Thursday, December 29, 2016

The history of the Harmer Avenue Queensway pedestrian bridge

The Harmer Avenue pedestrian bridge has been a unique feature in Kitchissppi for the past 50-plus years. Built out of necessity due to the construction of the Queensway in the early 1960s, this little bridge is much appreciated for maintaining the linkage between the two neighbourhoods which border the Queensway. It is also a handy-cut through for pedestrians and cyclists looking to travel north-south through the community ,and most importantly, it was created to be (and continues to exist as) a safe, direct route for school children to travel to get to Fisher Park or Elmdale School.

The pedestrian bridge will be in the news in the near future, as a planned replacement is scheduled for 2018. The RFP was put out this past summer, and the work has now been contracted out, with some minor work scheduled in January (according to Jeff Leiper's newsletter "minor repairs that include the installation of a fine mesh will likely be undertaken in mid-to-late January").

So I thought it would be fun to take a look back at how this pedestrian bridge came about, and its story through the years.

Queensway background:
The Queensway was extensively planned throughout the 1950s, and by 1957, the plans were more or less finalized. In 1957, it was announced that the Queensway would be a "limited-access highway" with a series of interchanges at major intersections known as "clover-leaves" (where a driver can approach the Queensway from any direction and access it to proceed in either direction) or in more highly populated areas, via ramps. Also, it was announced which north-south streets along the route would have an underpass or overpass established (which included Main, Elgin, O'Connor, Bank, Lyon, Percy, Bronson, Booth, Rochester, Preston, Bayswater, Fairmont, Parkdale and Holland). It is interesting to note as well that Island Park was initially slated to be a clover-leaf interchange (joining Pinecrest, Woodroffe, Maitland, Carling-Kirkwood, Riverside Drive and St-Laurent).

But included in the plans as well was one single pedestrian bridge along the entirety of the route of the new Queensway, envisioned for Harmer Avenue. No doubt officials recognized that a large portion of the school populations for Fisher Park, Elmdale and St. George's Schools were children living just on the south side of the Queensway. The Queensway would have forced them to travel either west to Island park or east to Holland and backtrack. Not easy options, and certainly not a safe proposal either.

(By the way, you can read more about the arrival of the Queensway in Kitchissippi at my previous article at:

Construction on the interchanges commenced in August of 1960. The Island Park Drive overpass was the first to be constructed, and Holland Avenue came soon after. IPD was closed for quite a lengthy period during the building of the overpass, and thus all IPD traffic was re-routed down Helena Street and onto Harmer, which had temporarily been opened as a through-street. However, three children were injured on Helena in the first few weeks of the detour, and with the start of the school year coming, more injuries (or worse) were feared. Traffic was also way too heavy for these small streets to handle (5,000 cars per day at the time), and made worse by the large number of trucks using the street to access the work site. 105 families on Harmer and Helena signed a petition urging the City to find another route. The city traffic committee visited the site, and considered the problem, but found there was no solution, other than stricter law enforcement to monitor speeding (15 mph limit), the erection of "a rash of slow down signs", and they eventually re-allowed trucks to use the closed Island Park Drive to access the worksite. On top of this, the committee also agreed to build "an asphalt footpath from Kenilworth to Harmer through the old railbed. This will afford a safe path for youngsters travelling to three schools in the area." This step helped lay the groundwork for the future pedestrian bridge to come.

Widening of the Queensway Right-of-Way:

Where a thin railway line had previously run the route of the Queensway, much land was required on either side. As well, a little additional space was required to add the pedestrian bridge access ramps. As a result, there were five houses in the vicinity of Harmer Avenue that were demolished or moved to accommodate the new infrastructure. These houses can be best seen in the old fire insurance map below. These 5 houses included 118 Harmer and 3 Helena at the top (located where the north pedestrian bridge access ramp is now located, by Fisher Park), and a large brick house (230 Harmer), plus two small wood houses at 225 and 227 Harmer all on the south side where the south pedestrian bridge ramp now runs.

1948 Fire Insurance Map of Ottawa, showing the vicinity of
Harmer Avenue. That's Faraday at the very top, then Helena,
and finally Kenilworth at the bottom, with Harmer running top
to bottom through the center. The old rail line is marked as just
a thin solid black line. 

The changes in this area are demonstrated well in the photos below. which are aerial photos from 1958, 1965 and present-day (2015) showing how Harmer Avenue and the surrounding area was modified to accommodate both the Queensway and the pedestrian bridge:

Aerial photograph from 1958 prior to any Queensway construction

Aerial photo from 1965, showing the completed Queensway and bridge.

Aerial photo from 2015 showing the same area as above.

Construction of the Pedestrian Bridge:
In July of 1962, the Ontario Highways Department awarded a contract for $73,391 to W. D. Laflamme Ltd., for construction of the bridge.

Ottawa Journal, July 24, 1962

By later in 1962, construction was underway on the pedestrian bridge, with the goal of having it in use by the summer of 1963. It was to be the first pedestrian overpass ever to cross a provincial highway in Ontario.

The bridge was designed by the engineering firm of DeLeuw, Cather and Co. Ltd. The Journal of December 7th noted that it was to be 15 feet high, 10 feet wide and 180 feet long (the bridge ended up being closer to 25 or 30 feet in height), and would have a budgeted cost of $90,000. The end result was a 122-foot span of pre-stressed, pre-cast concrete, with ramps at either end specifically designed with baby carriages in mind. The final actual cost was $125,000.

First stages of construction - Photo December 7, 1962

The photo below just barely captures the pedestrian bridge at the left edge of the photo (this photo is cropped from a much larger oblique air photo taken of the neighbourhood, hence the somewhat low resolution). The bridge would appear to be completed, I think I even see two figures walking on the north approach. The Queensway itself is just base at this point.

 Pedestrian bridge is complete - April 1963
(Source: City of Ottawa Archives CA-8735)

The bridge was in use for quite a period (over a year) before the Queensway was finished. Despite that, it did not take long for safety concerns to arise. The walkway was not enclosed, and featured only basic railings. Local Alderman Ken Fogarty in the summer of 1963 expressed concern that it would prove "too much of a temptation for youngsters" adding "somebody is going to climb the rails and fall 35 feet to the Queensway". He noted that children were already climbing the rails on the overpass, and that once the roadway beneath were to be opened, the threat of danger would be all the more increased. He urged Council to add screening to prevent falls. However, no modifications were made at the time.

On May 18th, 1964, the Queensway opened to vehicles for the first time between Carling/Kirkwood running east to O'Connor Street. The photo below was taken just a couple of days after the opening, and shows well the lack of safety on the bridge itself, and also its popularity in the early days. I imagine when the Queensway first opened it would have been quite a highlight for schoolkids to stand on the overpass and observe the fast-moving traffic, which was new to Ottawa.

Ottawa Journal, May 21, 1964

Here is a good view of the overpass and the Queensway just after it opened in 1964:

Queensway looking west, just a little east of Fisher Park School.
(Source: City of Ottawa Archives, CA-24211)

Here is another photo of it from September of 1964, from the opposite direction:

Queensway looking east, September 1964.

The photo immediately above was taken from an interesting article in the Ottawa Journal discussing the concerns associated with citizens taking short-cuts across the highway. When the Queensway first opened, there were no large sound barriers or fences. As well, many people were simply used to being able to move north and south freely - either over the railway tracks which had existed there previously, or for nearly ten years the tracks had been removed and it was simply vacant space. The loss of convenience was an issue, and many did not hesitate dodging cars in order to cross. On one of the first days of school in September of 1964, an 11-year-old boy was killed running across the lanes at Kirkwood, and a week later a three-year-old girl was seriously injured running across at Rochester. Compounding things was that hitchhiking on the Queensway was legal at the time (provided the hitchhiker solicited rides from the shoulder or ditch), and that only bicycles and animals were prohibited from using the road; walking alongside the Queensway was allowed. One student at Woodroffe High School was actually captured by the newspaper cameraman darting across below:

Ottawa Journal - September 19, 1964

Fencing of the bridge:
In November of 1964, Alderman Ken Fogarty again fought for a covering or the raising of the protective wiring to prevent what he called "acrobatic displays" on the overpass. Further of concern was the throwing of snowballs and other objects onto the traffic below. The Ottawa Council of Home and School Associations later added their voice of support, urging in March of 1965 for the overpass to be "fenced in completely" in a letter to the Ottawa Police Department. The need for standardizing safety on the overpasses was of immediate concern as the City contemplated added more pedestrian bridges in other areas.

