Friday, May 6, 2016

Street Profiles: The History of Lyman Street & Mulvihill Avenue

Current street names: Lyman Street and Mulvihill Avenue
Former street names: none
First established: Mulvihill (1915) and Lyman (1909)

Name meaning: Mulvihill was named for Annie Mulvihill (1834-1875), mother of Howard Chamberlin, who subdivided the land on the east of Hilson. Chamberlin's plan established one new street which he called Mulvihill Avenue, after his mother's side of the family. Howard was the eldest of ten children. Annie Mulvihill died due to complications from childbirth while giving birth to her tenth child, at age 41. Lyman Street was named by George and Allison Holland in an early subdivision of their property, but it's significance is unknown.

How named: What is most interesting is that though Lyman and Mulvihill run only west of Hilson today, they both had their beginnings as street segments running only east of Hilson. Neither of these original segments exist today.

On October 20th, 1909, George and Allison Holland subdivided one of their last parcels of property which they owned alongside Richmond Road, and created Plan 286. It was a simple little plan of 19 individual lots, some facing onto Richmond, but also a newly created street which they called "Lyman Street". None of these lots would ever be sold or built on however. Just two months after registering the plan, the Hollands sold the entire subdivision to a trio of local businessmen, who in turn a month later flipped it to Fred Heney (who owned much of the land immediately to the west). Heney later sold it to the Nepean Township school trustees, who established Hilson School on the property in 1914 (ironically on the subdivision plan which the Hollands originally called "Elmdale"). The original Lyman Street would run through the north end of the new Hilson School today.

Carleton County Plan 286

1929 Map of Ottawa (Mortimer Co.) showing the original
Lyman Street running east of Hilson

Mulvihill similarly was established on a subdivision plan that was created by Howard Chamberlin in 1915 and registered in January of 1920 (Plan 395). This plan connected like a puzzle piece into the Holland Plan 286. On this equally small plan were 15 builder lots on two new streets created running east off of Hilson, just north of the electric streetcar line, which Chamberlin called Mulvihill (after his mother's maiden name) and McDonald Street (after his wife's maiden name, it has since been renamed and is now known as Shannon Street).

Carleton County Plan 395

Howard Chamberlin (1862-1940) was an early letter carrier in the late 1800s, and continued working for the federal Post Office until 1921. He was especially known for his work with the Roman Catholic churches of Ottawa (he was the Ottawa district representative of the Catholic Record and Catholic Register), and was an original member of St. George's parish. He lived in a great brick house that still exists today at what is now #115 Shannon Street (built in 1904), which he purchased in 1905 from it's builder Charles Rochon. The house was the only structure in the vicinity at the time, and was situated on what was a 2-acre lot. Ten years later, Chamberlin laid out that acreage into the Plan 395 above, surrounding his house on lot 1.

Early Days: The original Mulvihill Avenue

This Mulvihill Avenue was located exactly where the parking lot entrance to Hilson School exists today. In the early days, it would see two houses built on it. One of them was particularly interesting, a stone double was built sometime between 1910 and 1916, at 127-129 Mulvihill. This house faced south (towards the streetcar tracks), and was located where the south part of the school now stands. When the original Hilson School was built, it was less than fifty feet away (though a long wood fence separated the properties). This house was rented to tenants for the entirety of its existence, and was torn down in 1948 after the school board acquired some of the surrounding property to expand both the school and the playground area. The Weir family resided in the #129 half of the house from the early 1930s until 1948, and I was able to track down a few family members, but unfortunately none had a photo of this neat old stone house. One of the family members I spoke with was Alanna Weir (who was 1 year old when the family moved out of 129 Mulvihill). Impressively, she had 12 siblings; her Dad had divorced and remarried a much younger wife, resulting in Alanna having sisters who were 20 years older, but also sisters 18 years younger that her.

The other house on old Mulvihill was a tiny wood-frame house, #135 Mulvihill, located on the northeast corner of Hilson. Built in the late 1930s, it was a very simple dwelling (its assessed value throughout the 1940s was just $300). It too was acquired by the school board in the late 40s but remained as an occupied house until the 1990s. It was given a Hilson Avenue address after the original Mulvihill Avenue disappeared. The old Mulvill became just a small parking lot for the school until the Hilson rebuild.

Both of these original houses can be seen on the early aerial photos below.

Aerial photo from 1920, showing Richmond Road along
the bottom and the streetcar track (Byron) at the top, with
Hilson running top to bottom. Visible from left to right are the
convent, then Hilson School and the two houses, and then
they Aylen-Heney house and barns (west of Hilson).

Aerial photograph of the same area in November 1928,
which provides a higher resolution/better quality.

