Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Kitchissippi Museum at Westboro Fuse! Saturday only!

It's somewhat late confirmation, but I'll be there! Thanks to the amazing organizers of Westboro Fuse for extending an invite long ago, I was finally able to confirm my attendance, and I will be there on Saturday (this coming Saturday August 17th) from 10:00 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Richmond Road. (Exact location TBD later this week - check back for an update). 

I am really happy to be able to be a part of Fuse, and always appreciate the opportunity to share a few old photos, maps and other historical things right on the street in Westboro! I'll have a couple tables worth of different things, and will be happy to chat history with everyone who stops by!

See you Saturday!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The lost half of Wellington Village

The new issue of Kitchissippi Times is out this week, and in it is my monthly column "Early Days". For this month's article, my starting point was a question-slash-mystery that I've been asked about many times over the years... why are the streets in Wellington Village in alphabetical order from E to K? And why are they not quite in order? And why did it start with E? And who are Edina, Geneva and Helena?

Little did I know that investigating this story would actually coincide with another mystery I'd been researching... the unexplained development I had noticed in aerial photos of the 1920s around the Royal Ottawa Hospital property.

The headline of this article (and I even use it here for this blog post) calls it Wellington Village, but really the area in question is kind of sandwiched between Wellington Village and Carlington, adjacent to the Civic Hospital area. It literally is only home now a few houses off Island Park Drive south of the Queensway, Kitchissippi United Church, the Hydro station, and the Royal Ottawa campus. But back in the 1910s/1920s, there were big plans for this land... and serious plans at that; to the point that the City paid to install a sewer system underneath a network of streets in anticipation of the housing development to come. But it never did.

The article talks about those original plans, how things changed, and connects the dots on the street name in Wellington Village. Check it out at: https://kitchissippi.com/2019/08/06/the-wellington-village-neighbourhood-that-never-was/

Here are a few photos/maps that relate to the article that you won't see on the Kitchissippi Times website:

1914 map of Ottawa showing the original proposed streets

1920 aerial photo of the area. That's Carling going left to right
along the bottom of the photo, and the original Lady Grey
Hospital buildings in the middle (with chicken coops visible
to its left). The GTR railway tracks (now the Queensway) go
along the top, with a siding for the Booth woodyards coming
off of it along roughly the route Merivale takes north of Carling
to Island Park Drive today. This is a "before" photo of the
lost neighbourhood, before the sewers go in.

June 1925 aerial of roughly the same area. The streets now
appear visible because of the installation of the sewers!

Ottawa Citizen February 15, 1910. A rare photo in the
paper for that time, showing the Lady Grey at opening.

Ottawa Citizen February 18, 1930. The Hydro sub-station
on Carling at it's opening!

The history of pizza in Kitchissippi (and Ottawa)

My article in July's Kitchissippi Times fit into the overall theme of the issue, which was pizza! Of course my monthly column "Early Days" is meant to focus on Kitchissippi related history, but it was tempting to try to dig up the full history of pizza in Ottawa. So I did quite a bit of research to try to nail down the first time pizza showed up in Ottawa, the first dedicated pizzeria, the first to offer delivery, the first place to get it in the neighbourhood, etc. It's a lot of information and pizza-related history squeezed into one article! The main portion of the story tells a bit of the story of David Presley (who deserves far more than just a few paragraphs of one article!). One of the most interesting people I've ever chatted with, David has lived and breathed carnivals in Ottawa and throughout North America since his childhood. Probably no one out there that knows more about the old CCE/Super Ex, and he saw it from the trenches for many, many years running his booth selling Cicero's Pizza.

Anyways, this was a fun article to write, and I hope you enjoy it!

Newspaper ad from 1974

Saturday, June 29, 2019

A final remnant of eras gone by: 388 Albert Street

I'm stepping outside of Kitchissippi for a moment, to do a quick article on a house that I've been curious about for years. It sticks out like a sore thumb in downtown Ottawa as being the last vestige of old Ottawa, a residential house in the heart of downtown Ottawa that has somehow survived all of the massive development that has occurred (and continues to occur) around it. This house was at one time just one of a thousand houses like it that lined the central streets like Albert, Slater and Laurier Avenue, but now remains as one of the last still standing (certainly the last in the central blocks between Bay and Elgin, north of Laurier).

July 2018 Google Streetview - the last house standing

The house is located at 388 Albert Street, and is probably best-known in recent history as the original and somewhat long-time location of Scone Witch, which moved a few years ago down to Elgin Street. It was recently 'Good Eats', though they have moved out, and it may well be vacant right now. I couldn't find any history on it anywhere on the net, and felt it deserved a bit of a story. Little did I know how connected it would be to two prominent Ottawa families of the 19th century...

The history of the house ties directly to Nicholas Sparks. THE Nicholas Sparks, original Bytown settler and unexpected downtown Ottawa real estate mogul of the mid-19th century. In fact, though the house at 388 Albert Street is actually the second house to exist on this spot, it was built by Nicholas's nephew!

* * *

388 Albert Street stands in the original Nicholas Sparks land holdings, aka lot C concession C of Nepean Township, which he acquired in 1821 with his savings of £95. At the time, it was swampy, wild, uninhabited land, but today is the land between Wellington and Laurier, from Bronson to east of the Canal. (A good write-up on Sparks can be found at: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/sparks_nicholas_9E.html)

Sparks gradually sold portions of the property over time. He died in 1862, and following his death, in 1863, City of Ottawa plan 3922 was registered by his heirs, laying out a large portion of the property that had not already been sold.

Scan of original Plan 3922 (was originally done in two
separate maps I've quickly mashed them together)

Registry records are unclear as to how the 388 Albert lot ended up in the hands of his nephew. But here is some of the background: In 1853, Nicholas Sparks apparently encouraged his brother Abraham Sparks Sr. to bring his family to Bytown from Wexford, Ireland. So Abraham and his wife Frances came with their four children Mary, George, Margaret and Abraham Jr., and lived in a stone house at the southeast corner of Sparks and Bay, not too far from where Nicholas lived. Mary was the oldest at 20, but Abraham Jr. was only a year and a half old. Abraham Sr. was 70 years old at the time! (His wife Frances was 42).

Anyhow, it was in 1874 that the first, original house at 388 Albert was built by Abraham Jr. (and possibly also by his brother George). This old house would have been a simple 1 1/2 storey wood-frame home, that actually was located quite a bit further out than the current house does, likely to where the sidewalk now ends (Albert Street has been widened over time of course, since the earliest days of horse and buggy).

Abraham Jr. grew up in Ottawa, and became one of the first contractors for hire in Ottawa, a trade in which he would have a long and distinguished career, recognized as one of Ottawa's best. He built, among others, the Lauder Memorial Hall at Christ Church, the old Dominion Fruit Exchange building, a wing of the old Russell Hotel, and part of the Rideau Club on Wellington. On Canada Day 1874 in the village of Hazeldean, he married Mary Jane Patterson of Perth, and it was likely for his wife and soon-to-be family that he built the house on his late uncle's former land. Abraham Jr. and his wife would have their first of six children in 1875.