Finally, the Board of Control on April 29th, 1965, after a recommendation from Police Chief Reg Axcell, approved plans to put a cage over the bridge, at a cost of $4,000. City Council approved it the following Monday. The newspaper coverage elaborated even further on the risky actions that kids were undertaking, including reports of "bigger boys dangling smaller ones over the railings"!

Ottawa Journal - May 4, 1965

The fence however was not installed right away, and was put off repeatedly by the works department throughout the summer and fall. The fence finally went in on October 14th, 1965, at a cost of $1,700.

Photo of the overpass - as published in the Fisher Park High
School Yearbook 1969-70

The first pedestrian bridge replacement:

By late 1971, just nine years after the overpass was constructed, it became evident that there were faults in its construction, and had deteriorated quicker than anticipated due to salt and weather. The City hired the original engineers (DeLeuw, Cather and Co. Ltd.) to examine the bridge and make any necessary repairs, after a large chunk fell from the overpass onto the Queensway. Fortunately no accident occurred, but it was cause for concern for motorists and pedestrians alike.

The firm repaired the bridge, but evidently by 1977, it was decided that the entire pedestrian bridge would need to be replaced due to structural weakness. The City put out a call for tenders for the job in July, and three bids were received. However, the Board of Control rejected all three bids, stating that the estimates were too high. Thus the City decided to spend $40,000 to patch the bridge, and go back to tender in 1978. Replacement was finally ready to begin in July of 1978.

Ad from June 29, 1978

On the night of Tuesday July 18th, 1978, the Queensway closed in both directions just after midnight in order to remove the original bridge. Special equipment including an 80-foot crane was brought in from Belleville. Both local papers covered it as front page news, and had interesting takes on the event:

Ottawa Journal - July 19, 1978

Ottawa Citizen - July 19, 1978

Below is a photo of the removal of the original footbridge:

Then two nights later, on Friday July 21st, 1978, the new pedestrian bridge was installed in the middle of the night, in just two hours. Two new 78-foot beams, each five feet in width and made of pre-cast concrete had been transported from Belleville on specialized trucks, raised into position by an enormous mobile crane, and then fastened with tie rods. Somewhat surprisingly, only 25 people from the neighbourhood ventured out at two in the morning to watch.

Ottawa Journal - July 21, 1978

Below are two photos from the event:

In the summer of 1989, the bridge closed once again (from June 26th until the first week of September) for significant repairs, again owing to the quick deterioration of the "concrete bridge support-structures, deck and ramps, according to a City of Ottawa engineer at the time. I could not find any other information on any other changes or work done to the bridge since.

So there you have it - the detailed history of the pedestrian bridge! So when you see the new one installed in 2018, you'll now know it actually the third bridge to exist in this location since it was first built in 1962. A well-appreciated piece of Kitchissippi infrastructure that thankfully will survive on into the future!

A familiar view, taken from the middle of the Harmer Avenue
pedestrian bridge in June 2016.
(Source: lezumbalaberenjena on

Photo from May 17, 2012.
Posted by TroutScout on

Date unknown, found on Pinterest.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Kitchissippi's first residents - the pioneer Thomson family

November has been a hectic month, so I apologize that I have not had more posts up on this blog! I have a few in the works, so I should be able to share a few things soon!

This week's new issue of the Kitchissippi Times includes an article I have written on the Thomson family, who were the first residents of Kitchissippi, and built the Maplelawn residence on Richmond Road in Westboro (now the Keg Manor). A lot has been written about Maplelawn itself, but not too much on the Thomsons themselves.

I was able to find the exact date they arrived in Westboro, and some interesting details about the family. I also was able to clarify the (unfortunate) financial demise of the Thomsons, and the reason why the Maplelawn property ended up leaving the Thomsons family. I wanted to be sure to include "new" info on the Thomsons, so I think this article accomplishes that.

There is also a really cool photo of Maplelawn from 1906. Unfortunately, as far as I've seen, no photos of the Thomsons exist, but as they were off the land by 1878, most of the original/oldest members of the family were likely never photographed to begin with.

Please check out the article at:

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Irving Avenue's awful 1906 tragedy

61 Irving Avenue is an attractive, well-maintained home on a boulevard of character century-old brick houses in this historic area of Hintonburg. But like a lot of old houses, this one has its ghosts...

Fabien Sayer was a prototypical Hintonburg resident at the turn of the century. He was a young working-class francophone labourer with a large Roman Catholic family. He and several of his brothers were professional "cabmen", taxi drivers of the earliest era, who delivered passengers via horse and buggy. Cabmen largely operated independently, in business for themselves. However, like today, they were licensed, charged annual fees for their vehicles, and there was a Cabbies' Union.

Cab on Rideau Street in 1904 (not a Sayer though).
(Source: Ottawa Archives CA-001763)

Another example of a cabman of the era, a Quebec-based
cabman with passengers in 1902
(Source: LAC MIKAN 4316447)

Fabien had been born in Ottawa in 1864, the eldest son of an early Ottawa carter (deliveryman), so clearly a career spent in a carriage behind a horse on the streets of Ottawa was in the Sayer family blood. Sayer had married in 1884 and resided in the LeBreton Flats section prior to moving to Hintonburg in 1900. The family resided briefly on Ladouceur Avenue before Fabien built a small home on Irving Avenue (then known as Sixth Avenue) in 1903.

This modest house at 61 Sixth Avenue was actually one of the first to be built on the street. It was constructed at the north-east corner of Irving and Laurel, immediately adjacent to wood dealer James Lajeunesse's house at 59 Sixth Avenue, which had stood for about five years prior. On the opposite corner (the southeast corner of Laurel) stood the old St. Mary's Separate School, which had moved to that location around 1896.

Fire Plan of the area (1895 Ottawa plan though updated to
about 1897), showing Seventh, Sixth and Fifth (Fairmont,
Irving and Spadina) around Laurel Street, which notably
originally ran west all the way to Fairmont). Dotted lines
indicate the streets did not exist in real life, only on paper.
Yellow indicates wood, pink indicates brick. The Sayer
house is not shown as it was built a few years after this plan.

Little detail is known about this house the Sayer family resided in, but it would have been wood-frame, and quite small, likely almost too small for the family which numbered nine and counting by 1903 (Fabien and his wife Mary Louise would eventually have 12 children total between 1886 and 1910). Their children included: Dianna (1886), Eva (1887), Fabien Jr (1888), Delina (1891), Adelard (1894), Oscar (1897), and Alma (1902). A son John, born in 1890 had died in infancy, while Victor (1904), Romeo (1905), Irene (1907) and Aurel (1910) would come later.

Fabien made $800 per year as a cabman (somewhere around $20,000 per year in 2016 dollars). A decent enough wage, in that the Sayers were a step above many Hintonburg residents as owners of their own home. The house however would have been little more than a shack, and amenities were few and far between. Sewers, sidewalks and paved roads were still years away.for this section of Hintonburg. Backyard privvies along creeks and dirt lanes were prominent.

Yet the family surely enjoyed their quiet spot on what was then a sparsely built-on Irving Avenue, conveniently located directly across from the school, and just a minute's walk to the relatively new St. Francois D'Assise Church and Capuchin Monastery on Wellington.

Things did not start out well for the family in their new Irving Avenue home, sadly. In April of 1904, four-year-old Victor Sayer passed away of peritonitis (inflammation of the lining of the abdomen) and bronchial pneumonia. The newspaper noted that the death of "their bright little son Victor" garnered the family the sincere sympathy of their many friends.

* * *

The afternoon of Monday January 22nd, 1906, was not a typical winters day in the west end. The weather had been unusually warm that week. The meteorological observatory at the Experimental Farm reported the highest temperatures Ottawa had seen during the month of January dating back to 1889, as temperatures hit above 7 degrees Celsius. It was reported that the high temperatures were causing major headaches for the lumber companies, who without the snow and frozen ground to haul lumber inside the bush, and with little snowfall to keep water levels high, the log runs up the Ottawa River would no doubt suffer significantly in 1906.

