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:

And also you can read all about the original houses from 1919 which still stand today, and their stories:

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

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.


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 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 ( 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:

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 ( 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:

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