February 1873 photo of what I believe to be
Abraham Sparks (LAC MIKAN 3451849).
Labelled only in the Topley Studio archive
as "A.G. Sparks".

1874 seems to be the milestone date for a lot of key pieces of info related to the house... It was in late 1874 that the City Engineer's Office decided on the official numbering for houses in Ottawa, and thus Abraham Sparks Jr.'s house was given the number 388 Albert Street, the same civic address is maintains today. (Read more on the history of house numbering in Ottawa at: https://kitchissippimuseum.blogspot.com/2017/01/the-history-of-civic-addressing-in-west.html)

The 1878 fire insurance plan for Ottawa shows the house and the handful of others on the block between Bay and Sally (later renamed Lyon):

June 1878 fire insurance plan showing 388 Albert Street.
(Albert along top, Bay at left, Lyon (Sally) at right, Slater
at bottom). Yellow is wood, pink is brick, grey are outbuildings
such as stables or sheds. 388 shown as a 1 1/2 storey wood
house, with a small rear kitchen and attached long shed.

The 2-storey wood double at 382-384 Albert was built on the Sparks' lot and would also have been built by Abraham Sparks Jr. sometime between 1875-1878, to rent to tenants as a source of income. Impressively, this double stood until the 1950s, when it was likely the Urban Renewal Project that got rid of what was likely a decrepit old building at the time. Unfortunately I was not able to find a photo of either original 388 Albert Street house, nor the 382-384 double, though I'm sure the city archives must have some hidden somewhere, I just have never put too much time in researching properties outside of the Kitchissippi area!

1883 fire insurance plan updated to 1901. Original
388 Albert Street house still shown.

May 1897 view of Albert Street looking west from Kent
Street. Unfortunately this is photo is taken one block to the
east too far, but shows a good (and rare) representation of
what Albert Street looked like 122 years ago. That's the old
Ottawa Car Company shops and wood piles at left.
(LAC MIKAN 3325995)

* * *

The "old" 388 Albert Street was demolished sometime around 1906. Abraham Sparks Jr. had built a three-unit brick row house at 334-336-338 Slater Street (just east of Lyon) in 1902, and so he and his family moved into the unit at 338 Slater at this time. The family would later operate the building as a large boarding house.

Abraham then built the "new" 388 Albert Street, likely in 1907 (by virtue of a $1,000 mortgage he took out against the property on December 11, 1906). The new house was brick veneered, larger than the previous house, and set further back from Albert Street. Plus it was 2 1/2 storeys, versus the original 1 1/2 storey (which at one point had been modified to 2 storeys).

(July 12/19: Additional research indicates that the date of the demolishing of the old house and construction of the new house may have been in 1903-1904; the house sat vacant for all of 1902 and 1903, and then the address was listed with a tenant in 1904 - likely the 'new' house. The December 1906 mortgage would more likely indicate the work happened then, but since Sparks owned multiple properties and was constantly building and selling, it's not impossible the 1906 mortgage was just his way of borrowing money for some other project. Unfortunately I'm not sure we'll ever be able to turn back the clock to know the exact date when the house was built, but it definitely is at least within the range of 1903-1907).

The Sparks remained at 338 Slater for the next 10 years, and rented out the new 388 Albert to tenants.

The first occupant of the new 388 Albert Street was Mrs. Mary Anne Heney (formerly McCourt), who would have been in her early 70s. Born in Dungannon, County Tyrone, Ireland, she had spent most of her adult life in Stonecliffe, Ontario, halfway between Chalk River and Mattawa, but ended up in Ottawa sometime after losing her husband Thomas Heney in 1892.

The important Ottawa connections continue, as Thomas Heney was brother of Chevalier John Heney, one of Ottawa's most well-known citizens of the 19th century, and the patriarch of the well-known Heney family in Ottawa (though unrelated to the John Heney who had a history on Richmond Road in Kitchissippi).

May 1912 fire plan, showing the new 388 Albert Street.
It is now aligned at the same setback as the houses to its west
and is brick veneered. Notably, there are no windows on
the west side of the house ("none none" noted on the plan).

Mary Heney lived at 388 Albert with her adult children George and Annie from 1907 until her death at home on September 18th, 1911. Other tenants moved in to the house over the next few years: William J. Phillips (1912-1914), Superintendent of agents with the Union Life Assurance Company; and George M. Donaldson (1915). The house was advertised for rent in March of 1916 (oddly as a "cottage"!) but remained vacant through the summer.

March 18 1916 - "Cottage"!

By the fall of 1916, it appears the Sparks family decided to move in to the house at 388 Albert. Abraham Sparks Jr. had retired from contracting in 1912, and so he and his wife Mary were to enjoy their retirement years living with their daughter Ada and her husband William H. Smyth, who had three young children, with a fourth on the way. The Smyths would remain here into the 1950s.

Abraham Sparks meanwhile lived to a great old age of 81, passing away at 1:30 a.m. the morning of October 30th, 1933. Along with being a top builder in Ottawa, he was a member of Christ Church Cathedral for 75 years (from 1858 to 1933), a close friend of Sir Charles Tupper (who holds the distinction of being Prime Minister of Canada for the shortest period, 10 weeks in 1896), and Abraham was also a member of No. 2 Battalion of the Ottawa Volunteer Fire Brigade, before the Ottawa Fire Department was established. He was also notably the last surviving nephew of Nicholas Sparks, at the time of his death.

In 1927, he shared his early memories of downtown Ottawa for the history page in the Citizen:

Ottawa Citizen February 5, 1927
Abraham Sparks shared memories
for the weekly history page.

Ada's husband William Smyth died in 1927 at the age of 42, leaving his widow with six children, the youngest only 11 months old. After Abraham died, his widow Mary Jane survived him until she passed in 1938. Ada continued to live in the house raising her family, until her own passing in February of 1953.

1937 view of Albert looking west from Bank Street. Again
another block too far to the east, but included to show
what Albert looked like pre-WWII.
(LAC MIKAN 3325995)

* * *

388 Albert left left the Sparks family for the first time, well, ever in 1954, when Ada's heirs (son Charles and daughter Vera), sold 388 Albert to Harry Benovoy for $16,000.

Benovoy and his family lived upstairs, but converted the ground floor of the house to commercial.

The first business to move into the ground floor was the Uniform Cap Manufacturing Company, who had relocated from their location at the corner of Bank and Albert. Unfortunately I can't find a good ad for them while at 388 Albert, but here is an ad from their Bank Street location from just a few months prior to their move up Albert:

Ottawa Citizen March 19, 1954

Uniform Cap remained in the house until the mid-60s. In 1965, the property was sold to Bruno Kaczmark for $26,000, who maintained ownership (his widow Irene took over in 1981) until at least 2009, when City records noted that acquiring the property from them would be a requirement for a potential new central library location that was considered for the block. So I can't speak to its current/recent ownership.

