Saturday, July 25, 2020

The McKellar Golf Course - Part Three (The clubhouse and other buildings)

This is part three of a five part series on the history of the McKellar Golf Club/Course. 
Part one (McKellar Park, club beginnings and the general history) can be read: HERE
Part two (The course layout and club boundaries) can be read: HERE

Another reminder, for anyone reading this, if you have any old photos, artifacts or anecdotes about the McKellar Golf Course, I would love to hear from you. Please email me at Thank you!

* * *

This third part is specifically related to the clubhouse itself. I left this part out of Part One intentionally, in part to make part one a little shorter, but also because the building had an interesting history of its own. So this section will look at the history of the clubhouse, and a couple of the other buildings that existed on the course.

The McKellar Golf Clubhouse


A clubhouse for a golf course is of course, a necessity. At bare minimum, it is where golfers check in, obtain their tee time, and/or pay their green fees. Typically a locker room and washroom facilities will be located here as well, so that members can store their equipment, clothes and shoes, or so daily or one-time players can change. Most clubhouses also are sure to include a canteen or bar, so that golfers can enjoy a drink or two before or after their round. McKellar had all of these features, and more. The clubhouse built between Wavell and Gainsborough Avenues was quite large, and had many of the amenities of a country club. Members attended McKellar to play golf, but there was also a larger social element to the club, involving dinners, dances, meetings and other social events.

When McKellar Golf Club first opened in the spring of 1927, a big clubhouse was only planned for. Thus the directors of the club found a nearby house to rent, and use as a temporary clubhouse. As mentioned in part one, this house was located at the corner of Westminster and Crossfield, at what is now 541 Westminster Avenue.

The first glimpse the public had of the permanent clubhouse came before the first golf was even played at McKellar. The directors released an architectural drawing of the proposed building, which ran in the newspaper on March 24th, 1927. The plans were prepared by the firm of Richards and Abra (who had also designed Broadview School, Nepean High School, and several other prominent buildings in the area).

Ottawa Journal, March 24, 1927

As mentioned in the caption, the building was to be completed "early in the summer" (they would be off by about a year on that), and that it would be a 50' x 65' building, constructed of cinder block and stucco, and "equipped with large verandahs and balconies", and "two large club rooms, which may be used for dining, or other purposes."

It appears original plans called for the clubhouse to be built on Windermere (Fourth Avenue), but that was later changed. Windermere would have been a tricky location for it, as it would have had to be built essentially right next to the Swimmings houses one way or another. I wonder if way back when the Swimmings discussed the issue with the club, and convinced them to build a block over.

The directors met at the temporary clubhouse on June 10th, 1927, where they viewed (and approved) the final plans for construction. The estimate for the building was now up to $20,000.


Construction took time, and the builders worked on it throughout 1927, likely took some or most of the winter off, and kept going well into 1928.

The photo below is a slightly different view from photos I included in part one, which shows the clubhouse in March or April of 1928.

Spring 1928 photo of the clubhouse (white building
in center) under final construction. 

In February of 1928, the Club ran large ads in the local papers showing an illustration of the clubhouse (updated from the one ran in 1927, with some modifications to the design), using the new clubhouse as a promotional tool to bring in new members.

Ottawa Citizen, February 18, 1928

On Saturday April 28th, 1928, the McKellar Golf Club took out a full page ad in the Ottawa Citizen to announce the opening of the new clubhouse, and to promote the local businesses who had contributed to its construction. They took out a similar one a week later in the Ottawa Journal. Both are shown below:

Ottawa Citizen, April 28, 1928

Ottawa Journal, May 5, 1928

The new clubhouse opened in late April, with workmen continuing to put on the final touches throughout May. The interior was essentially complete at opening, it was some exterior work that was completed during the summer.

Much of the material and labour for the project was sourced locally. Beginning with Richards & Abra the architects, of course. Lumber and finishing trim was supplied by M. N. Cummings of Westboro. Painting was completed by A. J. Liddiard of Highland Park. The electrical work and appliances were provided by Paul Sanders of 114 Richmond in Westboro. Plumbing and heating systems were installed by D.J. Currie of Highland Avenue in Westboro. Even the Standard Bread Company on Hilson Avenue advertised that “Of Course! Standard Bread and Rolls will be served at the new McKellar Golf Club”.

One other detail pulled from these ads was that it appears a Mason & Risch piano was acquired from the John Raper Piano Company on Sparks Street. An article that ran later that season also noted that the Club had acquired an electric Orthophonic Victrola, which, according to Wikipedia, "first demonstrated publicly in 1925, was the first consumer phonograph designed specifically to play electrically recorded phonograph records."

The write-up noted that the final building was a “lofty building" 62' by 42' (scaled back slightly from the originally proposed 65' by 50'), with a ground floor featuring "a large living room, with fireplace; large dining room, with fireplace; reception hall; cloak room; office and kitchen. From the dining room looking north opens a spacious balcony.”

“The view from the spacious dining room to the Laurentian Mountains is unsurpassed”, wrote other copy, and “the locker room with showers on the second floor allows sunshine and exhilarating air in abundance. A large southern balcony facing Carling Avenue, also one on the north overlooking the Ottawa, and one on the east viewing No. 1 tee, will admit of leisure.”

“The 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th holes, laid out at the west side, are ideal, and the natural beauty of this particular part of the field is the only mental hazard to encounter.”

The clubhouse was “situated on a bluff opposite Fifth avenue…offering an excellent view of the Ottawa river and the Gatineau Hills in the distance.”  The clubhouse faced the 18th green.

“The most desirable spot was chosen for the building, having in mind the great conveniences of using the street carline, and the decision was made for Fifth Avenue. The consensus of opinion is that no more advantageous spot could be found.”

The Clubhouse remained virtually the same over the years, experiencing an occasional renovation, including a fairly significant one in 1950, which was a little odd as the club at the time was rumoured to be sold for development any day.

The Final Years & Demolition

When golf was officially cancelled in the spring of 1953 with the sale of the property (more on that in part five!), the clubhouse sat unused.

In November 1954, it was announced the City of Ottawa had made a deal with the developer who purchased the golf course land, to sell the clubhouse to the City, who would then convert it into a west end library branch. The developer offered the site as a 100'x100' lot at $1 per year for ten years with an option to purchase after the ten years. Mayor Charlotte Whitton had championed the idea.

It was said the clubhouse was too big for the current library needs, but that the rest of the space could be used for an adult art class.

Ottawa Citizen, November 30, 1954

At the 1955 budget review in April, the city approved $11,400 for the opening of the library in the clubhouse. The library would be set to open in July.

However in May of 1955, the Ottawa Public Library Board rejected the proposal that the new branch be located in the clubhouse. The Board would have had to pay for operating costs including heating and janitorial services. It said operations costs could be not be repaid by the service it would render. “In addition to being difficult to reach, the proposed branch was in an area of only some 3,500 residents. Such a branch should be in a locality where it could serve 25,000 to 35,000 persons”. Mayor Whitton’s idea was scratched, and the building continued to sit unused.

Two years later Carlingwood mall would open, and the west end branch would be located in the mall (the Carlingwood library building which still is in use today, would not come until 1966).

When a large enticing building like a golf clubhouse sits for years at a time, vacant and unmaintained, in a fully developed neighbourhood, it was inevitable that local kids would begin to explore it.

Sure enough, by the spring of 1958, it had become a big problem in the neighbourhood. Residents had been complaining for years about the situation, and the complaints of the community association finally reached Ottawa's Board of Control and Mayor George H. Nelms.

Mayor Nelms visited the site and spoke to residents, and reported back that some of the “teenage goings-on” in the building were “disgraceful”.

The Journal reported: “The mayor said that even though the building was boarded up, teenagers were breaking in and lights, probably candles, could be seen at night. The building was definitely contributing to juvenile delinquency, he added, and the morality squad of the Police Department would be notified.”