At a little after 4 p.m., the eldest child of the family, daughter Diana Sayer, 20, was at home with her three youngest siblings. Her father Fabien had gone to work at the Bayview C.P.R. station at 3:30 and her mom Mary Louise had just left at 4:00 to sweep out St. Mary's School across there street, where she worked as a cleaner.

One-year old Romeo was upstairs sleeping in the room above the kitchen, in a swinging cot. Three-year old Alma was playing in the downstairs front room with her eight-year old brother Oscar.

Earlier that morning, Diana had purchased 13 cents worth of benzene (gasoline) at Mulhall's hardware store at 806 Somerset Street (southwest corner of Booth). Her mother had recently been told that gasoline was useful for cleaning furs, and so Diana had set out to acquire some. Sometime just after 4 p.m., the Mulhall's deliveryman arrived at the home, poured a gallon of gasoline into a tin pail in the kitchen, and left. Diana wasted no time in testing out the product.

Diana picked up a fur ruff and dipped it into the gasoline. She then wrung it out using her hands, and to further dry it, she shook the ruff out. Unfortunately Diana, it would later be shown, had no idea of the dangers of gasoline in the home (keep in mind, it was still a foreign product to many, as cars were still extremely rare at this time).

Diana did this cleaning experiment over-top of the family's sheet-iron stove in which a wood fire was burning. When she shook the ruff, some of the gasoline dropped on the stove and instantly ignited. She attempted to blow it out, but it ran up to her hair, and the flames also caught her gas-soaked hands. She still held the ruff in her hand and in the excitement, put the ruff to her burning head, intensifying the flame. She threw the ruff on the floor, and her skirt came in contact with it, setting the skirt on fire as well.

She grabbed a cloak to smother the flames, but it did not work. The kitchen quickly became a blazing furnace. Diana ran screeching into the front yard, and attempted to brush the fire out of her hair with her hands.

Rev. Father Conrad of the Capuchin Monastery and a fellow priest, Rev. Father Gregoire, had by chance been walking by the house on their daily rounds of the neighbourhood to visit parishioners. Father Conrad saw Diana rush out of the house, and ran to her, urging her to "roll yourself in the snow". Diana flung herself into the snow, all the while shouting for someone to save the children still trapped inside. With Father Conrad's help, they extinguished the flames on Diana.

Eight-year old Oscar had been sitting in the front room and did not know of what was happening until he saw Diana rush outside. Before he could realize the situation, he was surrounded by fire. He broke the front window, and escaped unhurt. His sister Alma who he had been playing with, had apparently slipped away briefly, and could not be immediately saved. He ran screaming to St. Mary's School to alert his mom.

By this point, the house was engulfed in flames, the fire spreading quickly. Father Conrad attempted to enter the front door, but it would not open and the handle broke off. He smashed a window with a large stick and assisted Diana through it, who then ran to the front door and unlocked it.

Father Conrad then entered, noting later that "a misty darkness pervaded the room and little could be distinguished". He collided with a sewing machine in the dark, and spotted a cradle in the corner of the kitchen, which was empty. Diana had told him that one child was upstairs and one was in a downstairs rear bedroom. Father Conrad attempted to reach the rear bedroom through a wall of flames, but was driven back by the smoke and heat. His cap and hood were burnt, and his face severely burned. and could rescue attempt rescue no further as the flames were too strong.

Meanwhile Diana too had attempted to assist, but could not get to the kitchen, and in the frenzy grabbed some clothing and a book and came back out.

When they had reached the front door in retreat, they were met by the mother, Mrs. Mary Louise Sayer, who had just learned that her two youngest children were still trapped inside. She had frantically run from the school and across the street crying "Mes enfants! Mes enfants!"

Father Conrad and Father Gregoire fought to restrain her from entering, seeing the uselessness of trying to enter. Mrs. Sayer fell to the ground in faint.

While all this had gone on, Father Gregoire had went around back of the house and had got out Fabien Sayer's carriage. Acting quickly, the Fathers took Diana and her mom on the carriage to the convent, to await the ambulance.

Miss Florence Lajeunesse next-door had been working inside her house when she heard screams, and went on to her front verandah to check. Hearing more screams, she ran back and called on her father. James Lajeunesse, who upon seeing Father Conrad break the window, and himself seeing the flames, went into his house and returned with two pails of water, which he used to help fight the fire until the Hintonburg Fire Brigade arrived soon after.

The Hintonburg Fire Brigade responded quickly to the alarm that was raised, but were no match for the burning wooden structure. The hose wagon arrived quickly, but by the time they arrived, the house was long gone, the flames were shooting out the front window, up through the roof, and the entire house was was ablaze. Two lines or hose were laid from the hydrant across the road, and another from Seventh Avenue (Fairmont). Soon, the ceiling of the kitchen collapsed, and it was after that when the fire brigade learned that other children had been trapped inside, as those present at the start of the fire had left before they arrived. It may have briefly been considered whether the outcome could have been different had the fire brigade been aware sooner that the children were trapped inside, though all involved seemed certain the children had already died before they arrived.

They turned their attention on 59 Irving, which the Citizen noted stood just two feet from the burning house. Florence Lajeunesse's family and neighbours had acted swiftly to remove as much of their furniture into the street from the house as they could. James Lajeunesse had  fought the fire in the Sayer home, before valiantly (and successfully) working to prevent the fire from spreading to his house next door. For his efforts, the entire right side of his face had been badly burned. The Journal noted the next day that "his face is a terrible sight".

The fire raged for about an hour, and after it was out, those present had the horrific task of locating the children.

It was reported that the father, Fabien Sayer, had arrived not long after the firemen, and that "his suffering was most acute". He first ran to the Convent to check on his wife and daughter, then returned and was one of the first to enter the house to search for his children.

The charred remains of the children were found at about 5:30, on the floor of the kitchen after the upstairs floor had given way. They were found only approximately four feet apart. They were carried from the house by William Post, Deputy Chief of the fire brigade, and volunteer firefighter George Faulkner. Hintonburg's own Doctor I. G. Smith examined the bodies, and quickly assessed that both likely died from suffocation. He found that Alma had severe burns and an indentation in the skull, while the infant Romeo had been burned beyond recognition. In a rather gruesome detail (as newspapers of the era were apt to publish), it was noted that Alma's feet were missing, and a careful search was conducted among the cinders and debris of the remains of the kitchen, but nothing could be found. After the children were found, Fabien was taken by cab to a friend's home.

There were no photographs taken of the house or fire, as photography was still very limited in 1906. The newspapers rarely published photos, and thus occasionally would attempt to publish an illustration to show a building or scene. Interestingly, the Journal did publish an illustration of the house, which you can see below. The black cross typically would show the location of the bodies. This view would be looking south towards Laurel, with the back of the house visible and the kitchen at the rear in the middle. I believe the portion at left is a small shed/carriage house that Fabien Sayer would have used to store his cab.

Ottawa Journal - January 23, 1906

Dr. Smith remained in charge of the site until Coroner Baptie arrived at 6 p.m., As was common in the era, when an investigation was required, a coroner's jury of local citizens would be immediately assembled to review the facts and help decide on what happened. Selected for this duty that very evening were Hintonburg Reeve James Newton, tavern-keeper James Byers, foreman William Broad, wood dealer Ruggles Birtch, labourer Herbert Clarke, fitter's helper James Dudley, labourer George Faulkner, farmer Robert Hill, barber William Post (also deputy chief of the fire brigade), grocer Dolphis Raymond, A. Raymond, labourer Cyrille Nerbonne, Hintonburg Town Clerk William A. Mason, labourer Philip Moylan and grocer William Miller made up the impressive 15-man jury. The group viewed the site in detail that evening, and adjourned until Wednesday evening.

The scene following the fire was of complete devastation. A bicycle which had been stored upstairs was a mass of twisted steel and wires on the ground. The large round stove was observed to be relatively unscathed, but all of the family's belongings,furniture and clothes, and the house itself was nothing but ashes. The house had been assessed at a value of $500, and the furniture at $100, all of which was a total loss. A large pile of wood located across the yard had been untouched, and the shed and stable had survived as well. Cedar trees in the yard had been scorched.

* * *

The Tuesday morning papers relayed the details of the horrific fire to its readers. Below is a sample of the headlines in the Journal:

Headlines in the Ottawa Journal - January 23, 1906

Diana would spend the next two weeks and more in the General Hospital on Water Street (now the site of the Bruyere Hospital) with severe burns to her face and hands, and her hair completely burned off.