But from the 60s onwards it went through a variety of different stores and uses. Elgin Shoe Service moved in from 1968 to about 1975, then became Bruno Shoe Service at some point, until the very late 1980s.

March 10, 1973

It was converted to a restaurant in 1990, when it was Frank's Cafe, then Le Maroc, then Andrew's Cafe (operated by Andrew Coghlin) around the turn of the millennium. 

Scone Witch opened in September of 2004 by Heather Matthews, who had operated Domus in Ottawa from 1970 to 1988. Scone Witch moved in 2014 to Elgin and has since also opened in at least two other locations. As mentioned at the top, Good Eats moved in recently, but is no longer there.

May 2012 view of Scone Witch and the old R.A. Hydeclarke
building (former CS Coop and Alterna Bank) which was
demolished in 2016.

As with any property downtown, so much history...  I love all the historical connections this place have, and the impressive fact that it has survived longer than all others in the area. And who would have thought that the house would have been built by Nicholas Sparks' nephew??

Friday, June 7, 2019

The Kitchissippi Museum - Pop-Up Museum & Dispay - St. Vincent de Paul's - starts today!

As part of the ongoing events for Wellington Village's 100th Anniversary, I am really excited to announce that later today (Friday June 7th), and for the next two weeks, the huge front window display at St. Vincent de Paul at 1273 Wellington Street West will be populated by items from the Kitchissippi Museum!

I pulled together a ton of stuff from my collection, some of which I've used in the past when I've set up ad hoc booths/kiosks at events like Westfest, Westboro Fuse, Tastes of Wellington West and Heritage Day. But this is the first time I've ever been able to get a monster display set up for a longer period of time! So I am really excited that this is going to run for the next two weeks.

I've included mostly Wellington Village/area related items, but also have included a ton of Ottawa history related items too (to help fill it up, of course!). Some of the highlights of the window are:

* A moving slideshow of photos from Wellington Village's history
* A few artifacts from our railway and streetcar past, from the old Ottawa West trainyards at Bayview
* A fire alarm box which was located for 30 years at the corner of Woodroffe and Carling Avenue (as many would have throughout Wellington Village from the 1920s until they were all removed in 1970).
* Huge 24x36 photos of the neighbourhood, including some rare aerial/oblique shots, and one really cool low-elevation oblique photo of downtown Ottawa from 1926 never before seen
* Other items from local businesses and industry, including a stove cover from Beach Foundry
* Some rare Ottawa history items, including old phone books from the 1930s, Super Ex and Winter Carnival programs, Ottawa Auditorium programs, advertising items, a receipt from the mid-1800s, and more
* A newspaper article from London, England from 1859 illustrating the "proposed" Parliament Buildings in Ottawa
* Nepean/Fisher Park/Champlain Park yearbooks from the 1950s.
* Lots more

It's a big chunk of my collection, and I'm happy to share it for the next two weeks, and hope that people passing by the window will enjoy viewing some of the items!

Sadly none of the collection will be part of the usual St. Vincent's auction (I'm sure the staff will be tired of asking that question by two weeks from now!), but I know that there will be 3 canvas prints donated by local business CanvasPop on Hamilton Avenue North that will be in the window as well, and those prints will be auctioned at the big event at Thyme & Again on Saturday the 22nd. There will also be some other new local products/swag on demo in the window courtesy of the BIA, and I think some prints from Andrew King as well. All that to say...well worth making the time to stop by and have a look!

I believe it launches at 6 p.m. tonight (Friday) so I'm excited to see it myself. By the time you read this.. it probably will already be in full swing!

St. Vincent de Paul is at 1273 Wellington Street West https://goo.gl/maps/kNJnjFK3E1pxfZmQ7

St. Vincent de Paul building when it first opened as a
Loblaws in 1937. That's the Victoria Theatre next to it, and
S&S Higman's hardware and paint store (now Thyme & Again).
(Source: Library Archives Canada, C-080423)

The building today (Source: CTV News)

100th Birthday Party & History Presentation - Saturday June 22nd!

Yesterday the Wellington West BIA released the details on the neighbourhood birthday party! Saturday June 22nd from 7-10 p.m. will be a big evening celebrating our great community, sharing some history, fundraising and just spending time with neighbours and friends.

I am really happy to be doing this event. I'm not 100% sure what the full agenda is for the presentation portion, but what I do know is that I'll be narrating a slideshow of photos from Wellington Village's history (double the photos from what I showed during the Jane's Walk last month), but also doing a whole new segment on the 1919 auction, including a ton of rare photos I discovered that I have never shared yet! I'm particularly looking forward to that portion of the presentation, and I hope you will too. I believe there may be other guest speakers as well, long-term residents of the neighbourhood who will share stories and tidbits. I think the formal presentation part will be a part (60 minutes? 90 minutes?) of the 3-hour evening, with time built in to see displays, participate in the auction, and enjoy the treats and drinks.

The details are below, but it is important to note that you MUST register in advance for a ticket. Tickets are free (and it is requested that if you reserve a ticket now but sadly plans change, that you please cancel your ticket so that someone else can attend). I'm sure this event will "sell out" soon, as space is limited to around 70-80 people, so please book your ticket asap! :)

(Registration link is HERE and also at the bottom of this post)

I look forward to seeing everyone on the 22nd!


From the Wellington West BIA:

Happy 100th Anniversary Wellington Village!

The local businesses of Wellington West would like to invite you to come and celebrate this important milestone with our neighbours, the Wellington Village Community. 
Saturday, June 22, 2019,  7-10pm 
Exposure Gallery, (Upstairs at Thyme & Again)

The evening will include tasty seasonal offerings from Thyme & Again catering, as well as drinks, a cash bar, socializing and a special presentation by Kitchissippi's own local historian, Dave Allston and other special guests.
The evening will also feature a silent auction of three canvas prints depicting historically significant images of Wellington Village; generously created by local print shop CanvasPop and curated by Dave Allston. Proceeds from the auction will go to charity partner, St. Vincent de Paul.

The event is FREE to attend but you must Register. *Space is limited.


Kitchissippi Times: Wellington Village's history (100+ Years)

The cover story of this month's Kitchissippi Times is the 100th Anniversary of Wellington Village. I had already previously written about the 1919 auction that saw the neighbourhood split into building lots, and sold individually, and I'd also written about the Stewart family that occupied the land throughout the 19th century. But this column gave me the opportunity to tell the full story of the neighbourhood - from the Stewarts, to its transition period as investment land (including the short-lived "McLeansville" subdivision, which laid the framework for the future Wellington Village plan), to its years of growth, and the establishment of the many long-term businesses which continue to operate in the community today.

The online edition of the article has a TON of photos, several of which I've never shared previously, so I encourage you to check out the full article, and to grab a copy of the print edition, which has a lot of Wellington Village-centric coverage this month (check out the back cover for even more photos!). 

The House on the Hill - The profile of 144 Byron Avenue & the Lussier-Zinni family

The June 2019 issue of the Kitchissippi Times is a special issue focusing on the 100th Anniversary of Wellington Village! I'm excited to have been able to contribute to several parts of the issue, and to a bunch of other things happening in the neighbourhood this month!