The City was discussing with the lawyer on how the developers who bought the golf course and clubhouse could be made to tear it down immediately.

On April 9th, 1958 they ran a photo of the clubhouse, with the hilarious headline “Scene of orgies by candlelight?”.

Ottawa Citizen, April 9, 1958

If the City of Ottawa Archives were open, I would have access to an original negative of this photo, however, due to Coronavirus measures, I'm not able to obtain it. However this would definitely be the best quality photo of the old clubhouse (even though it came when the building was at its worst!)

The Board of Control planned to send a “fairly strong letter” written complaint to the owners that it was causing “aggravation” to the neighbourhood. However they were advised by the city lawyer that the premises were neither a menace to health, nor a fire hazard, so neither the city’s medical officer of health nor the Ontario fire marshal could do anything. And since it was not a 'dwelling', the housing standards bylaw did not apply. It was a bit of a political pickle.

Interestingly, in another newspaper interview, Ottawa Police Chief Duncan MacDonell said that though the building was “a distasteful eyesore”, he felt it was more of a playground for children, disputing the mayor's claims that it was a “rendezvous for teenagers”. He said residents were more concerned with the safety of youngsters than “immoral practices” of teenagers.

The Board of Control did eventually send a letter later in April, which the developers ignored. In early May, the City decided to seek more legal options. The city’s works director was told by Mayor Nelms to call Toronto, reversing the charges, to notify the developers that they city was going to take legal steps to have them repair or demolish the clubhouse. The Journal wrote that “residents have complained that the ramshackle building has become the scene of nefarious activities by groups of juveniles of both sexes”

The City also considered the idea of withholding building permits in the area until the clubhouse was dealt with, however this was a no-go, as the developer itself was not building houses, they were selling lots to local builders, who were taking out the permits.

In the end, Mayor Nelms announced on May 14th, that the developers had agreed to demolish the clubhouse. The clubhouse was torn down sometime that summer. The beautiful old building would only have been 30 years old at the time.

Exact Location

The exact location of the clubhouse was where 614 and 618 Gainsborough Avenue now stand, and a little bit into the backyards of 613 and 617 Wavell Avenue.

This aerial below from 1953 shows Wavell at the top, Gainsborough through the center and Windermere at the bottom, with Keenan running top to bottom along the right. The houses have begun to fill in around the golf course property. The clubhouse is the larger structure in the very center of the photo, where Gainsborough basically ends as a paved street.

October 1953 aerial

Here is a view from 1958, and the clubhouse property is literally the last two lots not built on, leaving just a vacant square. This aerial photo must have been taken within weeks of the demolition. Some of the old foundation can still be seen:

Fall 1958 aerial

Here are the two houses on that property today, 618 and 614 Gainsborough Avenue:

618 and 614 Gainsborough Avenue in 2019

In 2013, Lost Ottawa featured a photo taken by Kent Peddie showing foundations revealed next to a house on Gainsborough Avenue. The post did not list a specific address, but I would believe that was likely the old clubhouse foundations

Gainsborough Avenue - old foundations discovered
(Source: Lost Ottawa, Kent Peddie, July 2013)

Additional photographs

Finding a photo of the clubhouse has always proven difficult. For years this was one of my primary local history photo pursuits. As you can see, the above photos have bits of it, but not a nice clear photo of it. One day I will obtain the 1958 photo at the Archives. Fortunately Joe McLean in his Flagstick article a few years ago found a former member with a handful of photos with the clubhouse in the background. Two of these are shown below. I am not aware of the names of the people photographed, unfortunately.

McKellar Park Golf Clubhouse
(Source: Joe McLean, Flagstick Magazine)

McKellar Park Golf Clubhouse
(Source: Joe McLean, Flagstick Magazine)

And finally, here is a photo of another house (Stafford Salmon's home) at 608 Windermere Avenue, a few lots to the north of the Swimmings, by the entrance to the course, with the clubhouse visible in behind.

608 Windermere Avenue, winter of 1941-42
(Courtesy of Catherine Swimmings)

The Pro Shop

In 1929, the golf course opened its first pro shop. It was opened for then-pro Rube Mullen as a location to buy and sell equipment, balls, clubs, etc., but also as an office for the club pro. Each year a pro (or occasionally two) were hired by the golf club to give lessons, provide expert advice to golfers, and keep an eye on the design and maintenance of the course. In part four I'll provide a full list of all of the club pros in McKellar's history.

The first shop was located by the first hole tee. It was later rebuilt, or very likely relocated.  It first appeared at about where 629 Windermere now stands.

It was (partially) captured in its earliest existence by the Swimmings family, who took a photo of young Edwin in 1929, on the sidewalk of Windermere, just north of Dovercourt (looking north). The pro shop can be seen in behind. The sidewalks by the way, came in during prior to 1920, and only on Windermere did they go as far south as Tillbury (I can't explain why). Most streets had no sidewalks at all.

Windermere Avenue, 1929
Courtesy of Catherine Swimmings

At some point in the 1930s or 1940s, the pro shop moved, and was located just by the clubhouse. Again, I'm not sure if it was rebuilt, or just picked up and moved. The new location was where 609 Gainsborough Avenue stands today. It shows up on the 1948 fire insurance plan on this spot:

Clipping from the 1948 fire insurance plan, showing the
pro shop very close to the clubhouse, just on the other
side of Gainsborough. 

The front of the pro shop was captured in two photos that Joe McLean acquired. Again, not sure who the pictured golfers are, but it provides a rare view of the pro shop, from the 1940s!

McKellar Golf Course pro shop, 1940s
(Source: Joe McLean, Flagstick Magazine)

McKellar Golf Course pro shop, 1940s
(Source: Joe McLean, Flagstick Magazine)

The Hot Dog stand

The hot dog stand was located on the course at the half-way point, by the 10th tee. It was located adjacent to the Thomas Curtis house at 650 Windermere, by the 10th tee. In Joe McLean's Flagstick Magazine article, he interviewed former caddy Ken Robertson, who noted in the interview that "most golfers bought their caddies a coke and a hot dog at the hot dog stand, located by the tenth tee."

I have no photos or really any other stories about the stand!

The Greenskeeper's House

This is another point of contention for many. Along with the many rumours of people's houses being the McKellar golf clubhouse, I've heard several reports of people claiming their home was the former greenskeeper's house.

As described in detail in part two, when the McKellar Park directors decided to open the golf course, a few houses within the boundaries of the course were marooned inside. One other such house was a little house on the east side of Fraser, just on the south side of Dovercourt.

It was a small house, just 1-storey high and wood-framed, constructed in 1923 by Thomas L. Brown, a car cleaner with Canadian National Railways. He and his wife Lola and their two young children resided in the home, until the golf course opened. This house was at where 651 Fraser Avenue stands today.

In 1929, the McKellar Golf Course directors bought the house from Brown, and offered it to their greenskeepers for their family. It was a smart strategy, to ensure their greenskeeper would always be around, and would be able to keep an eye on the property over the winter.

The house fell directly between the 1st and 3rd hole greens.

Thomas Unsworth and his wife Ethel were the first to move in, as Unsworth was the greenskeeper from about 1929 until 1938. The final groundskeeper, was Frank H. Brooks from 1947 to 1952, and he too remained in the house at this time.

I have no photo of the greenskeeper's house from the golf course era. Below is a photo of the house that stands on the site of 651 Fraser Avenue today. I am highly skeptical that this house is the same that stood on the golf course. The roof is pitched the opposite way (east/west, instead of north/south as it used to be, from aerial photos), and even by 1948, it was still shown on the fire insurance plan as a 1-storey house. It certainly is possible that the original house was kept and added on to, to become the house it is today, and if anyone has any evidence towards that, I would love to be able to share it.

651 Fraser Avenue in 2019 - the site of the Greenskeeper's house

Thus, it appears no original buildings directly associated with the golf course still exist today. Again, if there is evidence out there to the contrary, that a structure was moved or significantly added on to, I would love to hear it so as to correct this history.

