Current Street Name: Hilda Street
Former Street Names: Pine Alley (1874-1908) for the portion north of O'Meara; Emily Street (1884-1908) for the portion south of O'Meara.
First established: 1874
|Anna Hilda Pinhey, date unknown.
(Source: Bytown Museum P1651)
Anna Hilda Pinhey was born June 6th, 1870 in Ottawa. She was the daughter of lawyer Charles Pinhey and Catherine Lewis, the sister of John B. Lewis, Pinhey's long-time law partner and first mayor of Ottawa.
Anna never married, and lived for most of her life on Clemow Avenue in the Glebe. She was one of the city's biggest philanthropists, giving frequent and sizable contributions to organizations such as the YWCA, the Ottawa Protestant Children's Hospital, the Infant's Home, Children's Village, the Red Cross, the Community Chest campaign, among others. Back in the pre-1950 days, the newspapers would often list charitable donation for various campaigns; Anna Hilda Pinhey's name appeared in many, and maybe even most of them.
She was a charter member (and longest surviving member) of the Historical Society of Ottawa, which formed in 1898, was a board member of the Ottawa Humane Society for nearly her entire adult life, and a board member of the Protestant Orphan's Home, the Bytown Museum, and the Children's Hospital. She was also extensively involved with the Canadian Girl Guides, and particularly Camp Woolsey (also named for Pinhey descendants), where a building was named in her honour in 1938. She was also active in real estate, buying and selling multiple properties, while also lending money to many back before banks controlled the mortgage market. In Hintonburg specifically she was a frequent lender to young home buyers, and also contributed to the establishment and ongoing development of the Hintonburg YWCA in the pre- and post-WWI era.
How named: Hilda Street first established as "Pine Alley" in the 1874 subdivision of a large part of Carleton County Judge Christopher Armstrong's estate. It was given this name because it was initially planned to be truly a back alley behind grander houses that would front Bayview Road and Garland Street (then called South Street). However over time, with the abundance of lots available throughout Hintonburg, the lot owners realized that halving or quartering the lots, and establishing Pine Alley as its own street with houses fronting onto it, was the best option to maximize lot sales. As a result, the lots on Hilda have depths ranging from about 66 to 82 feet, or even less in some cases, which is well less than most anywhere else in the neighbourhood.
Of course, most notably, Hilda has the very unique feature of being only 20 feet wide, and it is for exactly this reason, that it was never intended to be an actual street with houses fronting it. Years later, attempts were made by the City to widen the street (by expropriating the front few feet of properties on either side, which would have forced the moving or demolition of most houses), but all efforts were shot do so were shot down by residents, leaving the street intact as it was back in the day.
The south end of Hilda, south of O'Meara where it jogs to the east slightly, actually originally had its own name (Emily Street), named for Judge Armstrong's eldest daughter (while Armstrong was originally named Caroline Street, named for his youngest daughter). In 1908, after Hintonburg had been annexed to the City of Ottawa, both Pine and Emily were duplicates of other streets in Ottawa, so the names were required to be changed (along with many other streets in Hintonburg). A committee helped decide on the new names that were chosen for historic reasons, or from input by residents. For reasons lost to history, the name Hilda was chosen for the full stretch of the street, and was adopted officially in the spring of 1908.
Early Days & First Houses:
As mentioned above, Pine Alley existed at first to be a rear alley for houses to be built fronting Bayview and Garland. So though the street (alley) was laid out in 1874, it was not until 1886 that the first houses were built fronting the street. And what is especially cool is that 7 of the original 8 houses built in those first couple of years (between 1886 and 1889) are all still standing today, more than 130 years later!
Before we get to those houses, though, there is other history related to the street, and particularly the corner lots of the other streets, notably O'Meara Street.
Now even O'Meara had a cool original name, which was Cedar Walk. And where Cedar Walk met Pine Alley, was a house built in 1877 by a Nepean farmer Thomas Madden. This house still stands today as 23 O'Meara Street:
|23 O'Meara Street in 2019, built in 1877 by Thomas Madden
|23 O'Meara in 1949 (at least part of it), showing more closely
what it would have looked like back when first built.
Thomas Madden was a farmer who acquired the lot back in 1874 when Judge Armstrong first put his lots on the market. In the spring of 1877, when he was 33 years old, and with his first (and only) child on the way, Madden built the house fronting Cedar Walk, and moved into it with his wife. His son Francis was born that September. The Maddens remained in Hintonburg only briefly, renting it out for 2 years in 1880-1881, returning briefly, and then renting it out again in 1883 when the small family decided to move to North Dakota.