One of my contributions to the Times this month is for the feature column "Who Lives Here", which is part of the Home & Family section of the Times. For a long time it was written by Shaun Markey, a well-known local writer and antiques expert, but Shaun stepped away from the column within the last few months, so the opportunity presented itself for me to have a chance to write the column this month. It was fun to do, and in the process reconnected with a family who I'd spoke with a couple of years ago when they had reached out for some history help. Alison Zinni and her husband Eric Lussier live in the unique house halfway up the Byron Avenue hill at Granville Avenue, at its steepest point. It's a frustrating hill to try to climb on an icy morning, and I know has presented challenges going back nearly 200 years or more. In 1899 when they were putting in the streetcar line out to Britannia, they had to blast through the hill in order to provide a level run for the trains (there would have been no way they would have been able to gain the required momentum to go up and over it). So as a result, we now have the 'school bus park' inside of what was once a big hill. Going back further than that, I can imagine the hill was probably a pain for the Stewart farming family, or perhaps a fun place to play for the kids and grandkids that grew up on the property (oh to have a time machine, or to be given a guided tour of the property by one of the 19th century Stewarts!). 

But back to 2019, the house was one of the first built in the area, and was meticulously maintained by the Schroeder family for over 80 years, and has now been the Lussier-Zinni family home for the past 10 years. My article brings together the past and present, and highlights the unique features of the house, the fantastic renovations and upgrades made by Alison and Eric, and the online edition features a ton of photos of the family and their home. 

Ottawa Citizen, June 29, 1929

Friday, May 31, 2019

Wellington Village is Exactly 100 Years Old!

100 years ago today - May 31st 1919 - was a key day in the story of Wellington Village! It was the day of the big auction sale that turned vacant farmland into a subdivision in an afternoon!

From the original promotional booklet advertising
lots for sale in what is now Wellington Village

The June issue of the Kitchissippi Times (due out within the next few days) will feature a lot of Wellington Village anniversary content, and I'm excited about a series of events happening throughout June related to it as well. We completed the Jane's Walk in early May as the kick-off event (amazingly, it was the highest-attended Jane's Walk in Ottawa!); and in June I'll be taking over the Saint-Vincent's window on Wellington with photos and artifacts starting next Friday (June 7th), and there will be a few other things that I'll be promoting shortly...including the main event of the anniversary, an evening at the upstairs Gallery at Thyme & Again on Saturday June 22nd, and an afternoon event on Sunday June 23rd at a location that is just being finalized. It will feature a presentation with tons of photos, and the story of the auction, complete with a new set of photos I acquired that have never been seen before!

But back to the big day.. May 31st 1919... you can read all about it in my old article at the Kitchissippi Times: https://kitchissippi.com/2015/04/17/history-of-wellington-village-ottawa/

And also you can read all about the original houses from 1919 which still stand today, and their stories: http://kitchissippimuseum.blogspot.com/2018/07/wellington-villages-100-year-old-houses.html

And here are some bonus newspaper advertisements, which ran throughout the month of May 1919, promoting the big auction May 31st!

The Kitchissippi Museum is proud to be a part of all the events coming up in June, celebrating our awesome neighbourhood, and 100 years of great history!

Thursday, May 16, 2019

49-51 Gilchrist Avenue - Gorgeous vintage Wellington Village double

Across the street from my house on Gilchrist Avenue (which my family has called home since 1986), stands an impressive brick double that dates back to the earliest days of Wellington Village. Doubles such as this one are rare in this neighbourhood, likely due to the 33' lots that make up the original subdivision. They would be more commonly found in other older areas like Centretown or the Glebe. So I love that this building exists on Gilchrist, as unique as all of the other houses are on the street, if not a little more so. And with that uniqueness, comes a story about its history which is unique in its own way as well.

Photo courtesy of remax.ca

This past week, the double at 49-51 Gilchrist Avenue was put up for sale, and already a lot of worry has surfaced amongst neighbours about the future of the house. At its asking price ($1.15M), it seems likely that developers would be the largest contingent amongst potential buyers. It sadly looks like the days are gone where this house could be owner-occupied, a perfect way for a savvy young family could live in one half, and rent out the other side to help pay the mortgage. Now, as an aging building on a corner lot in one of the most desirable neighbourhoods in town, it seems to be potential fodder for the wrecking ball, and the inevitable application at city hall for 4 units. Or 6. Or 8. Or who knows. That corner lot location means the opportunities are theoretically endless. Throw in the "bonus" opportunity space the abandoned city back-lane provides, and it seems like a development is likely. If I sound pessimistic, consider that the sellers did not even bother to include a single interior photo in their listing, despite how nice I know the units are.

My fingers are crossed that we aren't headed that way, and that a buyer will be found who will keep the building just as it is, and appreciate the history and quality of the house.

I thought then it might be interesting to share the history of this proud brick double, and bring to life its 90 year history a little bit.

* * *

The lot was sold in the second Ottawa Land Association auction, held in June 1920. However, the initial lot buyer did not build right away, and it was not until the summer of 1928 when things got moving.

67-year old real estate investor William J. Riley came to an agreement in early July 1928 to acquire the lot, and took out the building permit in mid-July in his name (sandwiched between the permits issued for St. Giles Church on Bank Street and Elmdale School all within a week). He officially purchased the lot (along with a second lot a few blocks away) on August 6th, 1928, immediately took out a mortgage against the land for $2,500.

Ottawa Citizen listing of monthly building permits issued,
for the month of July. Listing ran August 3, 1928

Construction would have taken place throughout the fall of 1928, and into early 1929. He took out a second mortgage on April 12th, 1929 for an additional $1,500, like to complete the final stages of construction.

William Riley was born in Prospect, Ontario in 1861, and came to Ottawa in 1902, where he worked with the Office Specialty Manufacturing Company for years. Riley never married, nor had any kids.

An old ad for Riley's employer for most of his career
(from Google Images)

He had been living in the Battleford, Saskatchewan area during the 1890s, and apparently owned several properties there. He may have owned one or two other properties in Ottawa in the 1920s, but nothing in large numbers. The Gilchrist Avenue double was likely just an investment in his retirement, perhaps as a way to keep busy with managing it.

Being 67 years old at the time, and with little evidence of having been a tradesman, I suspect Riley had hired out for the construction of the house. The mortgages in 1928 and 1929 were both from a man named Albert Edwin James, who was listed on the real estate documents as a carpenter. Research shows James was also from the Prospect, Ontario region, who had been a farmer there until retiring from farming in 1922 and relocating to Ottawa. In the era, banks and loan companies weren't as essential as  they are today. Many mortgages (more than half on average) were taken out from individuals. It was also not uncommon for a builder to build a house for a lot owner and charge it to the owner by way of a mortgage, which would be guaranteed against the value of the property (foreclosure would be a solution if the owner became unable to pay back the loan). So James may very well have been the builder of 49-51 Gilchrist Avenue. Otherwise, due to Riley taking out the permit in his name, and his being the only name on title, there is no way to definitively determine who the builder was.