While Diana remained in hospital with serious injuries, the funerals for Romeo and Emma were held at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, the morning after the fire. As was common, the funerals were held in a nearby residence. The Lajeunesse family kindly hosted the funerals in their home next door at 59 Irving. The bodies were then transported to Notre Dame cemetery for burial, less than 24 hours after the fire had begun.

The children's mother, Mary Louise Sayer, would also spend time hospitalized due to the shock of the incident. The family's other young children were taken to nearby St. Mary's Convent for care over the following days.

* * *

An official inquest was held at the Town Hall on Parkdale Avenue on Wednesday evening, with the full jury present for the discussion, as well as all available witnesses. Some statements were given, however due to several key witnesses (including Diana and Mrs. Sayer) being unavailable, it was decided to postpone the hearing for two weeks, until Wednesday February 7th at 8 p.m.

At both sessions of the inquest, all key witnesses were asked to provide their account of what happened, and what their role had been. Questions were asked such as whether Father Conrad could have extinguished the flames using pails of water had he attempted (of course he could not have), rather than escorting the injured mother and daughter to the convent.

The Citizen reported: "It was an unhappy scene in the little room at the rear of the town hall last night. The mother, just recovered from the shock, was pale, and at each mention of her dead children the woman sobbed pitifully. At intervals during the evidence she broke down. Little Oscar, a boy of eight years, also made a statement. Miss Diana Sayer was brought from Water Street hospital where she had been under treatment ever since the fire. Her face was bandaged up as her burns from the fire have not yet healed."

The inquest also focused on the hardware store where Diana had purchased the gasoline, and possible responsibility they might have related to its provision. In fact, Fabien visited Mulhall's hardware store the evening after the fire, to investigate for himself. At the hearing, Fabien claimed they had never before used gasoline, and if he had been home at the time, he would not have allowed it to be used inside the house. William Post had visited Diana in the hospital, where she confirmed she had bought the gasoline and did not know that it was dangerous. Under questioning at the inquest, Diana confirmed that she had never before used gasoline, nor seen it used, The cleaning of furs being the only use she had ever heard of it being put to, and that she had heard it was a good method to clean furs. She had never been told that it was in any way dangerous.

Mrs. Sayer had also been aware that Diana was intending to use the gasoline to clean her furs, and claimed too to be unaware to its danger.

Robert Mulhall, owner of the hardware store, stated that he required no license to sell any of his stock, and that he knew of no class of merchants that required a license to sell explosive oils. There was also, to his knowledge, no municipal law governing the sale of them. He also believed he had no obligation to warn purchasers of the dangers, for the reason that every person was supposed to be aware of the nature of it; he stated that he was not in the habit of warning customers of the danger of gasoline, any more than of coal oil. He was also asked to explain the explosive power of gasoline, and said that he was surprised that there was no great explosion, as the air must have been charged with gasoline vapor, the room being warm and the gasoline in an open pail.

The jury was out for fifteen minutes before returning with their verdict. Their official report stated: "That Alma Sayer came to her death by fire on Monday afternoon, the 22nd day of January, 1906 at the home of her father, Fabien Sayer, situated on Sixth avenue, Hintonburg, through the burning of part of the house in which the family resided. The fire being caused by the accidental explosion within the house of a quantity of gasoline in the hands of Diana Sayer, one of the members of the family, and being used for the cleaning of furs. She was unaware of its dangerous propensities when exposed to fire. This jury would recommend that more rigid municipal by-laws be passed governing the handling and sale of gasoline and that they be enforced."

* * *

Meanwhile, a few days after the fire, a fund was set up for the Sayer family. Auguste Roy and Henri Rolland, fellow-cabmen colleagues established the local fund. Within the first two days, $101.50 had been collected, and later all of the members of the inquest jury each agreed to donate the $1.50 fee they had been paid, to the Sayer fund.

The Sayer family received many offers of residence at the homes and friends of neighbours, eventually taking up temporary residence at a friend's house on Seventh Avenue until a new home could be built.

It may be surprising to discover that the Sayer family decided to rebuild very close to the site of their fire-swept home. Choosing not to rebuild directly on the site, Fabien Sayer acquired the lot at 84 Irving, and constructed a one-and-a-half storey wood-frame house which still stands today.

84 Irving (built 1906-1907), the Sayer family's second
Irving Avenue home.

The family remained here for only about five years, before relocating to a third house on Irving, at #16 Irving. Meanwhile, #59 Irving (the Lajeunesse home) was demolished within a couple of years as well, and new houses at 59 and 61 Irving (which still exist today) were built in 1913.

The Sayers welcomed their first grandchild in July of 1910, when Fabien Jr. and his wife Rose had a baby son, who they named Romeo (sadly, the baby would not outlive infancy, passing away due to illness 13 months later). It is worth noting as well exactly one week after their grandchild was born, Mary Louise Sayer gave birth to her 12th and final child, son Aurel (he was four days shy of Mary Louise's 46th birthday).

Many members of the Sayer family continued to reside in Hintonburg and Mechanicsville for many years (and I'm sure many still do).

Though nearly 111 years have passed since this awful event in Hintonburg's early days, it is a story worth sharing and remembering. It is a story which includes many examples of the hardships of life in the early 1900s for a large family with limited means. Fires were a major concern for this area for many years; sadly, this event was far from the only one of its kind in this era (frankly it is a miracle that a neighbourhood like Mechanicsville, with its closely-cropped wood-frame houses never suffered a major fire like Hull, LeBreton and Rochesterville did in 1900). A tragic story for the Sayer family, which likely affected each family member significantly for the remainder of their lives.

61 Irving (built 1913) on the site of the Sayer house which
stood on this spot from 1903-1906.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A story of WWII valour at Nepean High School

Researching a different topic this evening, I stumbled across an incredible story too good not to share 74 years later. As you'll read in the article below, in the fall of 1942, with WWII in full swing, and affecting the lives of all Canadians at home and abroad, at the conclusion of their football season a group of 10 Nepean High School students decided to make the significant decision to enlist with the Canadian forces:

Ottawa Journal, November 9, 1942

As it is just a little over a week from Remembrance Day, discovering this story is timely. There are so many good things in this article, perhaps most of all is the school pride in the response when asked if their decision was made in response to Glebe and Tech high school students enlisting a short time earlier "Nuts, we'll be in Berlin long before these guys". Incredible.

The Journal mentions ten students, but left two names off the list. Fortunately the Citizen the same day ran a similar article, and listed all ten (I guess some of the details were difficult to piece together at the last minute, as their headline mentions "Nine", but later the article says "ten" and lists ten names):

Ottawa Citizen, November 9, 1942

Making the story all the more real (and hitting you in the face with just how young these kids were that were volunteering to go to war), the Journal published a photo of the NHS group that were joining the forces at Easter in 1943:

Ottawa Journal, April 24, 1943

What a commendable story this is, that a group of friends, all around 17-18 years of age banded together to go to the enlistment office. What incredible and inspirational patriotism, bravery and valour.

The ten NHS football players who enlisted that day were: Charles W. Steacy, Mel G. White, Stanley Dorrance, Norman Herridge, Gerald Bower Armstrong, Ken Schryer, Joseph Foster Morris, Bernard "Buster" Lucas, Ed Cordukes and Don McCooeye. R.S. MacLarty was on the football team and later enlisted separately, while future coverage also mentions that fellow Nepean students Henry "Harry" Rosewarne, Raymond Traversy, and William G. Humphreys who were not on the football team, also enlisted around this time as well, and were later photographed as part of the larger group (above).

Of course there were many other Nepean High School students who enlisted in the war at various times, but it is the uniqueness of this story that stands out.

Though they enlisted in the fall, all high school students were allowed to complete their final year of high school before beginning their training. The RCAF also made sure not to separate friends, and grouped them for training together, commencing in April of 1943.

So just to fill in more background on the boys, that Nepean boys senior football team lost out in the semi-finals of the Ottawa board playoffs in 1942, but they did have a significant victory late in the season, which I've crudely cropped the article for their big win, which occurred in front of 1,500 fans (!!!), which of course you would never see for a high school game nowadays.

Ottawa Journal, October 17, 1942, recounting
the Nepean High School upset victory over
St. Pat's.