Madden then rented it to, and later sold to, his sister-in-law Joanna Kenna (formerly Fitzgerald), who was a 42-year old widow of 11 children ranging in age from 6 to 21. She was Irish-born, coming to Canada at 18. She remained at 23 O'Meara until her death in 1925, outliving 7 of her children. The youngest of the children, Agnes Kenna, would remain in the home until 1944.
The house has been improved since, but the structure remains the same, including the one-storey addition which dates back into the 19th century. Though technically not a Hilda Street address, it is still an important house in the history of the street.
Up at the north end at what is now Scott Street, was constructed the second house which stands along Hilda Street.
Originally called the Concession line (because it separated concession A from concession 1 in Nepean Township), and later Ottawa Street, this unpaved, barely maintained road ran alongside the old CPR rail line (now the Transitway) initially from about Parkdale to the CPR yards at Bayview. Though facing the railroad tracks that arrived in 1870 for the Canada Central Railway, the lots were quite prime in that it was a very short walk for workers to get to the roundhouse and CPR yards. Right out the front door and in the yard in seconds.
So this was also a prime location to acquire a lot, and Thomas Birch did just that back in 1885, when he built what is now 1360 Scott Street (aka 2 Hilda Street). Birch is a name that I have written about several times before, a name very important in Kitchissippi history, but in the west end of the ward. The Birch family was one of the first arrivals in the area back in 1838, and acquired a large amount of land on the east side of Churchill from present-day Carling all the way north to the Ottawa River. While the Thomson family had their land on the west, the Birch family established 'Birchton' to the east. Birch was the grandson of the family patriarch (also Thomas Birch) who settled the family in the area.
|2 Hilda Street/1360 Scott Street in 2017
Birch was a mill labourer working the mills at the Chaudiere, and later an electrician. He not too long after also built 1364 and 1372 Scott as well, which were for renting to tenants. The house was later sold to his eldest son James Clark Birch, keeping it in the family for nearly 40 years.
Records seem to indicate that the house has two addresses (Scott and Hilda), and it appears in the mid-1920s was renovated to have two separate dwelling units. The rear half originally was a small summer kitchen off the rear with a shed or stable attached, but the shed/stable was renovated and the entire back half became one livable unit, and given the address 2 Hilda Street. The owner of the house, and ones occupying the rear section was Terence Fogarty and his wife Margaret. The couple was photographed in their home in June of 1955 when they were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.
|Terence and Margaret Fogarty of 2 Hilda Street.
June 1955. (City of Ottawa Archives, CA-33274)
The initial building boom on Pine Alley (Hilda)
Whether Nepean Township made a specific change to allow construction of houses facing onto Pine Alley in 1886, or whether it was a coincidence is unclear to me. Regardless, between 1886 and 1889, the first 8 houses that fronted onto Pine Alley were built.
The first group of five were all built between 1886 and the Nepean Township assessment roll taking in March of 1887. These five houses include 6, 18, 19, 23 and 24 Hilda Street.
6 Hilda was constructed by 25-year old labourer Robert O'Connor, married with 1 child. It was later occupied by saw filer Robert O'Neil for most of the 1890s, before mill carpenter Dolphis Tessier moved in for the next 20 years. The house contained just three rooms in the early years, and has been modified several times over the years. A photo of the house in the 1930s (which I do not have) would have shown the house as an even smaller 1.5 storey house. The new expanded rear section and tan siding was added around 2010. Why the house was set so far back originally is an interesting mystery, and certainly makes it one of the more unique houses on the street.
|6 Hilda Street in 2017 with expanded rear section
|6 Hilda Street in June 2009
18 Hilda was constructed by 25-year old plasterer George Stanley and his wife Mary Ann. From available records, it appears this house has remained unchanged in structure since construction. The Stanley family remained for 17 years, selling in 1903 to move up north to the Nipissing area. When they built in 1886, they had no children, but by 1903 they had 7, with an 8th on the way. The house later became the long-time home of the Malboeuf family (Theophile and Natalie) from 1908-1945.
|18 Hilda Street in 2017
19 Hilda was constructed by 30-year old labourer John McCrimmon, married with 5 children. It is the only house that was built during this year that no longer still stands. It was lost to a fire in May of 1896 that nearly wiped out the whole block (it mostly destroyed houses fronting Bayview Road and O'Meara Street; only 19 Hilda, and possibly 23, were lost in the fire). The article about the fire can be found in the last section below. At the time of the fire, Patrick McMullen, a coachman, had recently moved out of the home with his family, and it was rented to tenants. The fire was a total loss, and the lot sat vacant until the new 19 Hilda Street was built in 1906.