The house seems to have been ready in mid-March or early-April 1929, as a classified ad advertising the house for rent ran on March 15th, 1929, described simply as "New double, cor. Gilchrist, Spencer, complete electric wiring."

49-51 Gilchrist is first advertised for rent.
Ottawa Citizen, March 15, 1929

Riley never lived in the house; he lived downtown on James Street, and instead had tenants move into both sides of the house. The first occupants were Reginald J. Shaw and his wife Ellen in the 49 Gilchrist half (Reginald was 27 years old, with the Air Force) and William and Annie Chapman in the 51 Gilchrist half (William was a 36-year old salesman). Each couple had one child.

Sadly, Riley passed away just a few months after the building was compelted, on August 13th, 1929. On his death, an article about his life in the Journal noted: "Though not a public man, he took a deep interest in affairs pertaining to both church and state. Honest in his dealings and respected by all with whom he came in contact, Mr. Riley leaves a vacant place in both family and community circles."

March 1946 view of the double at 49-51 Gilchrist
(courtesy of Bruce Chapman)

After Riley passed away, ownership of the house transferred to his widowed sister Emmeline Jane McRorie, and his brother-in-law Dugald Robert Ferguson, as trustees of his estate. Perhaps unfortunately for them, with the great depression underway, selling the big double house would likely have proved impossible. I'm not sure if they even tried, but regardless, they retained ownership for 13 years, renting it out to tenants along the way.

In November of 1942, the William Riley estate sold the house to civil servant Ernest Brault, and his wife Edmée. The Braults would become long-time owner-occupants. They lived in the 49 Gilchrist half for the next 34 years, where they raised their four children (sadly, one of their children, Andrée, passed away in November of 1946 at the age of 12).

Notably, Edmée Brault made the news in 1950, when she led a campaign to have shorts banned in Ottawa! The topic was heavily debated in the media over several weeks that summer, and was rehashed in 1983 by the Ottawa Citizen (see article below):

June 25, 1983 Citizen article

While the Brault family lived on the north half, tenants resided on the south half. The longest tenants to live in the house were Cedric and Beatrice Dunning, who lived in the #51 half from 1940 until 1950, and Delbert F. and Madeline Carter who lived at 51 from 1958 to 1968.

April 1949 view, with a nice look down the south half of
Gilchrist Avenue.
(courtesy of Bruce Chapman)

Interestingly, in December of 1950, the OMB heard a case from Brault, looking for an amendment to city bylaw 6839 which limited the density of buildings within the ward. Brault was attempting to convert the building into a triplex. No newspaper reports tell the story of what happened at the OMB, but of course we know that it did not succeed. The house remained two units.

The golden age - paperboy Bob Boucher of 51 Gilchrist
helps donate $100 to the Ottawa Boys' Club.
Ottawa Journal, February 7, 1955

Ernest Brault passed away on January 24, 1976, and a few months later his widow Edmée sold the home (she ended up living to the great old age of 96, passing away in 2006). It changed hands twice more in 1979 and 1981, and remained under the same owner I believe until about ten years ago, when it was sold to the current owner.

49 & 51 Gilchrist Avenue will always be one my favourite houses on Gilchrist, and I sure hope the right buyer is found, and it remains standing for years to come. It would be a sad thing if this article becomes a eulogy for one of Wellington Village's oldest and most impressive structures.

(source: realtor.ca)

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Education and Schools in Kitchissippi in the 19th century

This month's new issue of the Kitchissippi Times features my monthly "Early Days" column, which for May covers the story of the early days of education and schools in Kitchissippi. It is a deeply-researched story that in about 1,000 words tells of the days when kids really would walk many miles through snowstorms and bear-and-wolf covered terrain, to get to their early primitive schoolhouse. 

I love this column and really it is years of bits and pieces of research put into one story that tells the background of all of Kitchissippi's schools, and how they developed and/or came to be.

The story has a particular focus on the Hintonburg Public School, which over time became Connaught School. I'm particularly happy to share two rare photos of the original Hintonburg P.S. on Rosemount Avenue. 

You can read the full article at the Kitchissippi Times website at: 

October 1889 photo of Hintonburg Public School

Postcards from Juno

In the news this week is the very cool initiative of the Juno Beach Centre, where they will be sending out postcards to 400 households in Canada, the last home of fallen soldiers before they went off to war. The postcards will contain information about the soldier and about their death.


For those receiving the card, I would think it would help hit home the reality of the war and how so many young men and women from our neighbourhood went away and never came back. It is impossible for our present-day era to understand any of the emotions felt back in WWI or WWII - by the soldiers themselves, or the families they left behind. But a project like this helps bring a little of it to life, and helps connect the present day to our past, an increasingly difficult challenge as fewer veterans from WWII remain.

The Juno Beach Centre released the locations of the 400 households through a mapping tool, and I was impressed to see that 2 of them are in Kitchissippi. The article above shows the map from junobeach.org which geolocates the two addresses.

Unfortunately, both cards are going to hit dead ends...

* * *

My first concern came when I saw that one of the two addresses is pointed to "Alonzo Street", which is the Hintonburg 'ghost street' I wrote about a couple of years ago (http://kitchissippimuseum.blogspot.com/2015/03/long-lost-hintonburg-alonzo-section.html). This street only existed in actuality from 1875 to 1910. I don't even think it still exists on paper, though somewhat impressively, the Juno Beach Centre located soldier Oscar Joseph Beaudoin to it on their map. Alonzo was lost when the CPR roundhouse was built on that spot, just to the east of Bayview.

I was curious how it could be possible, that Beaudoin could be listed at an address on that street, in the early 1940s when he enlisted, when the street hadn't existed since 1910. And then I realized... Alonzo Avenue is what Byron Avenue was called west of Island Park Drive until 1949 (it was renamed to give Byron a single, continuous name from Holland to out past Woodroffe).

A quick search in an old newspaper confirmed it, the Beaudoin family lived at 152 Alonzo Avenue in Laurentian View (aka Hampton-Iona).

And to better place the house, since there were so many re-namings and re-numberings in the 1940s, a quick look at a fire insurance plan from the era would confirm exactly what house it was:

1948 fire insurance plan showing the south side of Byron
(Alonzo) between Kirkwood and Hilson. #152 is the all-
yellow house (indicating wood construction) in the center.

And then GeoOttawa for 2019:

GeoOttawa confirms it as the present-day 302 Byron, and even shows the outline of the Beaudoin house there... but unfortunately it's just an illusion. The original 302 Byron was demolished in 2012, and replaced by a huge double.

Oscar Joseph Beaudoin's home at 302 Byron - in 2009

Two semis in 2015 at 302-304 Byron

When I read they'd only sent out 400 postcards, I assumed it was because they'd been selected at least in part because of the addresses being still current. But I see now the challenges the Juno Beach Centre faces in trying to use addresses from 1939 today. Ottawa/Nepean went through a lot of address changes between 1940-1950 so I'm sure a lot of the addresses they are mailing to will no longer be valid. It will be unfortunate for them to receive back a lot of "return to sender" cards.