Early Days: The "new" Mulvhill and Lyman (aka The Heney Park Project)

The land on which Mulvhill and Lyman now sits was part of the Heney farm which dates back to the mid-1800s. Heney was one of Nepean Township's most prominent families. (You can read a little on the history of the Heney's in the area in this article I wrote for the Times: The cool stone house on Richmond just a little east of Kirkwood with the tin roof, known as 'Aylen-Heney House' was built before 1837, and is in the discussion of Ottawa's oldest house. This house more or less stood alone for over 100 years in the block of land bordered by Richmond, Byron, Kirkwood and Hilson. A couple of old barns were also on this spot until 1930, located exactly where 150 Lyman now stands, and in what is now the backyard of 146 Lyman. As well a smaller shed was located in the backyard of 158 Lyman. All of these can be visible in the aerial photos from the 1920s. A major fire burned these barns to the ground in June of 1930, an event which caused major excitement in the neighbourhood, as evidenced by the article below:

Ottawa Journal, June 24, 1930

Aerial photo view from June of 1932, showing the barns
on the Heney Farm property now gone.

The Aylen-Heney house and the barns stood on this parcel of land as it transformed from a rural farm, into a large garden used by its long-time tenant Frederick Harding, a professional market gardener, who would grow fruits and vegetables here throughout the early part of the century, and eventually into the era where the land sat as an empty hay-field, as development blossomed all around it. It was quite an oddity that this piece of land continued to sit vacant up until WWII.

It was equally an oddity that the land would finally be developed in the midst of this major war. But on July 16th, 1943, Frederick Heney sold the 4.5 acre piece of land south of Richmond Road, between Hilson and Kirkwood to the Carleton Realty Company, for the sale price of $4,000.

Two weeks later the Carleton Realty Company submitted their subdivision plan for the community, which was registered with the Carleton County Registry Office as Plan 440. They called this neighbourhood "Heney Park". Included on this plan were two new streets, Lyman and Mulvihill. Since Lyman only existed on paper for a brief period 30 years earlier, and the old part of Mulvihill was only a tiny segment that didn't even align with the new street, it really is surprising that the CRC decided to use these names. 

Carleton County Plan 440

Who were the Carleton Realty Company? They were one of Ottawa's top developers during the 1940s, and involved some of the top names in building at the time. Their presence in west Ottawa would end in spectacular fashion just a few years after their Lyman/Mulvihill project.

The Carleton Realty Company was first formed in April of 1911 by Dr. D. H. Baird as President, with a starting capital of $100,000. It was essentially a syndicate that involved many of Ottawa's top real estate men. Their purpose was to acquire property and build in volume, a practice that was still a new concept, particularly in young Ottawa. Their name has come up occasionally in research I've done, but it seems their business really took off in the early 1940s when some of west Ottawa's top builders got involved. By 1943, the Board of Directors included Fred F. Shouldice (President), K.J. Greene (Vice-President), and A.C. Johannsen (Secretary-Treasurer), and their head office was located at 18 Rideau Street (the Banque Canadienne Nationale Building)

The CRC found their opportunity through the federal deal made by the Ottawa Home Builders Association (on whose board all of the principles of the Carleton Realty sat) with Munitions Minister C. D. Howe for funding to build much-needed homes in Ottawa due to housing shortages. It was crucial that Canada have the ability to provide housing for its returning soldiers at the end of the war; this was a disaster after WWI where soldiers returning home to major housing shortages, no jobs and little government assistance.

The CRC began purchasing large lots of land, predominantly in the Hampton Park area and along Island Park Drive, and were building large blocks of homes at a time. Thus Lyman and Mulvihill did not develop slowly over time. The area went from being an empty space to a complete neighbourhood in a matter of months.

Plan 440 had 39 lots (including lot 3 on which stood the Aylen-Heney house) total. The first lots were sold on July 30th, 1943, the very same day the subdivision plan was registered. All lots were sold at the standard price of $450 apiece (this even included the lots fronting on Richmond Road). The first to sold on July 30th were 145, 153, 157, and 167 Lyman.

The CRC performed their sales in three ways:
* Carleton Realty sold the lot to the buyer and the buyer took out a mortgage under their name (with the understanding that Carleton Realty would do the construction work) - 21 houses of the 38 were sold like this;
* Carleton Realty would take out their own mortgage, begin building the house, and then sell the house either during or after construction - 15 houses were sold like this; or the third option:
* Carleton Realty did not take out any mortgage, but just built and sold - 2 houses were sold like this.