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Thanks for reading part three!

Next up Part Four - the hall of fame - key names/characters/trophy winners

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Rare found video footage of Wellington Village/Hintonburg from 1953!

(The remaining parts of the McKellar Golf Course series are coming very soon!)

I just stumbled across this tonight while looking for something else, but I had to share. It's only about two minutes long in total, but it is some very rare long-lost footage of the neighbourhood, in colour, from 1953.

Streetcars on Wellington, the Carleton Tavern, Thyme & Again's building (Higman's Hardware), Victoria Theatre, and more.

Filmed by Crawley Films in 1953 for the National Film Board. These clips are taken from the NFB film "The Frustrating Fours and the Fascinating Fives" (full video at

I pulled out the clips that are filmed in Kitchissippi and put them in one short Youtube video.

CLICK HERE for the video!

I included the details in the Youtube video, but here they are as well, with time references for as you're watching:

0:01 This is a view from Parkdale Avenue just south of Wellington Street, looking north. The streetcars are travelling down Wellington in both directions. That's Malham's Smoke Shop ( on the right.
0:05 The kids are standing in front of the gas station which used to exist on the southwest corner of Parkdale/Wellington.
0:21 for half a frame, as the bus pulls away, what is now the World of Maps building at 1191 Wellington is shown.
0:25 the boy and his Mom walk away from the Victoria Theatre on Wellington Street, and walk in front of Higman's Hardware, at the corner of Huron Avenue North (now Thyme & Again). (I spent years trying to find even a photo of the Victoria Theatre, so seeing a bit of video footage of it is pretty cool, even if it is only part of the front of the building)
0:33 the boy plays in front of the old Shell station next to what is still the Bank of Montreal, and Morris Home Hardware (in its original location).
0:43 the boy is looking in the window of Higman's
0:51 they approach the intersection of Parkdale and Wellington on foot, looking north up Parkdale. The Carleton Tavern can be seen off in the distance. There are no apartment buildings on the east side of Parkdale yet, and the Parkdale Market is closed for the winter on the west side. A tower from Sperry Gyroscope can be seen further in the skyline distance.
1:18 they are at the turntable at the roundhouse at Ottawa West station, unfortunately this clip is way too short
1:29 at an unknown bread-making plant
1:39 at an unknown dairy farm/factory
1:55 at an unknown housing development. I thought maybe the MQs at CFB Rockliffe, but I'm not sure.

On Wellington Street West at Huron Avenue, looking
east up Wellington, in front of Higman's Hardware
(now Thyme & Again)
(Courtesy National Film Board of Canada, Crawley Films)

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The McKellar Golf Course - Part Two (The course layout and club boundaries)

This is part two of a five part series on the history of the McKellar Golf Club/Course. 
Part one (McKellar Park, club beginnings and the general history) can be read: HERE

Another reminder, for anyone reading this, if you have any old photos, artifacts or anecdotes about the McKellar Golf Course, I would love to hear from you. Please email me at Thank you!

* * *

I wanted to dedicate an entire part of this series to essentially once and for all list and show exactly where the golf course boundaries were, and where each tee, fairway, green, hole and building were located, in relation to today's streets and houses.

I'll often speak to McKellar Park residents who believe their house is located in a particular spot, when it cannot be. I've had people living near Byron, or near Broadview, who claim their house was on the course. I've heard from several people who believe that their house was the clubhouse (when that just isn't possible, as it was demolished in 1958).

This article should help answer all questions and help you find your home, and determine where exactly it was located, and even give you an idea of roughly when it was built.

A few years ago, Joe McLean in Flagstick Magazine did an incredible job putting together a map of the course, with the aid of longtime McKellar club caddy Ken Robertson. The magazine article that ran on McKellar included an aerial photo view well labelled to show where each hole was located, and Ken described each hole as well. Those pages I am happy to re-run here as part of this article, because they are hard to beat for their detail.

However, I'm going to take it a step further, thanks to the Heritage Ottawa board member and Past President (and McKellar Park resident) David Jeanes, who took it upon himself to put together a complete list of the exact or nearest present-day addresses for each of the golf course tees and holes. He also in effect put together a walking tour where one could stroll the McKellar neighbourhood in almost the exact path that golfers would have done so nearly 70 years ago. It is an honour to have David collaborate on this article with me, and there is no one better to assemble a list of this kind.

In this article I'm also going to upload a detailed map of the neighbourhood, down to the individual addresses on each street to show the boundaries of the golf club property right down to the exact spot.

And, I'm also going to profile a few individual houses, cottages and lots which got "marooned" inside the golf course boundaries. More on that below!

Just a note that this website shows the photos in a standard size.  To enlarge it a little on your screen simply click on any photo and it should open a little larger. Some of the files though ought to be opened in a much larger size to get the full benefit. If you wish to really examine a photograph, I recommend you right-click on any photo, select to save to your computer, and then view it as a jpg file from your pc.

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The Flagstick Magazine map and hole descriptions

To begin with, here are the original graphics from the Fall 2008 issue of Flagstick Magazine:

McKellar Golf Course layout - using 1933 aerial photo
(Courtesy of Joe McLean and Flagstick Magazine)
(Note Wavell is incorrectly labelled as Rowanwood)

McKellar Golf Course hole descriptions
(Flagstick Magazine Fall 2008 issue)

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1933 aerial photo labelled

Here is the 1933 aerial photo used by Flagstick, and used by me many times in articles and public displays, as it is an amazing quality photo, taken in high resolution at low elevation, so the level of clear detail is incredible. I ran this in part one as well, but it belongs here too, to help show labelled evidence of streets and landmarks, for reference. (Again right-click and save to your pc for best viewing results).

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McKellar Park Golf Club scorecard

Here is a scan of an original McKellar Golf Course scorecard I own. It has details on the lengths and par of each hole, as well as interesting club rules and golf etiquette. It dates from the final years of the club (circa 1950-1952):

* * *

Fire Insurance Maps from 1951

Here are snippets from Goad's Fire Insurance Plan of Ottawa from 1948 (revised to 1951) showing some of the golf course and surrounding streets of McKellar Park. I love these old fire plans as they show each individual house, its shape, construction/finishing material, its number of storeys, and the location of any garages, outbuildings, etc.

Yellow indicates wood frame, pink is brick, blue is stone/concrete block, grey are small sheds/outbuildings. Blue circles indicate fire hydrants. "D" denotes dwelling, "R.C." is rough cast stucco, "Asb Cl" is asbestos clad, "P" indicates patent, or tar & gravel roof, while an "X" is wooden shingles or board roof. The number inside the house shows the number of storeys. The number alongside the house on the street indicate the civic address at the time and/or a previous number if it has been struck.

These are the streets east of Westminster:

These are the streets west of Westminster:

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The McKellar Golf Course - in 2020

A few weeks back, I was emailing Heritage Ottawa Past-President (and long-time McKellar Park resident) David Jeanes on another subject, but I shared that I was nearly completed a long-running research project of mine on the history of the McKellar Golf Course. David had been doing a little research of his own on the golf course as well, and had been working on trying to locate where the original golf course tees and greens would be in relation to today's streets and houses of McKellar Park.

He kindly put together a list and accompanying map tool that identified the precise civic addresses today to match up with the tees and greens of the original 18-holes of McKellar Golf Course. Additionally he adds in the directions for walking on-street between them, including distances. In effect, this list becomes a potential walking or bicycling tour of the original golf course, just as the golfers would have done between 1927-1952!

I thank David again for this invaluable contribution to the story of McKellar Golf Course!


Total on-street walking distance from 1st tee to 18th green = 7.6 km. Average walking distance per hole = 423 metres. Most streets are traversed once in each direction.

Most streets are quiet, without sidewalks; Dovercourt and Fraser are busier, with sidewalk, and Fraser with speed bumps; Sherbourne is busy with sidewalk and bike lanes both sides; Carling is very busy with narrow sidewalk (for 350 metres).