The Oscar Beaudoin one will most definitely be returned to them, though I plan on contacting the Juno Beach Centre to let them know. I'm not sure if they'll mail it back out to the new house or not. In a way, it seems a touch sadder that the postcard would arrive at the geographic location where the Beaudoin family resided, but not their actual home. Just one more reminder of how far away WWII, Juno Beach, and the sacrifices made by brave soldiers like Oscar Beaudoin are sadly quickly becoming.

For more information on Oscar Beaudoin, this is a great link: http://www.fallenheroesofnormandy.org/Servicemen/Detail/5968

Private Oscar Joseph Beaudoin
(source; Fallen Heroes of Normandy)

* * *

The second soldier from Kitchissippi that is part of the postcard project is Orphila Beauchamp on Merton Street. His profile (http://www.fallenheroesofnormandy.org/Servicemen/Detail/5966) sadly has far less detail.

An old newspaper lookup shows the Beauchamp family lived at 7 Merton Street, and the first newspaper notice I could find about Orphila noted that he was survived only by his Mom Mrs. Armanda Beauchamp, indicating that she had lost her husband at some point as well.

Citizen June 29, 1944

A little bit of extra digging revealed almost nothing in the usual places on the Beauchamp family. I could find practically nothing on Ancestry, in the newspapers, and in a few other places. The family originated in Rockland, and may have only been in Ottawa a brief time.

Though addressing in Hintonburg has been a little more consistent over time, and Merton Street has retained its name, the Orphila Beauchamp card won't be getting through either. 7 Merton Street was destroyed by a fire on June 15th, 2004. Somewhat eerily, the concrete front steps and stoop still remain 15 years later, a ghost entrance to nowhere....

Google Streetview of what is left of 7 Merton Street

The 'Postcards from Juno' project is a wonderful program, but I worry about how many of the 400 postcards will actually get through. Hopefully in the next phase (if they do pursue it, and I hope they do!), a few more Kitchissippi addresses will make it on the list again. It's certainly a great concept, and I look forward to reading the follow-up articles on how this first run of cards were received across Canada. Though the two Kitchissippi postcards may not reach their destination, I think a part of the goal has been reached by the Juno Beach Centre, in that 75 years later, Oscar Beaudoin and Orphila Beauchamp haven't been forgotten about, and by writing about them today on this website, it keeps their memory and sacrifice alive, at least in a small way.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Jane's Walk - Wellington Village Local History - Saturday 2-4 p.m.

I'm happy to announce that this Saturday (May 4th) I will be co-leading a Jane's Walk, on the history of Wellington Village.

The tour will leave Thyme & Again on Wellington Street West at Huron Avenue North at 2 p.m., and largely occur on Wellington between Holland and Island Park Drive. I'll be co-leading the walk with Wellington West BIA Executive Director Dennis Van Staalduinen. 

We'll be pointing out sites of historical significance, and sharing stories related to the 100 years of Wellington Village (and the 100 years before WV, when it was suburban farm land!). This tour is close to the heart for me, as I've spent most of my life in Wellington Village, and my family nearly 70 years.

More information can be found at the official link: https://janes-walk.herokuapp.com/en/walks/jane-s-walk-ottawa-gatineau-2019/20621

Hope to meet a lot of new and familiar faces Saturday afternoon!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Nepean High School : Timeline 1922 (From concept to classes in one year!)

1922 was a big year in the history of Nepean High School. Obviously the biggest, since that was the year that the idea of building the school was pitched, plans drawn up, a site found and most of the the construction completed. Quite impressive to all occur in a year's time. With the 100th anniversary of the building coming up in just four years, I thought it would be neat to go through a timeline of the year 1922, to show just how the school construction developed and evolved. As a proud alumnus of Nepean High, I find myself wanting to write about NHS all the time! And this one is a great story.

You may recall that back in the fall of 2016, I wrote about how Nepean High School as an institution was technically turning 100 years old that month. https://kitchissippi.com/2016/09/15/kitchissippi-school-100-years-old/  I won't rehash that story, but just to say that Nepean did exist for several years as a continuation class operating out of Churchill and Broadview public schools, until it became clear that a high school for the suburban kids in the exceedingly-popular Britannia streetcar line neighbourhoods was a necessity.


Monday January 9 - Nepean Township council holds its first meeting of the new regime to kick off 1922 (back then most municipal elections were still annual events, held around January 1st). The council meeting is held at Nepean Town Hall on Richmond Road in Westboro. The main topic for the meeting is the need to put into motion a building project to erect a high school for children of Nepean. The thrust for this is the distance students need to travel to get to city high schools, the fees they are required to pay being from outside the city, and the fact that the city schools were becoming severely overcrowded. It is decided to hold a town hall for the council, school trustees and ratepayers of Nepean on January 23rd to discuss further with public input, particularly on the location of this proposed high school. Nepean Council in 1922 was: Reeve Fred Bell; 1st deputy Reeve Fred Graham; 2nd deputy Reeve A.B. Ullett; 3rd deputy Reeve J.W. Arnott; and Councillor J.H. Slack.

Just one simple sentence in the Nepean Township Council
minutebook for January 9, 1922, but it's a significant one.

The big headline! Ottawa
Citizen, January 9, 1922

Monday January 23 - A public meeting is held for the Councillors, school trustees and citizens of Nepean to discuss the need for a high school. Over 100 people are present. At the meeting, Dr. F.W. Merchant of the Department of Education, presents a report (which was not produced by the Department, but rather by inspectors of the Department) with numbers showing that 67% of Nepean's student population was located in Westboro (8.5% in Woodroffe and 3% at Britannia). Thus it followed that the high school should be located in the eastern end of the township, and the report presented further specifies the recommendation that "As Westboro has the largest population and furnishes 67 per cent of the attendance at the continuation school, the high school should be placed in Westboro, in forming a new high school district." It also points out that Westboro is growing rapidly, has a large percentage of the overall population and bores a large share of the township's tax assessment. 9 of 14 Nepean school sections are represented at the meeting (the other 5 being at the western end of the township, closer to Richmond, and thus would have minimal use of the high school), with 8 of the 9 agreeing that the high school should be built in the vicinity of Westboro. The report notes that the high school "should provide accommodation for at least five classes, and furnish facilities for typewriting, manual training, domestic science, an assembly hall, and gymnasium." Each of the members of Nepean Council, as well as the representatives of the school sections spoke in support of the plan.

1879 Carleton County map showing the borders of what
was Nepean Township, in relation to neighbouring
townships. Note all of Ottawa west of the Rideau River
was originally part of Nepean Township.