23 Hilda was constructed by 37-year old painter William Paul, who was married with 3 children (which grew to 5). 23 Hilda was also a victim of the 1896 fire mentioned above, but it is possible the house was not a total loss, despite the newspaper report. If it was a total loss, it was rebuilt immediately and occupied by August of that year, in the same size, location and with the same number of rooms. Which is possible. Therefore I'm going to assume Paul was able to salvage most of the home, and thus I am including it in the list. Regardless, the home appears to be unchanged in size/
William Paul was born in Dundee, Scotland and had married his wife Sabina Jane Pratt in 1877. The couple had five children in total, though within the space of a couple years around the turn of the century, two of the children passed away, Sabina died in 1900 at age 44, and William died in 1901 at age 49. Eldest son William Allan remained in the home and helped raise his brothers (one of whom would die at age 21 in 1905), the youngest being just 2 years old when William Sr. passed away. A sad family story for sure.
The house was owned by the Hodgins family (John and Mary at first) from about 1910 until 1972, but had a series of tenants in it for most of its life, most notably the Routliffe (1940s/50s) and Cruise families (1960s).
|23 Hilda Street in 2019
24 Hilda was constructed by 33-year old carpenter and horse teamster George Scharf, who was married with 1 child. George had acquired the lot in 1885.
In 1889, George sold 1/4 of the lot to his brother Nicholas Scharf, who built 20 Hilda next door that same year.
Father Beacham Scharf of March Township, according to a couple of family trees on Ancestry had an incredible 17 children (with two wives). Nicholas had a sister who was 35 years old when he was born!
|24 Hilda Street in 2019
In 1900, the house was bought by Ruglas (Ruggles) Birtch, who had a wife and a 3-year old daughter. Ruggles had built 11 Hilda across the street in 1894, and had lived there for several years, operating a wood dealership from the property. He moved the wood dealership over to 24 Hilda Street with him, again utilizing a series of sheds and outbuildings for his business. Birtch was also an elected trustee with the Hintonburg public school board.
The house has had a significant turnover of occupants over the years, and from going through old papers, no house on Hilda appeared more frequently in oddball ads and articles, so I've included a couple below, just to highlight old house prices, and other neighbourhood issues like fires and train smoke:
|Ottawa Citizen, November 30, 1908
|Ottawa Journal, April 30 1917
|Ottawa Citizen, October 23, 1923
|Ottawa Journal, October 5, 1955
Hilda Street development
Following that initial group of five houses in 1886-1887, the next three houses to be built were constructed one per year over the next three years. These three houses were: 12 Hilda, 1 Hilda and 20 Hilda. All three houses still remain today.
#20 was built by Nicholas Scharf as mentioned above. #12 was built by a 21-year old farm labourer named William Stalford, and was later the long-time home of the Beaman and Allard families.
1 Hilda Street has a bit more of an interesting history. Within the last couple of years, the exterior of the house has been impressively redone in a wood siding, with a new and enlarged rear addition put on.
|1 Hilda Street in 2017
|1 Hilda Street in 2009 before exterior reno
This property lot ("Lot 6" from the old Armstrong subdivision, which now includes 1, 3, 7, and 11 Hilda) has a pretty neat history. 1 Hilda was built first by John J. Clarke, a 27-year old sawyer at a Chaudiere mill, between 1888-1889. Next came 11 Hilda in 1894, built by Ruggles Birtch (mentioned above in the write-up for 24 Hilda). Ruggles established a wood dealership business here, and built a long connecting group of sheds and outbuildings from the back of his house, wrapping around and connecting to 1 Hilda. This is best demonstrated in a fire insurance plan map from 1899, which shows all the structures on the property:
|1912 Fire Insurance Plan
By 1912, the buildings were gone, and 7 Hilda now appears (built between 1909-1912). (3 Hilda Street would be built not until around 2002-2005.)