1st to 9th hole (east of Windermere) 3.7 km; 10th to 18th hole, (west of Windermere), 3.9 km.

1st tee, 9th and 18th greens and hot dog stand site are within a block of Windermere & Dovercourt, (Route 51 bus stops).

Start: Dovercourt/Windermere, south on Windermere to
1.     Tee 615 Windermere: north to Keenan, east to Fraser, south to 637 Fraser (514 metres)
2.    Tee 546 Dovercourt, SE corner, (Greens Keeper's house site), west to Westminster, south to behind 672 Westminster (311 metres)
3.     Tee front of 680 Westminster, south to Tillbury, east to Fraser, north to 663 Fraser (360 metres)
4.     Tee behind 671 Fraser, south to 739 Fraser (294 metres), north to
5.     Tee 719 Fraser, south to Sherbourne, east to Carling, west to 1893 Carling (384 metres)
6.     Tee 1927 Carling, west to McKellar, north to Bromley, east to Lauder 1900 Lauder, at corner with Bromley (300 metres), east to
7.     Tee 1858 Bromley, east to Sherbourne, north to Tillbury Park, north through park to 687 Mansfield (508 metres), south to Tillbury, west to
8.     Tee behind 591 Tillbury, south along west to edge of park to Sherbourne, west to Windermere, south to Wembley, east to 1865 Bromley (601 metres), west to
9.     Tee 1881 Lauder, south to Bromley, east to Wembley, north to Windermere, north to 687 Windermere (437 metres).

Break at site of hot dog stand, 650 Windermere, mid-point (3.7 km) at Dovercourt/Windermere, south to
10.    Tee 672 Windermere, south to Wembley, west to Lauder, east to 1914 Lauder (518 metres), east to
11.    Tee behind 1901 Lauder, cross parking lot close to Church, south to McKellar, south to Carling, west to between 1951 and 1957 Carling (363 metres)
12.    Tee front of 1957 Carling, west to Bromley, north to 1969 Bromley (166 metres) east to church parking lot, cross to Lauder, west to
13.    Tee 1934 Lauder, west to Wembley, north to Windermere, north to Tillbury, west to 683 Gainsborough (881 metres)
14.    Tee behind 662 Tillbury, east to Windermere, south to Sherbourne, west to Courtenay, south to Lauder, east to 1946 Lauder (708 metres), west to
15.    Tee behind 1970 Lauder, east to Courtenay, north to  618 Sherbourne, on the corner of Courtenay (258 metres), west to
16.    Tee 618 Sherbourne: north on Courtenay to 632 Courtenay (326 metres), south to Dovercourt, east to Wavell, north to
17.    Tee 634 Wavell, south to 672 Tillbury (337 metres)
18.    Tee front of 679 Tillbury, east to Gainsborough, north to 626 Gainsborough (351 metres), south to Dovercourt, east to

End: Dovercourt/Windermere

This first image below shows the greens/holes in the red circles, and the tee/fairway as the dotted line towards it:

The second image below provides the walking/biking tour route, using today's street grid (and follows the hole-to-hole instructions listed above):

David provided a few additional comments related to the images and directions:

"My numbered circles were centred on the greens, as they appeared in the 1932 labelled aerial photo; not where the labels are placed. Unless otherwise stated, they are at the house itself or immediately in front. If I say "in front" it means on the street in front of the address. If I say "behind" it means in the back garden, in a couple of cases right at the back and extending onto the property behind. But these addresses are as close as one can get without trespassing.

I was reasonably happy about the street routing, with multiple repetitions only along the two short blocks from Tillbury to Wembley on Windermere. Even these are split between the two half-tours that I have described. The only unpleasant part of the walk is along Carling Avenue from McKellar to Bromley, where the hedge protrudes into the already narrow sidewalk, with fast traffic coming up behind you."

Enjoy! Those of you who take the tour and follow the course, I would love to hear about your travels! Please add a comment to this post if you would!

* * *

The Golf Course Boundary

I've created a map image using GeoOttawa which shows all of the houses/properties in McKellar Park today.

For the most part, the exact boundary of the golf course is a bit grey. In most cases there was never a 'fence' to identify the boundaries of the golf course. Some of the lots never had any golf played on it, and merely sat as vacant space adjoining the course. Trees, shrubs or adjoining properties formed a natural boundary at the time. It is best then to use the aerial photos and map tools provided above, as to determine the playing surface golf course boundary. The purpose of this map is just to show exactly what made up the golf course property in totality, to show just how large it was, and where it began/ended. I've also made notes of where each of the houses/lots not owned by the golf course were located (they are described in greater detail in a section down below).

Click this link to view the map: CLICK HERE

For best results to view it, you can download the image. (Click on the three dots above the photo, and select "download").

* * *

The houses inside the golf course boundary

For some lucky (or unlucky, depending on how they felt) residents, when the golf course scheme was cooked up in 1926-1927, they already owned property within the proposed boundaries. In a couple of cases, their house was already built. When the McKellar subdivision opened in 1911 and over the following 15 years, no one could have anticipated a golf course landing in on half of the property. Thus, during that period, lots were sold to a few individuals who must have liked the isolation well back from the streetcar line and Richmond Road, as they were well south of most other lot buyers. By 1927 though, the golf course had arrived, and they suddenly found themselves on the inside.

I'll quickly go over some of those houses, as some have a pretty neat story:

The Swimmings houses

The two most notable houses were the Swimmings family houses, which were located back-to-back at 622 Windermere and 621 Gainsborough. Amazingly, both houses still stand today, though both have been added-on to extensively.

621 Gainsborough was one of the first 28 houses built in McKellar Park during its first three years of existence. It was built sometime between 1913-1914. William Henry Swimmings had come over to Canada from England with his wife Clara and their children in 1912. Arriving in Quebec City that summer, they somehow arrived in McKellar Park in 1913 and the 54-year old carpenter built a small 2-storey, 4-room wood frame house on Fifth Avenue (Gainsborough) on what would have been a quiet, isolated lot well south of where everyone else was building at the time.

621 Gainsborough in the winter of 1941-42 looking west,
one of the original homes of McKellar Park (built 1913-14).
(Courtesy of Catherine Swimmings)

621 Gainsborough present day

McKellar pioneer William Henry Swimmings
(Courtesy of Catherine Swimmings)

In 1926, Edwin Arthur Swimmings, son of William and Clara, purchased the lot immediately in behind his parents. He had just married his wife Jessie in 1925, and clearly wanted a new home for his family. Right away the 40-year old bricklayer set about constructing 622 Windermere Avenue.

Thankfully the Swimmings family took and maintained a great archive of photos of their houses through the years, providing this amazing glimpse in to the earliest days of McKellar Park. I am very thankful to William Henry's great-granddaughter Catherine Swimmings (still a McKellar Park resident!) for sharing these fantastic photos. One set in particular was a goldmine. Catherine explained that her father, Edwin Arthur's son Edwin Kenneth Swimmings, as a teenager took his camera out one afternoon in the summer of 1942 and took photos all around the house. One of the photos was of the golf course (already shared in part one, one of the best neighbourhood history photo finds I'll ever come across), but these photos of the Swimmings' family houses are excellent too, not only capturing the houses nearly 80 years ago, but the vast openness of McKellar Park at the time!

622 Windermere circa 1930.
(Courtesy of Catherine Swimmings)

622 Windermere in the summer of 1942.
(Courtesy of Catherine Swimmings)

622 Windermere in present day, with a few additions.

This final photo below captures the two Swimmings houses in the mid-1930s, with the golf clubhouse in behind as well. It's amazing to think this photo was taken in what is now the heart of McKellar Park, on Windermere looking northwest. Not another house in sight.

