Sunday, February 11, 2018

1972 Queensway car crash in photos

When it comes to digging through the various archives for Kitchissippi-related content, suffice to say I long ago had a handle on the basic materials that the federal, provincial and city archives had in their holdings. And to be sure, it wasn't much. Which is thus a big part of the reason why the hunt for west end Ottawa historical items is all the more exciting. As I say all the time, you can find a billion vintage photos of Parliament Hill, the Chateau Laurier, the Byward Market, etc., in books, on the internet and in the archives. Central Ottawa is extremely well-covered, and also well-written about (I should say, extensively written about; "well" being a bit too positive. I feel strongly that the definitive book about Ottawa's history has yet to be published). However the west end, until recently really has had very little written on it, and at least before the Kitchissippi Museum came along, it was next to impossible to find photos online or anywhere really. So I consider this my ongoing challenge, to dig deeper and deeper in to the archives, and come up with rare, hidden gems, that show our area's past in an interesting, and sometimes subtle way.

So with that little disclaimer, I now get to a series of three photos (well, four including the one from the newspaper) which I discovered recently, and found really interesting, from back in 1972. They are pretty random photos, of a really random event, but there are quite a few elements which I found make them pretty cool. 

As the Ottawa Journal caption below will tell you, a sudden summer shower in the afternoon of July 26th, 1972 caused three separate car accidents on the Queensway in Ottawa, all near the Island Park Drive off-ramp (I would suspect rubbernecking may have contributed to one or two of them as well!). The Journal sent a photographer to snap a series of photos of the accidents and the cars involved, and as you can see, one photo did run the following day. However, the complete original negatives from that reel of film survives, and from it, I selected three other photos which are pretty neat. 

So while these photos might appear largely uninteresting to the average person who might come across them, I love them. Here are a few reasons why, and some observations:

- Cars of the 1960s-1970s era are easy to appreciate, and so seeing a few of them on the Queensway is pretty cool
- Who doesn't love a car crash! Seeing the difference in the impact and damage in a 1972 crash is interesting. The car that was rear-ended actually does appear to be pretty seriously damaged (looks like it rear-ended the car in front of it as well); while the one with the front-end damage needs some work, but it sure didn't crumple like today's cars do. (Further along, almost underneath the big overheard signs, you can see a car turned sideways and up on it's side! Unfortunately the photographer did not take a photo of that car close-up for some reason!)
- The Queensway divider is a chain link fence, installed into a eight-foot wide grassy median
- There are only three lanes going on both directions (the grassy median would be converted to extra lanes many years later)
- The old Queensway exit signs for Carling and Kirkwood
- Ontario license plates used to be issued new each year, with the year engraved right into it
- Traffic is still going by, and there are guys (with 1970s facial hair and clothes!) just standing on the road smoking, waiting for the tow truck I guess!
- A guy on a ride-on mower has stopped by to have a look, on the opposite side of the Queensway!

Ottawa Journal, July 27, 1972
(Source: Ottawa Archives, CA-25844)

(Source: Ottawa Archives, CA-25845)

(Source: Ottawa Archives, CA-25846)

Anyways, just a few simple photos of a random crash 46 years ago, but so much to take away from it. Hope you enjoyed it! 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Westboro/Richmond Road 1935 vs 2018

Posted this to my Twitter and Facebook today, but felt I should add it to the Museum too, of course.

Westboro has changed a little in the last 80+ years... I'll be watching the Super Bowl at Whispers tomorrow (as I do most years). Here is Whispers on Richmond Road now, and what the identical location looked like in about 1935 (in a photo I just acquired this week). Amazing!

(You can read more about the history of Whispers itself from a post I made 3 years ago at:

To enlarge the photos, simply click on them, and a new window will open showing a larger version:

Richmond Road at Tweedsmuir, looking west
(Source: Google Streetview, August 2017)

Richmond Road at Tweedsmuir (then known as "Xavier
Street") circa 1935 (Source: unknown, likely Ottawa
Archives, Suburban Road Commission Fonds)

The history and saga of Westboro's missing bell

Westboro's bell - now at Ben Franklin Place in Nepean
(Photo courtesy of

One of the most intriguing stories I have heard since my childhood, and which continues to get brought up regularly even now, is the story of the missing bell in Westboro's Town Hall. The heritage building acted as Nepean's government headquarters from 1896 until 1966; the last 16 of which was after Westboro had become part of Ottawa, no longer part of Nepean. In 1966, the bell was removed in the night, and relocated to the new Nepean town hall. For 50+ years, a war of words has been waged over ownership of the bell; is it more a piece of Nepean's history or Westboro's? There is no easy answer. And though there are obviously bigger issues in the community today, the topic is still an interesting one. A lot of interest has been expressed in putting a bell back into the empty belfry at the old town hall (now the Churchill Senior's Recreation Centre), and I'm sure someday we'll see something up there. I think a great opportunity was missed with Canada 150 grant money, but I know both the Westboro and Westboro Beach Community Associations continue to explore options!

Here is the full history of the bell, right back to exactly when it was first ordered, even through which store, and when it was delivered!

Special thanks to Ron Statham for once again providing some first-hand experience on another exciting piece of Westboro history!

Westboro Council Minutebook - May 26, 1916