Below is part of the article about the final game of the season, Nepean's semi-finals playoff loss to St. Pat's who got their revenge for the upset earlier in the year:

November 7, 1942

A civic sendoff was held on Wednesday April 28th, 1943, in front of the Supreme Court building, for the 116 high school students representing Nepean, Glebe, Lisgar and Tech who had all enlisted in the air force that winter. An official inspection was made by Air Vice-Marshal R. Leckie, assisted by Mayor Stanley Lewis, and farewell addresses were given. Afterwards, the students were led by the R.C.A.F. band down Wellington Street as a parade, to Union Station, where they caught the train to Lachine, Quebec to being their air training. This was called at the time the largest single group of air recruits to leave at one time in Canada's history, and likely this record still stands. The newspaper reported that the parade "was a stirring sight, and a wave of cheers rolled with the parade as it moved from the square before the new Supreme Court Building to Union Station...Star of the gridiron and ice, standouts in track and field, well-schooled and in perfect physical shape, they stood stiffly in column of three to hear Air Vice Marshal Leckie tell them to burnish the shining Air Force tradition...Jammed to suffocation was Union Station with mothers, sisters, girl-friends, and proud fathers. The goodbyes were cheering. No tears. All were of good heart." 

The local newspapers kept tabs on the players, with the occasional update or photo of them as they progressed through the ranks of the Royal Canadian Air Force. I included two such examples below, both of which included several of the ex-Nepean High group:

May 25, 1943

August 11, 1944

Happily, from my research, it appears all of these boys made it through the war, and went on to live successful lives here in Ottawa, most in the west end. Thankfully, by the time the boys had made it through their training, the war was nearing completion. From what I gather, many did not have to go overseas (though several did). Regardless, the act of nearly an entire high school football team enlisting in a world war is an amazing story, and well worth sharing 74 years later. Certainly one of the proudest moments in the history of Nepean High School.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The stone Magee House in Hintonburg

1119 Wellington in 1965
(City of Ottawa Archives CA-24326)

This week's issue of the Kitchissippi Times includes a story I wrote on the cool (but sadly deteriorating) stone house on Wellington Street in Hintonburg. Known as Magee House, it has a history dating back over 140 years. I've dug deep into the archives to confirm when it was built, what Frances Magee's role was in its construction, and her overall contributions to early Kitchissippi, and I talk a little about the proposed development which will see the building restored as part of a condo build which will surround the side and rear of the property. You can read all about it at:


The future of the 1800s Bayview railroad site

Forgot to post this up sooner!

Late in August, the media and historians in Ottawa were abuzz over the unearthing of a well-preserved turntable and roundhouse by Bayview Station and the City Centre building. The archaeological dig revealed some fantastic old railway infrastructure older than Hintonburg itself that had been buried for 133 years! And then just a quickly as it was exposed, it was covered back up, much to the disappointment of many. The Kitchissippi Times received several questions about what happened, and so I dug into the process, and what the future plans were for the site, as part of a Q&A feature. You can view that story at:

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Hintonburg's Legendary 19th century Farmers' Hotel & Post Office

Hintonburg in the 1860s was strictly farmland. There was not yet even a village here. There was no town hall until 1873, there was no post office (1879), no subdivisions of builder lots. In fact, it wasn't even "Hintonburg" yet; that name would come around 1879-1880. Richmond Road was a toll road, and had been macadamized to Bells Corners in 1853. It was the only road which ran through the patchwork of farms which stretched westward from the slowly expanding centre of Ottawa. There were no stores or shops in the neighbourhood, and only a handful of residents. The only business which existed was a small, crude inn and tavern run by Joseph McGaw on Richmond Road at where Carruthers now begins, which opened in 1864.

These were the earliest days of Kitchissippi's growth, and it sure would be interesting to have a time machine and go back to 1865 and take a walk though the area. Almost certainly there would be little that would be recognizable.

The 1870s would see Hintonburg develop into a vibrant hamlet and village, led by the efforts of Robert Hinton and his father Joseph. Robert had arrived first in the late 1850s, and Joseph came from Richmond to be close to his son in the late 1860s. The story of the Hintons is best left for a long feature story (some day soon in this blog!), but these details help paint the picture of how Hintonburg began to develop.

Arguably one of first key events in the establishment of Hintonburg happened in 1866, when a modest-sized inn was built on the south side of Richmond Road (Wellington Street West was still called Richmond Road into the early 1900s), at the corner of what is now Parkdale Avenue, but which was then just a side line road that mostly functioned as a dirt access path to the south to what is now Carling (Carling itself at the time was a toll road) towards Bowesville, Merivale and Manotick. The story of this inn is the subject of this blog post today!

The Anderson farm

The property to the east of Parkdale Avenue was for a long time the farm of the Anderson family, who arrived in the area not long after the Bayne family (they of the historic Bayne House on Fuller Avenue). The Andersons acquired the north half of lot 36 in 1831 from cousin James Anderson, who had recently acquired it from the original crown land grantee. The Andersons had come to Canada from Scotland with their six young children sometime in the 1820s, and in 1831 settled on this 100-acre piece of land (from Scott Street to about where the Queensway now runs, between Parkdale and Merton). They established a decent-sized farm, and remained here through much of the mid-19th century. Their old farm house was located on the south side of Wellington, half way between Wellington and Gladstone. It was a log house, which was later clapboarded. It is of course long, long gone, likely demolished in the 1800s.

John Anderson passed away in 1849 at age 62, leaving his widow Janet alone on the farm. Her daughter Janet and son-in-law James had been living in New York but around this time moved back to Nepean, perhaps to help her Mom with the large property. During the 1850s, she sold off small pieces of the farm to various buyers, before subdividing the remaining property in 1861 into 8 large blocks (curiously each a different size) and willing them to her children later that year when she died. (This was Carleton County Plan 14, one of the earliest subdivisions in the Ottawa area. Block 1 comprised the area which is now from Wellington back to Sims Avenue, from Parkdale west to about the center of the Grace Manor (or about half-way to Beverley Avenue at the south end). Block 1 was a total of 7 acres, 3 roods and 22 3/4 perches (in the 19th century, land area was measured using these measurement types).

The Farmers' Hotel

This Block 1 above was gifted to son Thomas Gilmour Anderson (1811-1881). In 1865, Anderson split the block into 8 individual lots, and registered this as Carleton County Plan 21. Later that year, construction began on an inn at the north-west corner of the property fronting Richmond Road (in lot 1 of the aforementioned Plan 21). This location was an ideal spot for an inn, as it was located immediately inside the toll booth gates on the Richmond Road (Toll House number 1 of the Bytown and Nepean Road Company was located on the other side of Parkdale, at the southwest corner, in Nepean Township lot 35). With little else built in the area, it was simply a choice spot to build, to provide temporary accommodation for farmers with produce and travellers on their way to Ottawa, who wished to rest for the evening before going in to town in the morning. The hotel would have caught 'traffic' from both the west along the macadamized Richmond Road, and from the south for those who travelled the old macadamized road (Carling) and then down the sideline road now known as Parkdale. Hence, the hotel was dubbed the "Farmers' Hotel".

Opening in this location was fairly shrewd, as Anderson got the advantage on the McGaw hotel, which was a few blocks to the east on Richmond (McGaw would remain in business though until 1877).

Records from the era, perhaps not too surprisingly, are scarce. Putting the pieces together on the details of the construction of this hotel is not easy, and relies heavily on old assessment rollbooks and land registry documents now over 150 years old. Several sources have written about this old hotel, and largely have been inconclusive about its date of construction, or even the builder.

Several sources have identified the hotel as being built either by or for William Taylor, who was a prominent Hintonburg resident in the 19th century, tied in to the history of many of the village's earliest and most memorable houses. In the case of this hotel, he indeed is closely associated to its construction - it was he who provided a substantial mortgage of $2,200 to Thomas G. Anderson in February of 1867 after Anderson had taken out two smaller ones in September and November of 1866 (for $1,200 and $400 respectively). Significantly however, just a year later, on February 19, 1868, Anderson transferred ownership of the property to William Taylor. Bruce Elliott wrote that Taylor was a son-in-law to Mrs Janet Anderson, and indeed, Taylor was married to daughter Margaret Anderson. Thus it appears Taylor may not have built it himself, or even for himself, but certainly less than two years after its construction (which he financed), he was its owner, though only briefly.