622 Windermere with 621 Gainsborough in behind, and
the McKellar Golf clubhouse in back as well.
Circa mid-1930s. This photo shows well the open, flat area
the houses were built on. To the left of these houses was the
golf course. (Courtesy of Catherine Swimmings)

The Coates Browne home

In 1921, 41-year old carpenter and gardener Coates Browne and his wife Bessie acquired the lot at the southeast corner of Fourth and Balmoral (Windermere and Dovercourt). They built a small bungalow on the property for their small family, including their 3-year old son. The original house actually burned down a few days before Christmas of 1925, but the family rebuilt, and remained on the property into the 1950s. The Brownes had actually acquired the neighbouring 5 lots as well, so they for a long time owned 300 feet of frontage on Windermere, running south from Dovercourt.

Ottawa Journal, December 21, 1925

The house that stands on this spot now is 649 Windermere Avenue, and I believe the original 1926-rebuilt home remains part of the structure, but I'm not certain.

Site of the Browne family home - 649 Windermere

The Browne's property would have been just adjacent to (north of) the 2nd hole green. In fact if they hadn't acquired all six of those lots, the 2nd hole surely would have run a little more to the north, adding more length to several other holes to the south.

Upon his death in 1955, an article ran in the newspaper discussing Coates' life, and the headline referred to him as the "district historian", and noted that he was "known in the district for his knowledge of the history of the Capital and Carleton county."

The Thomas Curtis home

Across the street from the Brownes was another house on a wide property. 43-year old Thomas Curtis, a mechanical engineer, and his wife Eva Marjorie built their house in 1922 on a set of an incredible 12 lots they acquired (the six lots on each of the west side of Windermere and east side of Gainsborough running south from Dovercourt).

Site of the Curtis family home - 650 Windermere

I could find very little on the Curtis', and like the Browne house, am uncertain if the house they built at 650 Windermere is still the one standing today. I believe it is. Eva Curtis died in 1947, and Thomas died in 1953. Around 1947 the Curtis' began selling some of their lots, and certainly after Thomas passed, his heirs sold the remainder.

This house at 650 Windermere appears to have had a garden or hedge at the south end of the property back in the '30s. On the opposite side of the fence/hedge was the golf course, and in fact immediately on the other side was the infamous course hot dog stand which stood alongside the 9th green, where golfers could have a mid-game snack (or buy one for the caddies, as was the tradition).

The Blackwell and McLaughlin cottages

The most unique structures on the golf course have to be the random cottages that were built together way out at the far south end of old Wavell Avenue just north of Carling Avenue.

For reasons lost to history, two men built small cottages way out in the isolation of McKellar Park that ended up being located well out in the golf course.

In 1917, Thomas H. McLaughlin built a small cottage on lot 873 (about where 1934 Lauder Drive exists today), while George T. Blackwell built a small cottage next door on lot 874 (about where 1933 Bromley Road is today).

Clip from the 1933 aerial photo showing Carling at the bottom
and Windermere at right. The two cottages can be seen in the
centre, the Blackwell one shows a significant fence around
the property. All around the cottages are the 10th, 11th, and
 14th holes. 

In 1935, the golf course owners acquired McLaughlin's property and removed the cottage. In 1936, Blackwell's cottage, then owned by a relative, Frank Longhurst, was demolished. Longhurst was living in Winnipeg, and perhaps was asked by the golf course people to tear it down. Longhurst held on to the lot though until the 1950s, profiting from its sale then.

Not surprisingly. no photos seem to exist of these old cottages. The only trace of anything historical related to them (aside from the aerial photo above placing them right in the middle of the course), is this odd story from December of 1924, where a Westboro resident broke into Blackwell's cottage to steal a dogskin robe. How could he resist?

Ottawa Citizen, December 18, 1924

The Jean Courtenay House

This house at 626 Wavell, a little north of Dovercourt, was built in 1918 by Thomas Magee, a 48-year old salesman, who had a 7-person family. It started out as a small wood cottage, but was expanded on slowly over the next few years. It later belonged to the Bedford family for many years, and survived until 2008 when it was torn down and replaced with a large new build.

This house was located right in front of the 16th green and adjacent to the 17th tee.

626 Wavell Avenue in September 2007

Notably, in 1926, Jean Courtenay and her daughter Phyllis and son Reginald moved in to the home. Jean was a 63-year old widow, and former school teacher in Hawkesbury. The family would remain in this house until 1934. That year Phyllis married Orme Dunning and moved to Leonard, Ontario, and Jean went with them. Reginald married Nettie Ruth Dunning daughter of Albert Dunning, who built the castle house on Byron at Courtenay. (I can't imagine Orme Dunning wasn't a relative of the Dunnings as well but I can't place him; he was not a son to Albert Dunning at least). Reginald, who was a railway mail clerk with the Post Office Department, and Nettie Ruth occupied the castle house in the late 1930s and most of the 1940s (the only house which stood on the entirety of the west side of Courtenay until the late 1940s), and in 1944, Seventh Avenue of McKellar was renamed Courtenay to honour the family.

The Victor Benoit lot

The house did not come until the 1950s, but Victor Benoit owned lot 479 on the west side of Westminster (now the site of 618 Westminster) from March 1st 1919 until his death in 1943. Benoit was Ottawa born, but went on to a successful Hollywood silent-movie and Broadway career. For whatever reason, he acquired this single lot in 1919 (during the peak of his acting career), and did nothing with it for the remainder of his life. His heirs sold the lot in 1956 and it was finally built on then. The golf course went two lots to the north, and this lot would have been right in front of the 1st hole tee I believe.

Photo from 'The Devil's Daughter' (1915)
Victor Benoit, Doris Heywood, Paul Doucet, Jane Miller.

The King-Miller lot

The lot with little story to tell. Samuel Ernest King, grain merchant, purchased lot 410 on the east side of Third Avenue (Westminster) at the southwest corner of Dovercourt in January of 1919. He sold the vacant lot in 1923 to Harold Allen Miller, who did nothing with the lot until selling in 1956. 620 Dovercourt Avenue now stands on this lot. This would have been on the 2nd hole fairway.

The Eldridge-Downes house

637 Windermere on lot 558 at the northeast corner of Windermere and Dovercourt was a late entry within the golf course boundary. The lot was originally sold in 1926, just prior to the golf course being approved. Esther Emmeline Stewart acquired the lot, but did nothing with it. In 1946, her heirs sold the lot to Philip and Muriel Eldridge, who built the house in 1947. They sold a year later, to a couple who re-sold again in 1949 to Kenneth and Kathleen Downes. Dr. Kenneth Downes went on to become Chief of the Extractive Metallurgy Division of Energy, Mines and Resources. They remained in the house until the late 1980s.

The house would have been located in between the fairways of the 1st and 2nd holes. It must have been odd building it in the middle of the golf course, though by 1947, it was pretty much known that the golf course's days were numbered.

637 Windermere in 2019

* * *

History of Changes

The golf course underwent a few adjustments over the years. Though this is getting even further into the minutia, in the interests of providing all details on the history of the course, this may be pertinent to someone at some point, so here it is:

* In 1928, a few changes were made to the course, from how it appeared in 1927. “Along Carling Avenue No. 6 hole is now played down the hill and a new hole No. 12 provides a short sporty shot into the southwest corner of the field, from where the player takes a shaded walk to No. 13”. “The new No. 12 is played along Carling at the west corner. This change eliminates crowding and provides a sporty shot.” The arrangement of some bunkers was also changed in 1928. These changes allowed the course to change from a par 68 to a par 70 in 1928.

* July 1928 (as written about in part one) a tee that had been located on Balmoral Avenue (Dovercourt), meaning on the roadway itself (or at least would have qualified as a roadway at the time) was required to be changed due to complaints from local residents. I believe this would have been the 17th tee.

* For the 1929 season, “two new fairways were being cleared out continuing from No. 14, which would make the course championship length.” In the end, the holes on the “homeward nine” were revamped. Three new holes “will run their course through a woodland setting will add both beauty and playing interest to the links. The renovation will also serve to make the total length of the course several hundred yards greater.” Also “A number of new greens are under construction; sand traps have been placed about the majority of the putting surfaces and much terracing work done. A practice putting clock and driving area are already under fashioning at the rear of the clubhouse.”

