Friday, May 13, 2016

The Kirkwood Avenue Cemetery!

In July of 1897, the City of Ottawa was expanding rapidly, and the explosion of the suburbs, fueled by the arrival of rail transportation led to new requirements in areas that were wilderness just a few short years earlier. The need for cemeteries was a particular topic of interest for citizens in Ottawa. If you've been paying attention to the news recently, you may have heard about the discovery of human remains by workers digging the tunnels under Queen Street. This is understandable, since some of Ottawa's earliest cemeteries were located here. In fact, the early-mid 1800's saw the relocation of multiple cemeteries in Ottawa, both due to the ever-expanding size of the city, and the advancements in transportation.

When Ottawa was in its infancy as Bytown, having a cemetery on Queen Street west of Elgin made sense - the city was barely more than a shantytown anyways, largely built up in the lowertown area (east of the Canal), and they needed somewhere to bury the canal-workers who were dying of various fevers and ailments, and particularly those affected by the massive cholera epidemic of 1832. The Barrack Hill Cemetery existed from 1827 until 1845, until the City decided to cease burials in downtown, and established the Sandy Hill Cemetery further outside the built-up part of town (where McDonald Gardens now exist), which operated until 1873, by which time again the city had expanded beyond the cemetery again. Thus Beechwood and Notre Dame cemeteries were opened, again on the far outskirts of town, where it was felt Ottawa would never reach. Of course it did, but the problem by the late 1800s was more so that the city was growing extensively to the west, and Beechwood was quite far.

There were a series of smaller cemeteries in the west end - most notably the "Merivale Cemeteries" south of what is now Hunt Club, and one or two in Bells Corners. But nothing large for the growing communities in the western suburbs. Pinecrest Cemetery was still years away from opening (1926).

So it was on July 29th, 1897, that the Journal put on their front page an interesting article about the plans of some of old Kitchissippi's prominent landowners (please click on the article to expand, or for better results, right-click on the article, and save it to your computer):

Ottawa Journal - Thursday July 29, 1897

The plan, according to the article, was to open a 75 acre cemetery on the Holland and Hinds property, with options to even make it larger if the adjoining lands owned by Heney and Hayes were acquired as well.

I reviewed old land registry documents to try to lay out the land ownership as it was in July of 1897. See the map below (please forgive my amateur-level map-editing/drawing skills, MS Paint is the extent of my abilities!) The boundaries should be fairly close though.

* The red rectangle around the whole area shows the area of lot 32 in concession 1 of Nepean Township (it actually extends north all the way to Scott Street, but didn't include any of that area north of Richmond on the map as it wasn't pertinent).
* The green border shows the proposed cemetery area
* The blue line represents where I imagine the access road from Richmond Road would have likely run (today's Hilson Avenue).
* I also put little stars where all the structures at that time existed. Two still exist today (the Holland home became the Convent, which is now hidden behind the horrid condos on Richmond; and the Aylen-Heney house is on Richmond just by Kirkwood, with the stone face and tin roof).

(please click on the map to expand, or for better results, right-click on the article, and save it to your computer):

To put the size in perspective, this cemetery would have been a little larger than Pinecrest Cemetery is today.

Though this was front-page news on July 29th, 1897, the story dried up here. There was never a mention again in either the Journal or the Citizen of a cemetery being located here. So why did the idea die?

One of the likeliest reasons is that just two days (!) later, Hugh Hinds Sr., one of the principles involved in the deal, passed away.

Hinds was the son of a United Empire Loyalist, James Hinds, and as the article states, was a long-time prominent member of the Orange Order, a Protestant fraternal organization that is closely tied to the early days in Ottawa's history. Hinds resided in Ottawa, and he died at a fairly young age (60). His death likely caused a delay in any momentum that had been building on the project, and at the very least would have delayed any pending real estate transactions, as the will and probate would have taken some time to process (even back in 1897).

Though his son Hugh Jr. had built his new home just a few years earlier near what is now the north-east corner of Kirkwood and Sebring (identified as the potential "caretaker's residence" in the article), he moved off the property not long after his father's death. Hugh Jr. sold the property soon after the cemetery deal fell through to a market gardener James Ridgway, and moved in to Ottawa. Sadly, he too would pass away soon after, at the far-too-young age of 31 in April of 1900.

George and Alison Holland meanwhile, with the cemetery project dead, laid out the first real subdivision of lot 32 in May of 1899 (Carleton County Plan 186), creating Hilson Avenue and Kirkwood Avenue (then called Heney Avenue). The plan laid out 18 small builder lots at the south end of the plan, in the vicinity of Clare Street, officially putting an end to the possibility of a large cemetery being built on their property.

An interesting idea, but for whatever reasons, the Hollands and their potential partners decided not to see it through. Perhaps it was the untimely death of Hugh Hinds Sr., or perhaps hesitation by the Hollands (who realized the true need for a west end cemetery was still a few years away), or maybe it was a change of heart by the two unnamed investors in the "cemetery scheme". Otherwise, today's Kitchissippi might have instead featured a huge 75-acre cemetery!

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