The hotel was certainly open for business by April of 1867 (and probably even a little earlier than that) as evidenced by a line in the 1867 Nepean Township assessment roll, which lists John Anderson, 25-year old son of Thomas G. Anderson, as the hotel keeper on the 6 3/4 acre lot owned by his father (which was one acre less than what Block 1 originally comprised, as Lot 8 had been sold to Ottawa hotel keeper Richard Bishop, who in 1865 had constructed a stone house where the west portion of the Grace Manor now stands).

The Farmers' Hotel was both a resting place, and as was common for hotels of the era, and very likely also contained a tavern.

By the spring of 1868, Thomas G. Anderson and his family were listed as residing in the hotel, but as tenants to Taylor, who as mentioned above, had acquired it in February (either due to the fact that the Andersons defaulted on their mortgage to Taylor, or perhaps that it had been the arrangement all along for the Andersons to build the hotel for Taylor, though that seems unlikely).

This was the last mention of this branch of the Andersons in Hintonburg (other siblings would sell/remain in Hintonburg on the old family farm at varying lengths of time), as Thomas G. and family would relocate to more rural farmland in Nepean just east of Moodie Drive, north of Fallowfield Road.

Frank Hallandal

In April of 1869, William Taylor sold the Farmers' Hotel and its outbuildings to Francis Hallandal, who also was a veteran hotel keeper in Ottawa. Sale price was 500 pounds sterling (equivalent to about $83k of Canadian currency today), and Hallandal paid 150 pounds, with the remaining 350 owed to Taylor as a mortgage (for the purposes of the mortgage, it was remarked that the buildings were insured at the amount of 800 pounds, or $134k today).

The sale was oddly not for the full lot 1, just a large portion of it (Hallandal would later buy the remainder of the lot from Taylor in 1874 for $1,100). The deed of sale document is particularly interesting, as it gives descriptive details of the property as it was laid out in 1869, including details such as "easterly following a certain board fence 1 chain, 67 1/2 links more or less to where a post has been planted at the southeast angle of a certain stable." These details enable a sketch of the property to be drawn, roughly to scale (I also added the 1882-1883 addition to show the eventual full hotel structure):

April 1869 sketch of property based on sale
document details (the full borders show all of 
Lot 1, the part sold to Francis Hallandal in 1869
includes  only the measured borders, which 
make up most, but not all of of Lot 1)

The one assumption I've had to make in all of this is figuring out the footprint of the "original" 1867 hotel. There were many additions put on to it over the years, and as you'll see by some of the photos of the buildings towards the very end of this article, the original structure had become the interior to a larger building which had been modified inside and out repeatedly over its 110+ years of existence. Based on the fact that a significant addition was added to it between 1882-1883, and from looking at the photo from 1980, I deduced that the original 1867 hotel was the easterly part of the building. There are no records or drawings (or of course photos) from before 1883 which can confirm the original footprint, but I'm quite certain this was it.

The 1869 purchaser Francis Hallandal (1827-1890), was born in London, England, and had arrived in Ottawa, or possibly Bytown, sometime in the 1850s or early 1860s. This was a classic era of Ottawa history, when Ottawa was just beginning to grow, had just been named the capital city of Canada, and hotels for workers and new arrivals to town were extremely popular. Hallandal opened the Britannia Inn on the north side of Wellington Street between Kent and Lyon (now the grounds of the Supreme Court), a hotel which remained in operation into the 1880s. Details on Hallandal are surprisingly scarce, however he was noted in 1876 as having acquired a talking parrot that was a highlight of his tavern. It is likely the parrot resided in the tavern in Hintonburg when he relocated there in 1878.

Ottawa Times, April 8, 1876

In most references to the Farmers' Hotel, it is referred to as "Hallandal's hotel" (often misspelled Hallandale). Though he did own the hotel for 17 of the 20 years it operated, Frank only managed it himself for two years in the late 1870s.

Hallandal hired a variety of different men to run the Farmers' Hotel. Most were in their 30s, and had their wife and children residing in part of the hotel with them. This list includes: James Mitchell (1869-1870), Charles White (1871-73, and his widow in 1874), T. R. Shea (1875-1876, along with his large family of 9, plus a cow, a horse and 2 pigs); William McElroy (1877), Hallandal himself (1878-1879), Robert Shore (1880-1882, with his family of 10), and James Byers (1883-1886).

The Ottawa Citizen noted in November of 1879 that toll-keeper Robert Shore had resigned his position to manage Hallandal's hotel, as Hallandal had moved back to his downtown Ottawa hotel.

Ottawa Citizen, November 4, 1879

The final manager of the hotel, James Byers, was perhaps its most noteworthy. Byers took over sometime in late 1882 or early 1883, which was when the hotel was apparently expanded (based on the increase in assessed value between 1882, when it jumped from $1,700 to $2,400). Byers is one of the most significant names from early Hintonburg, as in 1886, he would go on to open the "Hintonburg House" hotel on Wellington Street in the heart of Hintonburg, across from the St. Francois D'Assise Church. The hotel, which would later become a boarding house after prohibition was introduced, was well known as a colourful Hintonburg drinking establishment. More on Byers in a future post dedicated to the family.

The 1882 or 1883 addition saw an expansion of an additional 50% of building space to the west, right to the curb along Parkdale (then known as Queen Street). This was where the tavern would have been located as of this time.

In the late winter of 1886, Hallandal put the hotel up for sale. He had been running up an increasing amount of debt against the property, having borrowed and mortgaged against it to as much as $4,500. An ad for it appeared in the Ottawa Journal, which provides additional detail on the building and grounds:

Ottawa Journal, March 31, 1886

On November 5, 1886, an era came to an end when Hallandal sold the hotel and property to Robert G. Foster. The sale price in 1886 was $2,500 cash, plus assumption of the $4,500 mortgage.

The Foster Grocery Store

Robert Gregory Foster (1859-1941) was 27 years old and the son of John Foster (1833-1908). The Fosters are notable because they had long been farmers in the Fallowfield area of Nepean Township (incidentally very close neighbours to Thomas G. Anderson), and for whatever reason in 1886, decided to invest in the growing hamlet of Hintonburg on the outskirts of Ottawa. Robert acquired lot 1 in 1886, while his father John bought up lots 3, 4, 5, and, as well as the southern portions of 2 and 7 (so virtually all of original Block 1) in 1888.

Robert Foster immediately converted the Farmers' Hotel into a grocery store. With the Hintonburg population booming, there was a need for greater services for the expanding neighbourhood. Foster obviously felt that the hotel was no longer required, particularly as train service, improved road networks, and the growing suburbs of Westboro and Woodroffe were decreasing the need for hotels in the area. Perhaps even more notably, the toll booth at Parkdale had burned in a fire in 1883, and the Road Company decided to rebuild further east at what is now 1121 Wellington Street West, so the immediate proximity was lost.

Robert G. Foster
(Source: Ancestry, bp5simp)

Robert G. Foster operated the grocery store from late 1886 until 1889. By the summer of 1889 however, the Fosters' interest in the property appears to have diminished. The grocery store building was offered for sale or lease in May:

May 13, 1889 Journal

But also in June of 1889, John Foster laid out a plan (Carleton County Plan 106) subdividing their six acres of land into smaller builder lots (the Foster grocery store was located on new Lot E). The plan also created new streets running east off of Queen Street (Parkdale) called 3rd Street (now Gladstone), 2nd Street (now Foster Street) and 1st Street (now Sims Avenue). These lots more or less still all exist today as the property boundaries for this part of the neighbourhood. Obviously, Foster Street was later named for the Foster family's early contributions to the community.

The strategy of laying out a subdivision would help ensure that the land could be sold more easily, at $100-$200 per lot. A bonus result would be that the larger the population around the store, the busier business at the shop would be. Perhaps that is why later in 1889, Robert Foster's younger brother, 23-year old Francis Albert Foster, took over operations of the store and later in 1891 purchased it altogether.

What is great about Foster's Plan 106 is that it included rough sketches of some of the existing buildings on the property, including the grocery store/old Farmers' Hotel, providing a decent idea of the footprint and location of the building as it existed in 1889:

Part of June 1889 plan (Plan 106), a subdivision of old 
Block 1. The Farmers' Hotel is at bottom right in lot E. 