* In the Spring of 1930 it was reported that improvements since 1929 included “Work on clearing the rough, commenced then (in late 1929), has been carried out, and there is little on the course to worry the ordinary golfer who stays within bounds. The short holes, particularly the twelfth, have been well cleared and at the same time retain their sportiness.”

* In the spring of 1934, plans were made to enlarge the course, and adjoining property considered for expansion. (No details found as to what changes were made, if any)

* In 1937, the western portion along Carling was cleared, to permit the 11th hole to be extended almost 100 yards. The 12th hole was extended easterly, “and considerable length added with a sporty green situated amongst the trees”.  A cedar fence was erected along Carling.

For most of the information in the Flagstick Magazine article, and the walking/biking tour done by David Jeanes, the 1933 aerial photo was used. It appears then that changes occurred after this time, extending 11 and 12, and possibly other holes as well. I would love to acquire a scorecard from the 1930s which would list the hole lengths individually, and could be compared against the 1950 vintage one I have above. But generally, the course did not change too much over its final 20 years.

* * *

Thanks for reading part two!

Next up Part Three - the history of the Clubhouse and other buildings on the course!

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

The McKellar Golf Course - Part One (McKellar Park, Early Beginning and General History)

Throughout Kitchissippi, each neighbourhood has gone through a series of transitions throughout its history. Many of us own or reside on a small patch of land, maybe 50 or 33 feet wide and 100 feet deep. A tiny rectangle of fabric in the large quilt that makes up Kitchissippi. Yet, each little fragment of land has its own unique history. And some of those McKellar Park fragments have a particularly interesting story.

We can only guess and imagine at what was happening on this land hundreds and even thousands of years ago, as Algonquins inhabited and traveled alongside the Ottawa River (the 'Kitcisìpi' as it was called). By the 17th and 18th centuries, fur traders and voyageurs made their way through, and by the start of the 19th century, modern history allows us a more recorded story of the development of the land, through official records, maps and photographs. Most of Kitchissippi in its earliest days of 'modern' history was farmland, virtually given away by the government as a way of drawing in new residents to the remote areas of Upper Canada.

The lumber trade (and its mills) and the railway led to a gradual (or sometimes quick) change to the farms of rural Nepean Township, at certain periods farmers couldn't subdivide their farms up fast enough. In many cases lots were sold in large sizes at low prices, where a family could earn a good wage on a piece of land several acres in size, featuring an orchard and fertile grounds for gardening. The Richmond Road was the lifeline of Kitchissippi to Bytown (eventually Ottawa), and also to the towns, villages and hamlets to the west. The streetcar's arrival expedited things even further, opening up the west end to possibilities never considered before. Once cars arrived and a network of roads created, the streets of our neighbourhoods began to fill in, with unique houses built one at a time, over the decades of the 20th century.

The story of the McKellar Park neighbourhood is this same story, but with a twist.

Now I've covered the history of McKellar Park already in a couple of articles, most notably my history of Fraser Avenue ( which explored the McKellar family and the start of the subdivsion, as well as the history of Wavell Avenue ( and the history of McKellar-Bingham House ( So I don't want to rehash too much of the same details. However it is worthwhile to tell the full story of the land, as it fits with the above narrative.

Nepean Township Lot 28 in Concession I, Ottawa Front (which makes up most of the McKellar Park neighbourhood) was first issued as a Crown land grant in 1808 to Elizabeth Moshier, daughter of a United Empire Loyalist, Jacob Van Camp. Elizabeth and her parents had been living near Albany, New York, but moved to Canada after the Revolutionary War. Jacob had been a member of the King’s Royal Regiment of New York (“King’s Royal Yorkers”), one of the first Loyalist regiments raised in Canada during the war. They were one of the most active Loyalist regiments, launching raids and relief missions into the Mohawk Valley of upper New York.

Moshier never lived on lot 28, and probably never even saw it. The Honeywells were the areas first settlers, arriving a little to the west in 1809. Meanwhile, Moshier sold her lot in 1816 to George McConnell who had come to Nepean by way of P.E.I. McConnell became McKellar Park's first 'modern day' resident around 1818, when Nepean Township as a whole had less than 10 families in its population. He built a homestead on the river road that existed at the north end of the property.

On an 1822 Nepean Township assessment, McConnell was listed as having cultivated 20 acres of the lot, owned 2 horses, 3 milch cows, and 1 horned cattle, and had constructed 2 buildings, both of them “framed, under 2 story”. The entire property was valued at £152.

By 1828, McConnell moved to Hull, and sold to the Thomsons who owned most of the land in the vicinity (builders of Maplelawn, aka the Keg Manor). In 1873, Archibald McKellar came along and bought the entire lot 28 for $32,000 and he and his family farmed it for the next 37 years.

"Moving Stones" at McKellar Farm. Circa 1890.
From the Topley Collection at LAC (PA-009899)

By 1910, Archibald's son John would have been 66 years old. He was living with his sister Margaret and another relative, as well as three servants. Neither sibling had married, nor had any children. With the Westboro and Woodroffe subdivisions exploding in popularity thanks largely to the Britannia-bound streetcar line, the land had become too valuable to sit as largely vacant farmland. Thus, it entered it's next phase of existence: residential building lots.

Ottawa Citizen, December 13, 1910

The McKellar Townsite Company was formed and in 1911 laid out the farm in to 15 streets and 1,092 building lots. An aggressive advertising campaign began right away.

Ottawa Citizen, January 21, 1911

Ottawa Citizen, April 29, 1911

Now you would think that lot sales exploded right away, and that dozens of houses were being built each year. But in 1911, only 45 lots were sold, and that number began to dwindle. The roaring twenties were anything but roaring for the McKellar Townsite people, who were selling only a handful of lots per year.

Chart showing lot sales of the McKellar Townsite
lots, with a cumulative total at right. Note that the
total subdivision plan had 1,092 lots.

Most of the lots being sold were naturally at the north end, closest to the River, Richmond Road, and the streetcar. Virtually all of the lots south of today's Keenan Avenue were unsold. On top of this, lots sold did not equate to houses built. In fact by mid-1912 there were only 6 houses built, and only 28 by the spring of 1914. By 1927, there were still only 62 structures in all of McKellar Park, which included several small cottages.

By 1926, the McKellar Townsite Company was considering all options for what to do with their land. Though the discussions have likely been lost to history, the end result by the spring of 1926 was that the principals on the board of  the company had decided on a unique idea - the idea of establishing a golf course on the McKellar Townsite property!

1926: The initial golf course plans are announced

The news first broke in May of 1926, when the local papers first reported that a golf course was to be built at McKellar Park.

Ottawa Citizen - May 5, 1926

The idea had to be passed through the local community association, the Westboro Ratepayers’ Association, which it did on the evening of May 4th. (At that same evening, the board also approved the resolution to have a traffic light installed at the corner of Richmond and Churchill, called a “silent policeman”).

At the meeting, it was discussed that 85 acres of land in McKellar Park, suitable for a golf course were available. Mr. W. H. Dwyer of the McKellar Townsite Company spoke to the Association, and stated that a good golf course could be established at an approximate cost of $10,000. He suggested also that a membership fee of $25 would be set, which would “be productive of a large membership”, and also added that tennis courts would be operated along with the golf course. Rather than purchase the property, Dwyer presented that leasing the land might be best for the short-term at least. Local businessmen also spoke at the meeting in support of the golf course.

One of the drivers of the golf course idea was likely Mr. James Ernest Caldwell, a member of the Townsite board, and a major golf enthusiast in the Ottawa area. He himself had opened a short-lived nine-hole course on his 300-acre Caldwell Dairy Farm off Merivale Road in City View, called the City View Golf Club, back in 1923.