However on the spot where 3 Hilda would later be built for many, many years stood an old shack of a house at the far back of the lot. The City of Ottawa photographed it as part of their urban renewal project of the 1960s, so fortunately there is a very cool photo that survives of this unique house!
|1 Hilda Street - rear detached house
January 3 1967. (City of Ottawa Archives, CA-25907)
Anyways, as for 1 Hilda Street, in November of 1906, it was acquired by James Finn, who had been a long-time house builder within the City of Ottawa, but by 1906, when he was in his early 50s, instead began operating a house moving company! Pretty unique line of work back in the day, but a successful one for sure, as many houses were being moved for a variety of reasons; houses weren't demolished so casually as they are today; often when a new house was being constructed, an old house previously on the lot was moved and salvaged. Plus as main streets were being widened, and bylaws and property lines began being more rigorously observed, many oddly-located houses were left needing to be moved. It helped that few houses (especially in this area) had basements back then, allowing for a fairly easy move, typically using a system of logs and horses.
Finn remained in business well in to the 1920s, and when he passed away in 1932, the Citizen ran a photo and write-up on the man that was as complimentary as I've ever read. "Throughout his life he was known as a man of sterling integrity and lovable geniality, and throughout the Capital and the Ottawa Valley a legion of steadfast friends regret the passing of a kindly, broadminded Christian gentleman", was just one such sentence from the article included below:
|Ottawa Citizen, May 3, 1932
1 Hilda then became the long-time home of Robert and Lena Marshall and their family. Meanwhile the old backyard house in the above photo was likely demolished around the time the photo was taken.
One structure on Hilda Street that is long-gone is an old double that used to front on to the old Emily Street portion of the street, on the south side of Armstrong. This double had the address of 49-51 Hilda, and fortunately as well a photo existed in the City Archives:
|49-51 Hilda Street just prior to demolition
October 23 1979. (City of Ottawa Archives, CA-25906)
49-51 Hilda was built by carpenter and millwright David Moffatt in 1891, and hosted a series of tenants over the years. It was scheduled for demolition as early as 1984 but appears to have not been torn down until 1991 after sitting vacant for a decade.
Perhaps the most notable thing about the building was its longtime owner from 1928 to 1963, Hermas Proulx. Proulx was one of the first ever hockey stick manufacturers, and had a successful business throughout the first half of the 20th century, with most of the NHL players using his sticks for several decades. His story is best told in this really cool profile that ran in the Citizen back in 1946 (see below). I realize it may be difficult to read on your screen, so your best bet to read it would be to right-click on it, select to save to your PC, and view it from there. Well worth the read!
|Ottawa Citizen, January 18, 1946
profile on Hermas Proulx, long-time
owner of 51 Hilda Street
Part of the development of Hilda Street includes the development of its infrastructure, and random old newspaper tidbits help construct that story. The exact dates/years aren't that pertinent, but put together it tells the story of how an average street in Hintonburg slowly grew over the years with infrastructure amenities that today we take for granted, but back a century ago and more, resident had to wait many years for.
The first electric street lights arrived on Hilda Street in 1896, with lights added at the corner of O'Meara and Armstrong ("the corner opposite Pine Alley" and "opposite Mr. David Moffett's"):
|Ottawa Journal, June 11, 1896
Monday November 27th, 1899 was the first time Pine Alley and Emily Street received running water, as the Hintonburg Pumphouse was first put in operation, flooding water through the 4.5 miles of mains that had been installed all year. The first test was a success, and the added service was a huge addition to life for residents in Hintonburg.
Read more about the pumphouse and the establishment of water service in Hintonburg here: https://kitchissippi.com/2017/03/16/hintonburg-pumphouse/
Sidewalks were added to the street in 1915:
|Ottawa Journal, September 10, 1915
Fire alarm boxes arrived sometime around 1910. These were laid out throughout the city so that resident could quickly alert the fire station to a fire. At the time few homes had phones, so this elaborate system helped signal for the fire services quickly. At the sight of fire, an individual would run to the nearest fire alarm box (which appeared on telephone poles, and looked like a mail box) open the front and set off the alarm. The alarm would be received at the fire station with the box number, and the fire department would head to that box. Someone would need to stay around at the fire alarm box to alert the fire department as to the exact location of the fire (if it wasn't already obvious). Hilda had two boxes at Wellington and O'Meara (as identified by the blue circles on the 1912 fire plan above). Of course, the enticement of the fire boxes to children led to many false alarms daily.
|Ottawa Citizen, April 14, 1920
According to this clip from 1922, utility poles originally were located on the street, and had to be moved back on to the properties themselves, as the car was growing in popularity and the streets were getting busier.