Wednesday January 25 - Nepean Council meets and agrees to proceed to Carleton County Council for approval for the project. Council also debates and officially decides upon the portions of Nepean Township to be included in the high school district. It is decided to include school sections 1 to 5 (from Westboro to Bells Corners and the March Road school house), 11 (Greenbank), 12 (City View), 13 (Merivale) and the new section 15 (a more northwesterly part of the township). Council to present the plan to Carleton County Council the following day.

Thursday January 26 - A bylaw to create a high school area in Nepean Township i0s presented at Carleton County Council, and passes through first, second and final reading without any objection or discussion. The plan is presented by Nepean Councillors A.H. Ullett and J.W. Arnott.

Tuesday February 21 - Carleton County Council gives final approval of the creation of the high school district, and appoints the first three members of the high school board of trustees: J. Ernest Caldwell of City View, Elijah Dawson of Bells Corners, and Ralph Hodgson of Woodroffe. This trustee board is now fully empowered to act on behalf of the County in matters pertaining to the high school going forward. "The way is now well paved for the erection of a new high school to serve most of the Township of Nepean" writes the Journal.

Thursday February 23 - Nepean Council appoints three trustees to represent the Council on the six-person board. Selected were John E. Cole of Westboro (who owned much of the land in Westboro, and operated the Highland Park Dairy Farm, one of if not the first electrified farms in Canada), George Spencer of Westboro (a high-ranking public servant, Chief Operating Officer of the Board of Railway Commissioners), and a young Cecil Morrison, just a few years after opening his Standard Bread Company with Richard Lamothe on Hilson Avenue.

John E. Cole in 1913

Cecil Morrison in 1919

March and early April - A brief reprise from developments as Nepean deals with new fire and building bylaws, a proposed cemetery at Britannia Heights (the area south of Carling now including Frank Ryan Park), spring road repairs, as well as a split of the City View school section (where the existing school is up near Meadowlands Drive, requiring students residing near Carling Avenue walk 2-3 miles. A house by Carling is to be used while plans to build a proper schoolhouse are made). In an important move, the architect firm of Richards and Abra (Hugh Richards and William James Abra) is secured by the trustee board to design the high school. Early blueprint plans are drawn up during the Spring.

Ad for Richards and Abra from April 1922

Meanwhile the board of trustees are narrowing down a list of possible locations for the school; a list of eight different sites around Westboro are initially considered. Also during this time frame, John E. Cole was selected as Chairman of the trustee board. There is no individual more instrumental in the establishment of Nepean High School than Cole.

Friday April 14 - This afternoon, the members of the high school board take a road trip out to visit the leading four sites which are under consideration for the school. The sites are located in McKellar Townsite (now McKellar Park), Main Street (now Churchill Avenue), Broadway Avenue in Highland Park (now Broadview Avenue) and on Richmond Road. Unfortunately, no records seem to exist of what sites exactly were being considered. However the map below provides potential likely guesses as to what was being considered, based on open space at the time.

Potential locations for NHS considered by the board in 1922

Following the field visit, no decision is made, but the list is narrowed down to three: McKellar Townsite, Broadway Avenue and Main Street. The plans for the school (by Richards and Abra) are nearly complete by this date.

Tuesday April 25 - The location of the high school is announced! Of course it is the site that is just north of Broadway Avenue public school, at the corner of what was then called Princess Avenue (Princeton). The five-acre spot is said to be the highest elevation between Ottawa and Britannia. Conflict of interest? The site chosen is owned by board chairman John E Cole (who owned most of the land in the neighbourhood), who not only benefits from the land sale to the school board (for $13,000) but also in the increase in value of his properties surrounding the school. Surely that must have helped the Broadview site gain the edge over McKellar Park and Churchill Avenue! The announcement also notes that the school will cost over $50,000, and will be a ten room school (these projections will grow two or three times over the coming months).

Announcement in the evening edition of the
Ottawa Citizen, April 25, 1922.

Thursday May 11 - Architects Richards and Abra publish newspaper advertisements calling for tenders for the excavation of the property on Broadway Avenue to commence construction of the high school. Bids accepted up until May 17th.

Thursday May 18 - It is announced that Ottawa firm Bate, McMahon & Company are awarded the contract for excavating the property. 13 bids are received by the board, the lowest offer being that of Bate, McMahon & Co. for $2,000. The work is to be completed by the first week of June. The land would have been largely flat and likely grass covered, with few or no trees visible in the rare aerial photos of the era (see below for an aerial photo from 1920). The land is still only 11 years removed from being farmland (the McKellar family sold to a real estate syndicate who established the McKellar Townsite in 1911).

An ad for Bate, McMahon & Co. from
the period (July 13, 1918)

Late May and early June - Excavation work on the site performed by Bate, McMahon & Co. On June 3rd it is reported that "excavation work is almost completed".

Friday May 26 - Architects Richards and Abra publish ads calling for tenders for construction of the high school. Bids accepted until Saturday June 10th at noon, at their Sparks Street office.

Ottawa Journal, May 26, 1922

Friday June 2 - At a meeting of the high school board, held at the offices of Richards and Abra, the name of the new school is selected: Nepean Collegiate Institute. The name of the board is also to change from the Nepean High School Board to the Nepean Collegiate Board. (The primary difference in a "Collegiate" versus a "High School" is that traditionally, collegiate institutes focused on arts and humanities for students intending to attend university, whereas high schools focused on vocational and science programs for those planning to enter the workplace upon graduation. Over time the roles blurred and eventually they merged in a single secondary school system. The term ‘Collegiate Institute’ largely has disappeared, remaining only for the oldest and most established secondary schools). Though the plan as of June 2nd was to go the "Collegiate" route, this plan was clearly short-lived, as not long after, the terminology would revert back to "High School".

Also at this meeting on June 2nd, the final plans and specifications for the building are approved. "The building is to be two storeys in height, with ten class rooms, an assembly hall, gymnasium, domestic science room, and chemical laboratory. It is to be entirely fire proof and will be built of reinforced concrete and brick. It will cover a space measuring 170 feet by 90 feet."

Concurrently, Richards and Abra, as well as Nepean Township, were focused on the planning and construction of the new schoolhouse at Merivale and Coldrey, for the new SS 16. Built at the same time as Nepean High, it is now the old section of the Carlington Community Health Centre.

Thursday June 15 - Nepean Township council grants the Nepean Collegiate board's application for the issuance of 30-year debentures for $200,000 towards the construction of the high school. (Over $2.9 million in 2019 money, using the Bank of Canada inflation calculator). This money will go towards the purchase of the site, building of the school, and its fit-up.

To fund the construction of the school, I suppose Nepean Township had a few options: they could spend their own money to do it (which they didn't have); they could levy the entire Township, and even set higher levies for residents in school sections closest to the school (not a popular move, and likely not even financially possible); they could borrow from a bank or lender (potentially high interest rates and restrictive clauses); or they could issue debentures (which is what school boards commonly did in the era for building projects). Debentures are still a bit confusing to me how they worked, but essentially they were like bonds, in that lenders could bid for the right to loan the money essentially, at terms the board set out. In the case of NHS, the debentures were set at 30 years at 5.5% interest per annum. Bidders would bid at how much they would be willing to discount on the nominal value (usually in the 2% range) in order to win the loan essentially. Typically a debenture from a school board or a municipality was a safe investment.