Caldwell spoke at the Westboro Ratepayers meeting, stating that “the natural location, good pure air, the wonderful scenery, etc. would all tend to be important factors in the successful formation and operation of such a club.” Also speaking were members of the Cole family, Alderman P. J. Nolan (whose contributions to social life in Kitchissippi were numerous over the years, including the opening of the Nola Theatre in Hintonburg), and others. Mrs. Bert Cole “pointed out the great opportunities that the ladies would have to participate in the life and activities of such a club.”

It was decided that a provisional committee would be appointed by the Westboro Ratepayers Association to hold a meeting, where a permanent committee would be elected. Dwyer, speaking for the McKellar Townsite Company, said that they would be “ready to enter into any agreement which the committee might put forward and suggested that the members of the committee meet with the directors of the company on the proposed site. Experts on building golf courses could also be present, and ways and means as to the erection of the course discussed.”

The (large) provisional committee was a who’s-who of early Westboro: John Bingham, Fred A. Heney, W. Edgar, John E. Cole, H.S. Taylor, A.B. Ullett, M. N. Cummings, S. Bell, G. Poulin, B.J. Roberts, Charles Ogilvy, Hiram Crain, Reeve J. W. Arnott, J.E. Jones, T. Bert Cole, Dr. J.H. Grisdale, Dr J.S. Nelson, George Rothwell, F. Byshe, W. Guertin, W.F. Bingham and J.A. Glen, with T. Bert Cole chairman and W.F. Bingham secretary.

To give an idea of how McKellar appeared prior to the arrival of the golf course, this aerial photo from 1920 (the earliest known aerial photo of the area) shows McKellar Park and its relatively few structures:

That is Carling Avenue along the left, and Byron/CPR line/Ottawa River along the right. The small original Broadview School can be seen in the center near the bottom, right above the bright spot on the photo which is actually the sun hitting a large pond or marsh on the east side of Broadview. Windermere Avenue (Fourth Avenue) is the other street running left to right that can be seen, as it was finished all the way to Carling. Large lines of trees and ditches dot the land at its most westerly points, remnants of the McKellar Farm era.

The golf course boundaries were imperfect, and some lots had already been sold and built on within the boundaries. Rather than bother with trying to buy them back, the owners of these properties simply now owned land within the course. Luckily none were really in the middle of the playing area, just on the fringes, so it worked well. However, certain elements were not changeable, such as the streets which still ran through the course. So for instance Dovercourt Avenue (then known as Balmoral Avenue) still existed as a navigable roadway (though it was unpaved), as did Windermere Avenue (which as seen above, was finished). It must have been interesting playing around these roads and any passing cars!

1927: The McKellar Golf Club begins to take shape

In February of 1927, the first word spread in Ottawa about the proposed golf course, as the McKellar Townsite Co. owners offered shares in the proposed McKellar Golf Club. These funds would then go towards the construction of a club house and the layout of the course. One share of “treasury stock” in the Golf Club actually meant one share in the Townsite Company. Treasury stock, the way I understand it, was issued by the company against the full stock of the company, and allowed for dividends on profit, but did not allow voting rights. The shares thus would have increased in value dependent on the overall profits of the McKellar Park subdivision, not the golf course itself (though a successful golf course likely would lead to an increase in value in the area lots). Sparks Street real estate agent Charles E. Compton was hired to conduct the sales.

Ottawa Citizen, February 19, 1927

Evidently the campaign went well, as on March 24th, the newly formed club published its architectural drawing for the club house that it had agreed to have constructed. The architect firm of Richards and Abra (who also had designed Broadview School, Nepean High School, and several other buildings in the community) did up the plans, which was for a “building of about 50’ x 65’ of cinder block and stucco construction…equipped with large verandahs and balconies”. The club was to be built on Fourth Avenue in McKellar (now Windermere Avenue).

This drawing and more info on the clubhouse itself will be found in "Part Three" of this series.

Construction on the clubhouse was not expected until later in the summer of 1927 (and in fact eventually stretched in to the spring of 1928 due to several delays), thus the owners set up a temporary clubhouse was in a rented home at the corner of Westminster and Crossfield, now known as 541 Westminster Avenue.

541 Westminster Avenue on Google Streetview
The original McKellar Golf Course Clubhouse

The Golf Club likely did not have good odds in finding an available house for rent (recall I mentioned above there were only 62 built in McKellar Park as of the spring of 1927), but lucky for them a 1913-built 1.5 storey wood-frame house halfway between the streetcar line and the golf course entrance was available. This house had been surrendered in 1923 by its original owner for financial reasons to the mortgage-holder, a Mrs. Maud Klotz, a widow from Toronto, and she had been renting it to tenants.

An exact date of the first golf played at McKellar Golf Course cannot be found, but it appears to be roughly on or about Wednesday May 4th. On that date, an ad was published in the Citizen announcing that the McKellar Golf Course “Is Now Ready for Playing”, with ten temporary holes ready to go, and that temporary club house facilities had been arranged.

Ottawa Citizen, May 4, 1927

By May 21st, it appears the course was up to 18 holes, described as “rapidly rounding into form”, the course “situated on a plateau overlooking the Ottawa river.” The McKellar course opened as a par 68.

Alfred “Freddie” Rogers, former assistant pro at Rivermead Golf Club was hired as the first club pro, and Harry Grayshon was appointed the first club manager.

Unfortunately, there are no photos of McKellar Golf Course from 1927 (or hardly any year, for that matter), but I thought it would be cool to add some photos/ads from the same time period to show what golf was like in 1927. All of the following are taken from the May 1927 issue of Canadian Golfer Magazine - the same month that golf was first played at McKellar Park:

By early June the course was in full swing, advertised as “A private club at municipal club rates”, offering season fees of $35 for men and $25 for women, or down to monthly ($8/$7), weekly ($2.50/$2) or daily fees ($0.50).

Ottawa Journal, June 10, 1927.

The addition of the golf course was a boon to the local real estate market. Immediately, even home and cottage owners began advertising their home’s proximity to the course as a selling point:

Ottawa Citizen, June 8, 1927

A meeting of the directors of the Golf Club was held on June 10th in the temporary club house. Plans for the new clubhouse were viewed and the building committee was instructed to proceed with the work. The estimate on the building was now up to $20,000.

The first election of officers in the Club was held. W. H. Dwyer was elected President, George F. Hodgins 1st Vice-President, J. E. Caldwell 2nd Vice-President, and Alex McKechnie as Secretary-Treasurer.

W.H. Dwyer, the first President
of the McKellar Golf Club.

There were also a series of sub-committees formed, including those for Grounds (G. F. Hodgins, J. E. Caldwell, T. Bert Cole and W. J. Glober), Building (G. F. Hodgins, M. N. Cummings, P. J. Nolan and G. C. Morrison), Membership (Douglas Dewar, Fred Bingham, George Carson and T. Bert Cole), and Finance (W. H. Dwyer, G. C. Morrison, K. P. McDonald and M. N. Cummings).

The Golf Club appealed to Ottawans because, of course it was a new course, but also because it was open to the public, offered affordable rates to play, was well situated next to the street car line so it was accessible to everyone, and also was a fairly short/simple course to play (especially when it first opened; years of adjusting and grooming would both lengthen and significantly improve the course).

Many also liked that it offered partial season rates, or even a weekly rate. Early on, a large number of members were younger. The newspapers mentioned that McKellar had more of a youthful feel than the established clubs. That meshed well with the general feeling of Westboro and McKellar as being new, young up-and-coming neighbourhoods.

The golf course operators advertised extensively in the local papers and around town. A larger ad from mid-summer 1927 promoted some of these same highlights:

Ottawa Citizen, June 28, 1927

1927 was a notable year for golf in the Capital, as the Hull Golf Club on Aylmer Road (which is I believe now the Gatineau Golf Club) also began operating.

The first tournament to be held at McKellar was on Dominion Day, Friday July 1st, the Confederation Jubilee. The Men’s Trophy was won by Walter A. Richardson, with a score of 76, while the Women’s trophy was won by Miss E. Hopper with a 104. Richardson’s 76 ended up being the top recorded score of the club in 1927.