On May 12, 1889 the first Sunday School class in Hintonburg, that of the Bethany Presbyterian Church (which later formed part of the Parkdale United Church) was held in the room above the grocery store, referred to in a 1914 article as "Foster's Hall". These early classes ran every Sunday for a year until the completion of the first Presbyterian hall and school in 1890 (across the street on the southwest corner).

On the 1891 Census, Francis Foster was listed as living alone in his brick, 2 storey, 10 room house. He was listed as a Merchant, with his store described as being "Grocer & Feed". He married Mary Ann Garland later in 1891, and in October of 1892, they had their first of three children. By early 1893 he must have decided the grocery store life was not for him, and he and his family moved back to the Foster's Fallowfield area farm. They had two more children soon after, before Francis tragically died after a year-long illness at the age of 29, in 1897. Robert Foster would stay in the Hintonburg area briefly as well, becoming assessor and tax collector of Nepean Township for several years in the 1890s, before relocating to the City View suburb.

By April of 1893, the property was leased to Wilhelmina Sparks (1851-1923), daughter of Roderick Stewart, and widow of Robert Sparks (well-respected provincial land surveyor, who had died in 1882 in the sinking of the ship 'Asia' in Georgian Bay). Wilhelmina had been living on the long-time Stewart family farm to the west (now the Wellington Village neighbourhood), but her brother Alex sold the entire farm to the Ottawa Land Association syndicate in 1893, so she had to relocate.

1894 plan of Hintonburg, showing its
subdivisions and features as of its independence
from Nepean Township in December 1893.

Wilhelmina Sparks and her three young children continued to operate the grocery store for about two years, until she moved into her family's stone house on Wellington at Julian, the home in which she was born, until her death in 1923.

Young's Grocery Store & the Hintonburg Post Office

On May 4, 1895, an agreement was signed between Francis Foster and George J. Young to sell the old Hotel & grocery store for the price of $2,500.

George James Young (1854-1932) was born in Chelsea, Quebec, and had come to the Hintonburg area at a young age. He had been in business in Hintonburg dating back to the early 1880s when he opened his original butcher shop at the south-east corner of Wellington and Sherbrooke. He and his wife Jane had four children (born between 1885 and 1905).

George J. Young
(Source: Ancestry, ntngayle family tree)

On October 3, 1900, George J. Young took over as Hintonburg Postmaster, and the post office was relocated to the store, where it would remain for nearly 50 years.

In this time period, Young also became quite interested in real estate investment, particularly in the Hintonburg area, and acquired several properties, constructing small, modest rental houses on many of them. He would mortgage heavily against the property, borrowing as much as $6,500 against it by 1917 (interestingly, his chief source of mortgage funds was not a bank or lending institution, but wealthy Ottawa spinster Anna Pinhey, granddaughter of Hamnett Pinhey, founder of Pinhey's Point).

On the 1901 Census, George Young reported an annual income of $500 from the store, plus $96 of other earnings. The property was described as featuring a brick dwelling with 10 rooms, comprised of 1 store/warehouse, plus 3 barns/stables/outbuildings, as well as 4 small wood-frame houses (constructed at the south end of the property) rented to tenants.

Around this point in time, an addition was put on the front of the store, to bring it right to the sidewalk at Wellington. This addition is very clearly shown in the 1980 photo at the bottom of this article.

August 16, 1909 - The only ad I can
find for Young's store, which also
shows the variety offered by a general
store of the era - roofing materials!

1912 Fire Plan showing Wellington Street at the top and
Parkdale Avenue along the left. The corner had become
quite built up, and the Youngs owned almost all of it.
This plan also shows the front addition to the grocery
store portion of the building.

George Young ran the store and post office until early 1913, at which point he decided to retire. He resigned his post as Postmaster on February 27, 1913, at the age of 58.

Young would maintain ownership of the property, but found a tenant to take over the store. In fact the property would remain in the family for nearly another 70 years.

I spoke recently with Kenneth H. Young, grandson of George and Jane Young. He unfortunately did not have any photos of the building in its heyday, but had a lot of memories of the store and property, particularly as his father Kenneth Sr., had ownership of the property for many years (including operating a real estate and insurance business next door to the old hotel), and later Kenneth Jr. himself took over interests.

He confirmed that he had known that the building had been an old hotel in the early days. Though he has no photo of the building, he did reveal that he kept a brick from it from when it was torn down. He also had kept for many years the original "Hintonburg Post Office" stamp, but had misplaced it over the years unfortunately. He also noted that his grandparents were very much involved as key contributors to Parkdale United Church in its early days. More from Mr. Young to follow below.

Cherry's Grocery & Post Office

In March of 1913, the grocery store and post office was taken over by Cherry & Craig Grocers.

George Young divided the interior of the building even further at this point, creating a separate apartment unit overtop of the grocery store. The original hotel portion was now fully segmented from the store and new apartment. The Youngs continued to reside in the large hotel portion, known as 1182 Wellington Street, while the Craig family resided in the new apartment, given the civic address 401 Parkdale Avenue.

Russell Benson Cherry was born in 1892, making him just 20 years old when he co-opened the store with Jonathan H. Craig in 1913. Craig lived above the store at 401 Parkdale Avenue, while Cherry lived on Grant Street with his parents. Cherry was appointed Hintonburg Postmaster as of March 27, 1913, a post he held until 1949 (except for a six-month period in 1916).

Photo of a young Russell Benson Cherry
(Thanks to Mrs. Harriet Cherry for sharing
several photos from the family album).

In February of 1916, Cherry stepped down as Postmaster and the grocery store itself was back in operation under the management of George Young. I have no idea why this would have been, but in September, Cherry retook the reigns, this time operating the store by himself, without Craig. Russell Cherry married his wife Bertha a month later in October, and they had their only child, son Donald Russell in May of 1921.

Below is an incredible photograph of the Cherry grocery store and post office, taken somewhere around 1920. This is a view into the room that would have been the old Farmers' Hotel tavern from about 1882-1886, then the Foster's grocery store, and Young's grocery store. What a great photo from nearly 100 years ago. So much detail!

Circa-1920 Cherry family photo. In what was likely the
tavern portion of the Farmers' Hotel, added in 1882.
(Source: Mrs. Harriet Cherry)

Here is the earliest photograph I was able to find of the exterior of the building, from an aerial photo from 1922. It's not great, but it's something. That's Wellington running left to right, with Parkdale running top to bottom along the right side. At the top left is the then-new Grace Hospital.

1922 aerial photo

June 4, 1931 ad from the Ottawa Journal

Aerial photo from May 5, 1933

Here is a photo of the R.B. Cherry delivery truck parked alongside the store on Parkdale Avenue. I approximate it to be from about 1930-1931.

Cherry's Grocery store delivery truck. Circa 1930.
(Source: Mrs. Harriet Cherry)

George J. Young died August 19, 1932, and his widow Jane continued to reside in the residential part of the building until 1935 (she moved with family until her death in 1942). It was then left vacant for part of the year, as the family converted the building into apartments. There were 3 apartment units at first, which became 6 in 1938, and finally 8 in 1947. The longest-residing tenants were William R. and Alice Helmer, who resided in the building from 1939 until 1956.

Young owned the growing block of buildings to the east, at 1172, 1174, 1176 and 1178 Wellington Street as well, including 1174 where Kenneth Young opened his insurance and real estate business in 1931 and operated into the 1970s.

The photo below shows the store/building in the background. This would be someone standing on the northwest corner looking southeast. The store portion of the building is visible, as well as the duplex next door at 1176-1178 Wellington, and just at the left edge would be Kenneth Young's insurance office.

August 5, 1945 (courtesy of Penny Mills)

The photo below is the only one which shows any level of detail of the front of the old store. You can see the word "Post" on the window, and a display of canned goods. Russell Cherry had occupied the store at this point for over 30 years.

Russell and Bertha Cherry (at right
with unknown friend) in front of
the grocery store & post office.
(Source: Mrs. Harriet Cherry)

I was fortunate to meet Mrs. Harriet Cherry recently, daughter-in-law of Russell and Bertha Cherry, who not only provided me these wonderful photographs, but also had a few great memories of the store. She could remember being in the store, but not because she had married into the family (by the time she married her husband Dr. Donald Cherry in 1952, the Cherrys had left the business), but because she had grown up nearby on Parkdale Avenue. I commented that her husband Donald must have worked in the store growing up, but she noted that he hadn't been too interested in that, and had "done everything else but that". She recalled that Russell Cherry had come from Stittsville, where his family had a store there, and that was likely why he got into the business in Hintonburg.

