Friday, May 26, 2017

Canadian Pacific 150: What's Your Railway Legacy

Canadian Pacific Rail is running a very interesting writing contest right now, for Canada's 150th Anniversary. Canadians are invited to submit a photo and/or story of the importance of railways to them and their family.

I submitted a little article about my grandfather Ted Sauve, and the importance of CPR to the west end of Ottawa. It was published on the CP site yesterday. Feel free to have a read at: (I did have paragraphs in my submission, but the website I guess put it all into one long text).

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Kitchissippi Museum - at Westfest!

I am happy to announce that the Kitchissippi Museum will be participating in Westfest this year! I will be setting up a sizable booth at Laroche Park on Saturday June 3rd to share a ton of old photos, maps, and artifacts from the history of our area. I invite you to come out and say hi, share stories, or just browse through the things I'll be bringing. I'll likely be set up by 10:30, and will stay until late afternoon. Of course, this is weather permitting. If it's raining Saturday, I'll aim to set up Sunday instead.

I'll post back a little closer to the event date with some highlight items I'll be bringing. I have a few new things I'd love to share. 

Really looking forward to it! Westfest is an awesome event, I'm proud to have been a participant for several years on Richmond Road, and am excited to set up in Laroche Park this year. 

For more info on Westfest, check out

Hope to see you on Saturday June 3rd!

Family photo in Laroche Park, 1940s
(Source: Nicole Vachon Bergeron)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Kitchissippi Museum interview in the Ottawa Citizen today on the floods of 1928

The Ottawa Citizen today dedicated a big chunk of the "Observer" section to recapping the flooding which has been causing issue for the region over the last few weeks. As part of that series, an article was published today (Saturday May 13) on page D3 titled "This Isn't the first big flood to hit Ottawa- Gatineau". The article includes a copy of one of the photos I posted here earlier this week of the flooding in Woodroffe-Westboro, and also includes some details in to the flooding of 1928. Oddly I could not locate the article on the Citizen website (perhaps they do a slow-release of articles throughout the weekend), but it was available on PressReader.

You can view the article in the Citizen newspaper itself, or at PressReader at:


Friday, May 12, 2017

Westboro's first ever business - and the building still exists!

This week's Kitchissippi Times includes my column on a neat story that I have always been meaning to write about and share. The article is the result of my research to find what was the first ever business, the first ever retail store, to exist in the Westboro area. 25+ years before Westboro even became "Westboro", when the first sparks of a new community were beginning to form, a small store was opened in the front of the home of one of the early pioneers. Along with being the story of the first business, this is also the story of Jane Birch and the Birch family who settled in Westboro in the 1830s; and also of her husband Pierre Paysant, who escaped war and imprisonment in France in the 1870s to somehow find his way to rural Nepean Township.

Making this story even more impressive - Jane Birch's place, the home where she opened the store in 1873 still exists today. It's a nondescript little house you likely have walked by or driven by a hundred times or more, and have likely never noticed. This article will now give you a reason to really stop and think - about what has happened to its surroundings over the last 144 years.

I hope this article also gives some consideration to heritage protection. The house hits on all the points of a checklist - first retail store, the early settler Birch family, 144 years of age, tied to Westboro's first era, unique architectural highlights... and on.

Read all about 379 Churchill Avenue at:

379 Churchill in 1952
(Source: City of Ottawa Archives, CA-25505)

379 Churchill in 2016
(Source: Google Streetview)

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The west end floods... of 1928

Flooding is causing issues all along the Ottawa River shoreline this week. The media has reported on anecdotal history of other flooding from the past, and perhaps no year was worse in recorded history than 1928. That year severe flooding affected the communities alongside the River, which were then predominantly cottage communities. Woodroffe, Westboro, Westboro Beach, Island Park Drive, Riverside Park (aka Champlain Park) were all affected by the floods.

Here are three incredible photos taken from the air, showing how bad it was. (To enlarge any photo, simply click on it to open a larger viewing window)

First photo is taken looking east from above the old neighbourhood at Woodroffe (largely expropriated for the Parkway in the 50s). Westboro is beyond in the distance, and you can see almost to where Westboro Beach begins:

This shot is taken just slightly to the east of Westboro Beach, again looking east towards downtown. These are the houses of the Westboro Beach community in behind, the north extension of Churchill Avenue to the water. Champlain Bridge in the background, which was then only a few months old (the first link to Bate Island was opened in September of 1927).

Here is more of a close-up of the Champlain Bridge, and you can see the water throughout the Champlain Park community at top right. The bridge access ramp actually goes underwater and disappears, the water is so high! (Note this was the original access ramp/approach; within a year or two, a new approach was built coming more straight off the bridge, rather than the nearly-90 degree angle it went at in 1928).  The original access ramp is now actually the parking/lookout area immediately to the east of the Bridge!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Mechanicsville 1958

I've loved this photo ever since I came across it deep in the files of the city archives. It's a photo of 138 Forward Avenue in the summer of 1958:

138 Forward Avenue, June 9, 1958
(Source: Ottawa Archives, CA-24668)

The photo really speaks for itself. It's a snapshot in time from the classic years of Mechanicsville, when it truly was a working class neighbourhood. I checked, and June 9th, 1958 was a Monday. The newspaper said it hit a high of 62 degrees, which is about 17 Celsius. So a cool day for June. Monday morning clearly must have been wash day, with the double line stretching over the backyard of the house. Two young girls play down the alley, behind the late 40s Dodge. The exterior of the house is still in its almost primitive state, without any exterior finishing. Wood and some kind of peeling cloth-like material is all that protects the house from elements. The original house has been added on to, at least twice. The latest addition being some kind of hastily-constructed shed, with an old door used for a side wall. There is garbage next to the alleyway, and seemingly no grass or greenery to be found. It's just an incredible photo of Mechanicsville during it's most brutal and honest period.

A little research shows the house (which still stands today) was part of the same family for nearly 80 years. It was built in 1902 by Jean Marie Marcotte. He paid $135 for the lot (which is actually a double lot, as far as Mechanicsville goes) and borrowed $250 in order to construct a house that same summer. Marcotte spent his life employed as a moulder, working in foundries. Tough work, but necessary to support his family of six daughters and three sons. After Marcotte died in 1937, his daughter Marguerite along with her husband acquired it. Ten years later, in 1947, it was sold to another of Jean Marcotte's daughters, Laurette and her husband Omer Lalande. The house seems to have always been full: at any given time the families were quite large; in the 1940s there appears to have been two separate apartments added to the house (perhaps that rustic addition on the back) that had various tenants in it; and even in the mid-1950s, record books show that Omer and Laurette shared the house with three of their daughters and their husbands and their families. Again, more evidence of the true blue collar nature of the neighbourhood at the time. Adding to the storyline is that the only newspaper article I could find about the house was from 1954, when two 22-year old men were arrested for assaulting Omer Lalande in a brawl in his kitchen at 138 Forward, leaving Omer in the hospital with a severe cut to his head. The kicker - one of the two men was his son-in-law who shared the house with him.

A great old Mechanicsville home with so many stories to tell, and a photo from 1958 that was simply worth a blog post of its own.

138 Forward Avenue today, hardly recognizable from
the photo from 59 years ago
(Source: Google Streetview)