The Ottawa Bagelshop on Wellington Street is a Wellington Village institution. Growing up in the area (on Gilchrist Avenue), this was one of my family's main shopping spots during the 1980s, when Wellington West was not at all what it is today. I particularly remember Sunday mornings, when it was the only place that would be open east of Westboro and west of Holland Avenue. It was perfect for a kid who wanted to get a newspaper to view the hockey statistics and scores from Saturday night's games (the newspaper used to be the only way to do this, pre-internet!), or when my parents wanted hot bagels for Sunday breakfast. The Bagelshop was (and still is) the place to go.

It opened in April of 1984 when Vince Piazza opened the shop selling "Montreal style bagels" after learning the trade at his brother-in-law's St. Viateur Street store in Montreal. It was in 1996 that the shop expanded to the neighbouring building, which previously had been the Ottawa Church of God and (along with the Peace Finders Gift Shop inside the front lobby). The two buildings had actually been completely separate before, and the renovation connected the two buildings, making it appear as one complete structure.

So the eerie past life of the Bagelshop resides in this "new" part of the Bagelshop (the restaurant portion). You might be surprised to know that for 45 years, this building was a funeral home! 

The Radmore Stewart Funeral Home opened in 1930 in the main floor of a large home built in 1922. It was around this time that the way funerals were organized changed. Prior to the 1920s, it was common practice that when a family member passed away, the post-death care, funeral and wake services were all performed within the family home. It wasn't until after WWI, when the process of embalming was popularized for soldiers being returned home for burial, that the bodies of the recently deceased were moved into funeral homes shortly after death. 

George Radmore Stewart saw a need for a funeral home in the west end, and opened his small business in a converted house at what was then 1323 Wellington Street.

The photo below shows the building as it was in 1943. If you take a good look from across the street, you can still see the loft windows looking quite the same.
The original Radmore Stewart Funeral Home as it looked
from 1930 until 1947

Aerial photo May 1933 
At left is an aerial photo of Wellington Street between Ross (at left) and Grange (at right) from May 1933. The funeral home is at the corner of Grange, and you can see the original addition as well (now the Strawberry Blonde bakery), which was an auto
garage at the time. The main Bagelshop building would later be built in the adjoining vacant space, and the next building to the west is the Gastropub building (built 1923). Across the street, where the Parma Ravioli now exists is a big "V" which was likely a large-sized advertising billboard. 

A view of the family reception room in the original funeral home at right.

The original funeral home chapel 1930-1947. (My apologies on the quality of some of these photos, they are taken from old photocopies and/or newspapers. I did the best I could with them). 

Ottawa Journal, February 10th 1940

At right is a vintage ad from the Ottawa Journal, promoting the range of affordability a Radmore Stewart funeral could offer. "$48 and less" sounds like quite a bargain, though I can't imagine what a less-than-$48 funeral would have gotten you!

For 17 years, the Radmore Stewart parlor operated in the small converted home (one of the sons and his wife even resided upstairs), before demand led to the construction of a new chapel addition, which opened in the summer of 1947. 

The new Radmore Stewart chapel, on July 18th, 1947
(click on this, or any photo, for an enlarged view)
(D00658 Sproul Collection - City of Ottawa Archives)

The inside of the new chapel in 1947

At left is a view of the interior of the Radmore Stewart chapel in 1947.

Radmore Stewart closed in late 1975 or early 1976. The location briefly became a Lebanese community centre, before the Sahara Dining Lounge opened in 1978. The restaurant did not last long, and it was taken over by the Church of God by 1981.

Meanwhile, next door at 1321 Wellington (the Bagelshop store portion) was built in 1945, and opened in April of that year as the new location of Armand Cloutier's local gift and variety shop (specializing in greeting cards, school textbooks and even radio repairs), having moved from 1244 Wellington (where Nectar Tea is now located). This shop would become a landmark of its own in West Wellington, remaining as Cloutier's until 1980. It briefly became the Wellington Travel Agency and Home Fashion Centre, before the Bagelshop opened in 1984.

And now you know the unique past life of part of the Bagelshop building!


  1. Fascinating! Thanks for all these great posts about the history of our 'hood.

  2. I have fond memories of going to Cloutier's with my Grandfather, and choosing candy, which Mrs. Cloutier would put into a small brown paper bag. Mrs. Cloutier later worked at the Laura Secord store at Carlingwood after she sold the store.

  3. Thanks for the interesting article. I knew the place had been a church, but didn't know it's previous life. I'm glad I found your blog (thanks to Lost Ottawa on Facebook).

    Leona G

  4. Even now at the bagelshop there are a few stands with greetings cards right at the entrance, wonder if that has any relation to Cloutier's.