|Ottawa Citizen, July 21, 1922
And the street was finally paved in 1924 (approved by council in 1923, tendered and completed in 1924):
|Ottawa Citizen, June 23, 1923
The story of Hilda Street includes the buildings at the far south end, at Wellington Street. However, I have already written about these properties at length in my article from last year on the "Hidden History" of the eastern end of Wellington West. Check out the article here: http://kitchissippimuseum.blogspot.com/2019/02/hidden-history-eastern-end-of.html
The buildings at the corner of Hilda are 959 Wellington (the old Baxter Hotel and Hinton Apartments), now the site of the large Ottawa-Carleton Immigrant Services Organization (OCISO) building, completed in 1994, on the east corner; and the multi-unit home on the west corner, 961-963 Wellington. A few rare cool old photos of all of these buildings can be found at the above link!
Vintage Video of Hilda Street
A couple of years ago, a post was made (in error) to the LeBreton Flats Remembered Facebook page, of what was believed to be old LeBreton Flats streets footage from 1949, courtesy of old National Film Board stock footage. Some astute observers noted that it wasn't LeBreton, but was actually Hilda Street! I've uploaded these incredible videos from 71 years ago, it's just over a minute of footage, but a neat window into Hilda Street in 1949. It can be viewed at https://youtu.be/IZ4ueyw3gIU
Commercial businesses on Hilda Street
Hilda hasn't had any commercial businesses on the street in the last 100 years or so, but in the early days, it did have a couple! Of course there was Ruggles Birtch's wood dealer yard discussed above. I also found evidence of piano lessons being offered by someone in the Dolphis Tessier household at 6 Hilda Street (then numbered 7 Pine Alley), as well as an ad for James Finn's house moving business!
|Ottawa Citizen, July 27, 1905 ad for piano
lessons at 6 Hilda Street (aka 7 Pine Alley)
|Ottawa Citizen, April 30, 1909 ad for James Finn's
house moving business at 1 Hilda Street
Other miscellaneous old stories and photos
This last section is a catch-all for other random photos and stories unearthed about Hilda's Street history. Enjoy!
25 Hilda Street was built between 1907-1909, and was burned in a fire in 1979. It was reborn as a municipal park for many years, but I noticed a year ago or so was reclaimed for development as part of the construction on Bayview.
|May 2012 view of old 25 Hilda spot before construction
Here is the article and a photo from the 1979 fire:
|Ottawa Citizen, February 12, 1979 - fire at 25 Hilda Street
Speaking of fires, like every Hintonburg street, Hilda Street has seen its share of fires. The first big one was the one mentioned above that destroyed the original 19 Hilda (and possibly the original 23 Hilda), owned by McCrimmon and Paul:
|Ottawa Journal, May 26, 1896
Below is an interesting article about the development of a snow plow by James Finn:
|Ottawa Citizen, January 5, 1910
I always like to try to make mention of residents of the street who went off to war, and I was able to find details of Hilda Street residents John Bowes of 7 Hilda, Oliver Finn of 1 Hilda, and W.H. Walder of 20 Hilda Street who fought in WWI.
John Bowes enlisted at Kingston in January 1918. He went overseas in April, and on October was wounded severely through the left arm, and with shrapnel in the neck and right shoulder. Returned in February 1919. Finn also came home, though he passed away at the age of 26 in 1923 (his obituary did not mention if his death was related to his war service).
Walder of 20 Hilda enlisted with the 59th Battalion and went overseas, where he was "badly shell-shocked in the first battle of the Somme", requiring medical treatment for the next two years. His newborn appeared in a newspaper photograph in 1919.
|Ottawa Citizen, October 30, 1918
|Ottawa Citizen, September 13, 1919
The following story covers a Hilda Street resident at 51 Hilda, Gaston Huard, who met up with his brother overseas in WWII unexpectedly:
|Ottawa Journal, November 26, 1941
The following is just a random funny story from 1920 about a self-appointed repo-man:
|Ottawa Citizen, May 17, 1920
Another few random funny articles that are mostly self-explanatory:
|Ottawa Journal, January 2, 1925
|Ottawa Citizen, July 18, 1927
|Ottawa Citizen, December 30, 1929
|Ottawa Journal, June 25, 1948
And finally, here are some cool oblique aerial photos of Hilda Street, the best I have in my collection, from 1927, and a few from the 1960s!
|1961 colour aerial
Hope you enjoyed this detailed look at the history of Hilda Street, one of Hintonburg's many unique and historic streets!