The construction of the houses were fairly standard. Buyers had some customization options, but the floorplans and styles were fairly similar, which is why you can walk around these streets and identify a few exact matches for most of the houses. Even the mortgages required were standard at $3,200 (24 houses had this amount), with some as high as $4,500 (4 houses) for those who selected upgrade options or larger construction types.

The Ottawa Journal, August 7, 1943 noted that construction
had begun on the "Heney Park" project

Carleton Realty advertised their in the subdivision as follows:

"These houses will be of the bungalow and 2-storey type with 2 bedrooms and bath up, and three different plans of each type are offered. The floor plans of these new homes are pretty well standardized, but the prospective home owner will have the chance to express his personality in the exterior designs. Stucco on cinder blocks and solid brick construction will be used for these modern homes. Basements will be full-sized with cement floors and cement foundations. All will have grade entrances. The purchaser may express his preference for cedar or asphalt shingles and here the entire gamut of color awaits his individual desires and tastes.

These new homes are modern and inviting. The kitchens will have all the conveniences of plenty of cupboards and a dining nook and will be equipped for the installation of all appliances. These homes will have hardwood floors and the interior finish will be in accordance with the wishes of the intending purchaser, than which nothing could be more satisfactory. These houses will be heated with hot air piped furnaces with hot and cold air ducts. A complete set of storm windows and storm door are supplied with every house and further assurance of warmth in Winter and coolness in Summer is due to the use of one-inch Ten-Test for wall insulation and rock wool insulation for the ceilings.

The various trades and supply houses have given indication of their approbation of this home building plan by co-operating in every possible way, and it is due to their willingness to furnish supplies at most considerate prices that the enterprise is at all possible. The purchaser of one of these new homes will be the one to reap the benefit."

The following three documents also show the original plans for the three primary build types that Carleton Realty was promoting for Lyman and Mulvihill:

The list of contractors Carleton Realty used, of which many were local included: Albert Bethell (concrete contractor, 90 Richmond Road); Bytown Paint Supply (417 Bank Street); Brunt Manufacturing Co. (heating equipment, 181 Lyon Street); M.F. Beach Lumber Co. (Winchester); Wilfred J. Carriere (plumbing and heating contractor, 396 Piccadilly Avenue); F. Fentiman & Sons (builders' supplies, overhead garage doors, and insulation, 335 Roosevelt Avenue); Gerard & Gerard Ltd. (plastering contractors, 18 Rideau Street); Independent Coal & Lumber Co. (Bank Street); S. Lena (masonry contractor); Lowrey & O'Connor (asphalt tile and mastic floors, roofing, siding, 90 Richmond Road); Mahoney & Rich Ltd. (excavations, 50 Besserer Street); Ottawa Light Heat & Power (56 Sparks Street); W.A. Rankin Ltd. (hardware, 410 Bank Street); G.H. Spratt (sand and gravel, Billings Bridge); and J.M. Carriere (plumbing and heating contractor, 125 Caroline Avenue).

By the assessor's visit in March of 1944, all of the houses in the subdivsion were complete. All of the houses fronting on Richmond Road had a value of $2,450 or more (note that like today, assessed value wasn't necessarily representative of the true sale or construction cost, but it does give a  good indication of which house was completed with more features/etc.). On Lyman, the top valued house was 146 Lyman, built for Hugo Bortolotti, valued at $2,100 (the rest of the houses ranged from $1,525 to $1,950), and on Mulvihill, the top valued house was the house at the corner which fronts onto Kirkwood (#421 Kirkwood), valued at $2,550 (the rest of the houses on Mulvihill ranged from $1,650 to $1,975).

The age range of these first owners and occupants were as young as 24 & 20 years old (Howard J. and Dorothy K. Smith, who bought 153 Lyman) to as old as 55 year old Major George Cloutier and his wife Mary Eileen, who purchased 167 Lyman. The occupations of the purchasers included military men with the Army and Navy, a linotype operator, lawyer, bricklayer, radio machinist, mechanical draftsman, and butcher.

Also worth mentioning: 145 Mulvihill for no apparent reason was built but never sold by the CRC. It ended up being sold in 1950 by the CRC's bankruptcy agents. Also, Reginald W. James (whose young wife was the victim in my Smirle Avenue murder article ( was the first owner and occupant of 149 Mulvihill.

The Citizen in April 1944 ran a full page ad by Carleton Realty which showed many photos of houses they'd built in the last year. These two below are likely from Lyman/Mulvihill. The top one looks like it probably is 143 Lyman.