Mid-June to late-July - Construction begins on Nepean High School. The contractors who won the bid process were Taylor and Lackey.

Robert Taylor and James Lackey were both Irish-born, Taylor 60 and Lackey 51. Their firm had been one of Ottawa's top builders dating back to the 1890s. They took on many large projects, and had a large contingent of top tradesmen in Ottawa at their disposal. They would also win the contract to build Elmdale Public School a few years later.

Ottawa Citizen, July 19, 1922. Taylor and Lackey,
contractors for the construction of Nepean High invite
bricklayers to apply to help build the school.

30 to 40 workers work on construction of the foundation of Nepean High, which is complete in mid-July. Construction on the brickwork begins around August 1st, and the crew of 30 to 40 workers grows by "many more" once the team begins work on the structure of the school.

Monday July 24 - John Cole speaks to the media this evening and announces that the new high school will be the finest high school in the province of Ontario. Though original estimates were $80,000, the costs now appear to be over $100,000. The school will provide classes for over 400 students, in 12 classrooms, with a gymnasium and auditorium. The debentures for $200,000 will be ready to be issued in late August. Nepean Township council has also made backup plans to secure funding if there are delays in funding.

Wednesday August 2 - Nepean Council approves the issue of $235,000 debentures total for the high school and the public school on Merivale. Tenders for the debentures due by August 17.

Friday August 11 - The first classified advertisement is run in the Ottawa Citizen looking for teachers for Nepean High School. Annual salary of $1,800. The ad would run daily for two weeks.

Ottawa Citizen, August 11, 1922

Thursday August 18 - The bid of R.A. Daly & Company of Toronto on the $235,000 debentures was accepted by Nepean Council this evening at 98.69% with interest at 5.5%. An impressive 14 other tenders had been received. Meanwhile construction continued on the school itself.

This oblique aerial photo from the summer of 1922 captures
Nepean High School mid-construction. Unfortunately it was
taken from quite a distance away, so the quality is as good as
it can be. The Ottawa River is at left, Richmond Road running
parallel to it. Broadview Avenue is the most clear street going
left to right, and Broadview School is the larger building in
front of a bright reflective area. Nepean HS is to the left of
Broadview PS, with its main floor under construction. 

Monday September 11 - A big day in the construction of Nepean High. The corner stone is laid today by Hon. R.H. Grant, Ontario Minister of Education, at 4 p.m. A large ceremony is held at the site, which includes all six members of the high school board, the full Nepean Township council, and large numbers of the public including hundreds of school children, all excited for the arrival of the school.

Laying of the cornerstone of Nepean High. September 11, 1922.
(Source: City of Ottawa Archives, CA-18367)

John Cole presides over the ceremony, which starts with an invocation (prayer) by Rev. A.E. Kelly of Westboro Methodist Church. Cole then began "with an introduction eulogizing the ideals which the school would represent" (reported the Citizen), and details an outline of how the school had gotten to this point. Cole then introduces Hon. Grant for the cornerstone ceremony. Mr. W.J. Abra of Richards and Abra present Hon. Grant with a silver trowel for the job. After the stone is laid, Hon. Grant makes "an inspirational summary of the benefits of good schools, congratulated the local councils and school boards on the fact of being able to erect the fine building he now saw in process of construction. He made reference to the many invitations which he received asking him to perform similar functions. In many of these cases, he regretted having to send some one to represent him. In the county of Carleton, he said, this would not do. No such thought had struck him. He considered it an honor to be able to perform such a ceremony in his own constituency."

"In speaking to the children he reminded them that one or more of them might some day find themselves in the same position he was in, minister of education. That although there was nothing sensational in the laying of a cornerstone, there was a great significance in it. He remembered that when going to the old high school in Ottawa, which used to be situated where the Russell theater now stands, the students were called out to attend the laying of the cornerstone of the present Ottawa Collegiate (Lisgar) by Lord Dufferin. He had never forgotten that day and hoped that they, the children, would not forget the present one."

Grant closes by stating: "Even if you are not my supporters politically, I will forgive your remissness in that respect if you will support me in my endeavors to improve the educational facilities in the province of Ontario."

Following Hon. Grant's address, the school children present sing "O Canada" and the official National Anthem at the time (God Save the Queen). On the platform (in the photo above) are the members of the Nepean Council (J.H. Slack, M.N. Cummings and A.B. Ullett), Rev. W.H. Cramm of the Westboro Presbyterian Church, Rev. A.N. Frith of Westboro Baptist Church, Col. (Rev.) R.H. Steacy of All Saints' Anglican Church, T. Saunders and John Shouldis, school trustees of Woodroffe, John Gamble, Nepean Township clerk, and key local figures Percy Halpenny, Jack Ashfield, E.H. Stewart, W.C. Harnett, M.Honeywell, Dr. J.S. Nelson, S. Bradley, Dave Mowat, and many others.

At the time, the school is projected to be ready for January 1st, 1923. It will have eight teachers under the principalship of Miss Anita (Annie) J. Stewart (currently the principal of Broadview Avenue School). The plan at this point has changed again, to now 15 classrooms, plus a science room, manual training room, chemistry and physics labs, biology lab, auditorium with seating for 400, and a gym. The school will be built to accommodate 600 students.

September to December 1922 - Construction continues on Nepean High School, but it will not be ready by January 1st as hoped, so a decision is made to postpone opening until the fall of 1923. The bulk of the the construction was likely completed by the Spring of 1923, barely a year after the initial steps were taken to have the school built.

May 1920 aerial photograph showing Broadview
Avenue with just the original Broadview School.
Future NHS site is just vacant space, though there
is some kind of larger-sized depression or hole.
Richmond Road would be at top, Carling at bottom.
Odd shape across from Broadview is light reflecting
off the old swamp. 

May 1933 aerial photo of the same area (I've never seen
an aerial photo of Westboro/NHS for any period between
1920 and 1933). Princeton and Denbury now appear.

2017 GeoOttawa photo of Nepean & Broadview


Nepean High School opened in September 1923 with 195 students in attendance. There were a total of six classes: two Form I's (grade 9), two Form II's (grade 10), one Form III (grade 11), and one Form IV and V (grades 12 and 13). Just prior to the school opening, Mr. H. Loucks was appointed principal in the summer of 1923, and the first staff at opening were Mr. Loucks, Miss Annie J. Stewart, Mrs. Kathleen H. Crain, Miss Lena L. MacNeill, Miss Jean McIntosh, and Mr. W.R.M. Scott. Later in the year, when the auditorium was completed, the official opening took place. The Journal and Citizen both dedicated large articles and a photograph of the school to celebrate the official opening, and the successful project that impressively had gone from concept to classes in barely over a year!

Nepean High School at opening, fall 1923
(from Ottawa Journal, December 15, 1923)

The original Nepean High School as it was in the
early 1920s (and with a little snow)