Mrs. Cherry noted that Russell's wife Bertha worked full-time in the store as well, and her lasting memory of her from seventy-odd years ago, was her uncanny knack of knowing where everything was. "There was a whole lot of stuff all over the place, and if someone came in the store and asked for something, she knew exactly where to get it. It was amazing".

She remembered Russell Cherry as a very good and kind man, who was also very charitable and generous, and always did little extra things for his customers. Often customers would have accounts in arrears, particularly during the depression and war years, and many debts were forgiven. Orders were phoned in to the store and delivered by Russell in his truck. She called it "a way of life that is long gone", and sadly so.

The original cash register from Cherry's
Store, which has been restored and displayed
in the home of one of Russell and Bertha
Cherry's grandchildren.
(Photo courtesy of Mrs. Harriet Cherry)

The residential part of the building (the original hotel portion) fell victim to a significant fire in December of 1947, at noon on a Saturday. 27 residents were left homeless when fire ripped through the third floor of the house. Two infants, siblings aged 9 days and 14 months, narrowly escaped suffocation. While only the one apartment where the fire originated was damaged by fire, the other units were flooded. The fire was caused by an electric grill which had been left turned on for nearly four hours.

1948 fire insurance plan of the corner. Pink indicates brick,
yellow indicates wood, and blue is concrete block or stone.

Meanwhile, the Cherrys continued to operate the Hintonburg Post Office until it closed on December 27, 1949. Post office operations were moved to the West End Postal Depot at 1309 Wellington briefly, before the new post office opened at Carver's Drug Store at 1314 Wellington in 1952. Of course a few years later the main postal depot was opened just behind the building on Parkdale Avenue, which still exists today.

I asked Mrs. Cherry why the Cherry's closed the business in 1949, and she said that they simply had gotten tired. After nearly 37 years in business, working six days a week from dawn until dusk, the Cherry's earned a well-deserved retirement. The Cherrys had always been well involved with Parkdale Church over the years, and became even more so dedicated during their retirement years. Russell Cherry passed away in 1964, and Bertha in 1968.

Malham's Smoke Shop

The store remained vacant into mid-1950, until a new type of store opened for business. The small grocery-general store was becoming a thing of the past as chain grocery stores began to spring up. Thus the new occupant of the shop became Malham's Smoke Shop. They would become yet another long-time tenant of the building, the final occupant, operating their store until 1980. They were open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week for nearly 30 years, selling mostly tobacco products, cigars, newspapers and magazines.

Ad for Malham's from the 1951 Fisher Park
High School yearbook.

The Malham name was attached to confectionery stores in Ottawa for practically the entirety of the 20th century. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob Malham came to Canada from Syria at the end of the 19th century (the 1921 Census puts the date at 1895, and the first evidence of the brothers arriving in Ottawa is the 1901 City Directory). By 1902, Abraham (1873-1936) had opened a fruit store at 209 Rideau Street, and soon after a confectionery at 272 Dalhousie Street, which was the start of a life-long career. Isaac as well would operate shops in Ottawa for his career, while Jacob relocated to Georgia in the States at a young age.

Abraham would later be best known for his shop at 845 Bank Street, Palace Sweets. He had two sons Caesar and Nicholas (a third died in childhood), born in 1911 and 1912 respectively, and they too got into the business as youths.

It was Nicholas who first opened the Malham's Smoke Shop at Wellington and Parkdale in 1950, while his brother Caesar carried on the business at Palace Sweets on Bank. However within a couple of years, Nicholas left the corner store business and became a life insurance underwriter. Palace Sweets was closed after 30 years, and Caesar moved over to Malham's on Wellington Street, where he remained for over 20 years.

A barber shop was also a key component of the store in the 1950s. For most of this period, it was run by a gentleman named Harry Davis.

Kenneth Young recalled that local celebrity Paul Anka was closely linked to the Malham family, potentially as a relative, and spent much of his childhood hanging around the store.

Meanwhile, the former residence above the store was converted in to office space (401 Parkdale) and housed various businesses such as Roy Bros. Upholstering and Whiteway Tailors.

September 9, 1954 ad for 401 Parkdale, the converted
apartment above Malham's Smoke Shop.

Here is an interesting view of the entire original hotel and building, taken from the rear of the building, during construction of the post office building on Parkdale in 1956. What sticks out is the sheer number of little add-ons and additions that have been added over the years! There are residential units tacked on everywhere possible!

Rear of 1182-1184 Wellington Street. November 15, 1956
(Ottawa Archives photo CA-25261)

Below is the 1956 fire plan, showing a few less buildings, as some of the most run down had been demolished and removed, to make room for the post office. The plan notes that "Excavation" has taken place for the new post office building.

December 1956 fire plan

Here are two different oblique views of the Parkdale-Wellington intersection from December of 1965. The first shot is looking east from the west, while the second shot is looking south from the north. There is very little that still looks the same at this intersection.

December 1965 oblique
(clip from Ottawa Archives photo CA-9094)

December 1965
(clip from Ottawa Archives photo CA-9085)

Here is a view from the street-level of the store and apartment building, taken from the parking lot across the street (now the site of the large Hintonburg Place apartment building). It seems likely that this is not the original brick exterior to the old Farmers' Hotel.

April 7, 1967
(Ottawa Archives photo CA-25117)

July 30th, 1980, was the last day of business for Malham's Smoke shop at Wellington and Parkdale. Its closure was reported in the Citizen under the headline "Era ends with closure of corner smoke shop", which described the store as "renowned for its enormous selection of newspapers, magazines, and imported tobacco."

Caesar Malham had retired in 1976, and the store continued on by Bob Ellis, Malham's brother-in-law who had become partners in the business with Caesar in 1964.

Photo of Malham's Smoke Shop in late July 1980, just prior
to closing (Ottawa Citizen - July 29, 1980). Pictured are Caesar
Malham and Bob Ellis. Note the distinctive staircase at the
very back of the store, identical to how it looked in 1920.

On August 1st of 1980, Bob Ellis re-opened Malham's further west up Wellington on the main floor of another Hintonburg landmark, the Iona Mansions at 1131 Wellington Street which operated into the early 2000s. Ellis retained the name, as he said "Malham's Smoke Shop is an institution." Meanwhile, Caesar Malham passed away on Christmas Day, 1999 at age 88.

The loss of the historic building

In 1951 Kenneth Young Sr. (son of George and Jane Young) had become owner of most of the block. He maintained ownership until his death on August 10, 1976. The property remained part of his estate, managed by his son Kenneth Young Jr. until August 6, 1980, when the lot was sold to the Governing Council of the Salvation Army for $185,000. The Salvation Army used the lot as expanded parking space for the Grace Hospital, which is what it continues to be used for today.

Kenneth Young explained that he'd had plans for the property. The building itself had deteriorated significantly, and was on the cusp of being condemned by the City. He had submitted plans to the City of Ottawa building department for a new build on the lot, but the delays and red tape frustrated him. His mother had been very fond of the Salvation Army and their work, and so it was decided to simply sell the property to them.

The building was demolished in segments. Mr. Young mentioned that the work was done by Cohen's. By luck, a photograph of the building in its final days existed in the City of Ottawa Archives. The photo was taken on April 2nd, 1980, and shows what I believe to be the western brick wall of the original Farmers' Hotel building from 1866. The portion behind this wall is the 1882 addition, and then you can see other additions made over time at the front and back, encasing that 1882 addition. I'm sure by 1980, from the interior of the building one would not have suspected that an old 1860s hotel was contained within.

April 2, 1980
(Ottawa Archives photo CA-25118)

So there it is, the story of the legendary Farmers' Hotel that was a big part of the early days of Hintonburgs development, and the post office and corner store that was a central spot for the community for the following almost-100 years. This was not an easy topic to research, and the photos and details were about as hard to come by as I've found on any topic I've done, but the story is such an important one, and I'm happy to be able to bring it to life here, 150 years later.

May 2016 view of the location of the long lost Farmers' Hotel,
Young and Cherry corner stores, and Malham's Smoke Shop.