Ottawa Citizen, April 1944 - 143 Lyman Street

Ottawa Citizen, April 1944

Following the completion of these houses, Carleton Realty moved on to another segment of "Heney Park" south of Byron Avenue, a new subdivision of 55 houses, and later in the year began work on a project of 125 larger homes between Tweedsmuir and Kirkwood. Their work would continue through to 1947, but then shocked the city by declaring bankruptcy. The Ottawa Citizen reported on June 1st, 1947, that most concerning about the bankruptcy were the veteran homes that Carleton Realty had only partially finished. They had commenced construction on 200 low-cost homes for veterans “principally of the bungalow and two-storey type and mainly in the Heney Park area of Laurentian View. In the majority of individual cases, the war vets had financed the building and purchase of houses through re-establishment credits, gratuities and loans of the Central Mortgage and Housing Corp. The original contract prices for the homes ranged from $6,000 to $7,000 it was reported, and many veterans had used all available resources for construction costs. These ex-servicemen were said to be in financial difficulty with the prospect of losing their homes unless some organized assistance is provided following the assignment of the building company.” Later in June it was reported that 104 claims had been made against the Carleton Realty Company, with a former executive stating that the bankruptcy had occurred due to a “shortage of labour, materials and increased costs.” The CRC bankruptcy was followed-up in the Citizen in the fall to report that veterans were still at risk of losing their homes, and in some cases were years away from being able to afford having construction completed on their homes. A sad end to a great company, though some of the principals involved, such as the Johannsens would go on to do great building work in Ottawa during the 50s and 60s.

Notable incidents & Stories

The houses were only a few months old when the first tragedy was felt. On March 9th, 1944, it was reported that Sgt. George Robinson, 20-year-old son of Mr and Mrs John Robinson of 127 Mulvihill Avenue had been killed in action in Italy. A former student of St. George's School, George was a paratrooper who had trained in a unit attached to the American Army in commando and invasion tactics. He attempted to enlist in 1940 before he had turned 18, but was not accepted until May of 1941. He fought in Japan, and several other countries, before sadly losing his life.

March 9, 1944

A happier result existed for the Akeson family of 167 Lyman Street, when Private N. J. Akeson (misspelt in the article) of the Canadian Army returned home to Ottawa from Normandy on July 24th, 1944:

July 25, 1944

It is also worth noting that drainage was a problem that plagued the area in its early days. Storm water was causing extensive flooding damage to houses in the south end of the section. At Nepean Township Council meeting on October 19th, 1944, a delegation of residents from Mulvihill Avenue were told that drainage and street repairs would be attempted as soon as possible, and some work was completed in 1945. Water even played havoc for a Mulvihill Avenue child in the spring of 1945:

March 20, 1945

A near tragedy was averted at 166 Lyman in December of 1945, when coal fumes escaped from the furnace and nearly killed the McKinney family:

December 31, 1945

Houses in this section proved a good investment. Their values increased significantly year after year in the late 1940s and through the 1950s. Below is an ad for a home on Lyman Street, already up to $12,200 in price (practically double what it had been ten years earlier):

September 17, 1954

An ad for an open house at 167 Mulvihill in 1955:

April 1, 1955

It is worth noting as well that on February 19th, 1968, Bylaw 40-68 was passed by Ottawa council to expropriate 2 feet of land from the properties that bordered Kirkwood Avenue from Richmond Road all the way to Carling, in order to widen Kirkwood Avenue. The homeowners alongside Kirkwood off Lyman and Mulvihill were paid a little more than $4 per square foot for their lost land.

History of Business & Commerce

These two streets have always been strictly residential. The one exception was an ad I found for a speech therapist who operated out of an office (assumedly out of her home) at 14 Lyman Street in 1948:

April 16, 1948

Other interesting photos:

A couple of Lyman Street houses are visible in this view of the old R. L. Crain plant from 1947, which remained in this location until 1999. (See more on the Crain plant in the Kitchissippi Times article I linked to above)

(Source: Ottawa Archives CA-5956)

This Fire Insurance Plan from 1948 provides some interesting detail on the neighbourhood:

1948 Fire Insurance Plan, showing most of the two
streets, plus the Hilson expansions. (Note yellow
represents wood, pink is brick, and blue is stone)

Photo of Halloween Night 1949 at 144 Lyman Street.
From the Ottawa Journal, November 1, 1949

In November of 1952, Captain H. G. Cloutier, son of Major G.G. Cloutier of Lyman Street was awarded the Military Cross for his actions in the Korean War. [Edit June 2/16: I was kindly informed by Capt. Cloutier's nephew that he actually lived in Barrie, and it was his parents who resided on Lyman, so I've modified the text here to fix that. Thank you very much for the correction!] 

November 11, 1952

Here is a great bird's eye view from October of 1964, looking east, with the Crain plant at bottom right and the border of trees around the convent property at top left:

Source: Ottawa Archives (CA-8913)

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