Ottawa Citizen, July 6, 1927.

By the fall of 1927, the McKellar Golf Club grown considerably, and had enjoyed a successful summer. The Journal noted that 225 people had golfed on Labour Day Monday. Ottawa Senators hockey star and NHL hall-of-famer Cy Denneny was noted as being one of the regulars of the club in its opening year.

Ottawa Journal
September 6, 1927.

The 1927 closed in early October, with the final event being the Dwyer Cup competition, which pitted individual golfers competing against each other straight-up in a playdown format. The finals were held the week of October 10th, but unfortunately no results seem to have survived.

Worth mentioning as part of this history is the McKellar streetcar "station" and "loop", a significant highlight of the neighbourhood, and key stop on the Ottawa Electric Railway streetcar line. Of course the streetcar line used to run where the Byron Linear Park is now, between Richmond and Byron. Just past Westminster Avenue going west, was a small covered "station" and platform where residents could wait for their car. There was also a loop, where streetcars on a "short run" ending at McKellar could turn and return east towards Holland Avenue (the cars that didn't end here proceeded out to Britannia Park). These streetcars would bring many Ottawa citizens out to McKellar to golf over it's 26 years of play!

May 1933 aerial of McKellar loop.
River at top, Richmond Road running L to R
through center. Windermere at left, Westminster
in middle, then Mansfield at right. The loop
is clearly seen, going around the little McKellar
streetcar station. Byron Avenue is an unpaved lane
at this point. Sidewalks appear as fine white lines.

Same aerial shot from 2017. Note that the River
does not come as close to Richmond Road
as it was filled in during the 1950s as part
of the building of the Parkway.

Streetcar in McKellar Loop January 1952

Same angle in 2017 as 1952 (best I could do to try to get an
equivalent in present day). That's 780 Byron that appears
at the top right of both photos. 

And another great view, looking east (thanks to the
Transit Toronto website for the photo), with more detail
shown of the little platform and covering.

Slightly different view, looking east (thanks to the
Transit Toronto website for the photo). Note the passengers
have gotten off the streetcar and are waiting for the next
one to take them beyond McKellar towards Britannia.

1928: The McKellar Golf Club grows

The big news for the start of the 1928 golf season was that the much-anticipated clubhouse was finally ready to go. Workers were putting in the final touches in late April, and the doors were open to members and visitors by early May.

I won't go into too much detail on the clubhouse here as I've dedicated an entire section to the clubhouse in part three.

The other notable item from 1928 was the incorporation of the McKellar Golf Club as a separate entity from the McKellar Townsite operation. The key directors met on January 3rd, and elected their board, chose to continue using the same name, and officially offering stock at $150,000, 1,500 units at $100 each. A prospectus was filed in March of 1928.

Also noteworthy was that the McKellar Townsite Company took out a mortgage of $60,000 from Miss Margaret McKellar, the daughter of Alexander McKellar, against the (many) remaining unsold lots in the subdivision. I'm not exactly sure why that specific amount was chosen, nor what the funds would have been used for, perhaps other investments, and likely to also help fund the clubhouse construction and other improvements on the golf course.

In 1928, a few changes were made to the course layout (detailed a bit more in part two), and the course thus became a par 70 for 1928.

Shareholder membership was again offered in early 1928, at $125 for a share, which included the first season’s playing. In 1928, membership rates had increased a little, up to $35 for women and $40 for men. You could even purchase a "clubhouse membership" which gave you access to the clubhouse and its social events and facilities, but not the golf course. That membership was offered at $15 for the year. The course operators also offered an “early bird” rate of 75 cents per round for anyone starting from the No. 1 tee before 1:30 p.m. on weekdays (holidays excluded).

Organizers still discussed plans to create tennis courts, but those would never come to fruition.

Play began in early May, with a few holes opening at first, the full 18 available by May 11th. The greenskeeper hired extra men early on to help get the course ready and in ideal playing shape. The pressure was on the grounds crew to get the course in playing condition as quickly as possible once spring weather arrived, a push that still happens the same 100 years later. McKellar's course was relatively flat, but had several low-lying areas which suffered from a lot of flooding in the spring. This would both damage the course a bit, but also cause delays in opening certain holes.

The earliest photos I could find of McKellar Golf Club come from the distant background of some spring 1928 photos taken by the RCAF of the flooding conditions along the Ottawa River. Though the Woodroffe resort community along the River suffered greatly, and was photographed for this purpose, fortunately the background of the photo picks up the McKellar course in its infancy. The detail is not fantastic, but at least it provides a good glimpse to the vastness of the McKellar Park subdivision at the time, and the condition of the course and its trees and elevations and such.

What I've done is included two photos, which are really just from one much larger photo, but which could not be shown in good detail if kept as one thin rectangle.

The first photo below I've labelled with notes to show streets and recognizable landmarks. The clubhouse can be seen at the right under construction, dating the photo to about early April 1928.

McKellar Park in April 1928

The second photo below shows the area to the south of the clubhouse, essentially the entirety of the golf course. Carling Avenue can be seen at the right side of the photo (any houses/structures that appear in the distance on the right would be on the south side of Carling).

McKellar Golf Course in April 1928

The club announced at the start of the golf season that they would be holding inter-club competitions throughout the year, as well as weekly club competitions, the first of which was held on Victoria Day May 24. Other new trophies and competitions were added during the year, including the new "Hodgins Cup" donated by Club Vice-President G.F. Hodgins for the men's champion (to be awarded in an annual tournament) and the new "Ahearn Cup" donated by T.F. Ahearn.

In June of 1928, new club pro Rube Mullen shot a 71, the new record for the course (beating Richardson’s 76 from a year prior). He bettered that mark in August, shooting an even-par 70.

In July, some McKellar Park residents complained to Nepean Township Council about the location of one of the tees being on Balmoral Avenue (Dovercourt). Since the roadway was owned by the Township, the tee's location was not allowed, and Council told McKellar to move the tee. I can't imagine why the golf course managers would have wanted the tee to be so close to roadway, perhaps to maximize the length of a hole, but still bizarre. I found no other details as to the specifics of the tee, but it appears the issue was finally fixed. The Nepean Township Council minutebook includes notes on the complaint, as well as another complaint lodged about the golf course creating drainage of a parking lot down one of the streets, affecting two of the home-owners whose homes pre-dated the golf course, but who now living within its borders. (The Swimmings family will be discussed more in part two, including some great photos).

Nepean Township Council minutes for July 19, 1928

By the end of the 1928 season, membership was over 400, and during the full season, over 2,000 different individuals had played the course. The club actually ran a profit in essentially its first full year of operation.

Ottawa Citizen. September 1, 1928.

1929: The McKellar Golf Club adds more features

1929 saw a few additional changes and additions to the course, based primarily off suggestions made by President W.H. Dwyer and member William Cochrane, who had taken a trip to the southern states in March to observe golf in that part of the continent. “They saw many of the leading golf stars and many of the foremost clubs, had many suggestions to offer for the improvement of their own club”, reported the local papers.

A few changes and "innovations" were made to the course itself to increase its difficulty. The Greens Committee was told in April to continue the work of “terracing and developing the grounds at the north of the clubhouse where a green is being constructed for putting and driving practice.” As well, an experienced chef was hired for food preparation in the clubhouse dining room (Mr. Thomas Joy was hired in April), while new lounge quarters for the men were proposed.

The social-only memberships for clubhouse privileges program was so successful in 1928, that in 1929 it was announced that it would be limited to 50 memberships only. Monthly dances had also been extremely popular the year before, and were brought back again for 1929.

Notably as well, a new pro shop was constructed right by the first hole tee. This allowed club pro Rube Mullen to have a small work shop and store to sell equipment and provide training and coaching services.  This original pro shop was on about where 629 Windermere now stands. It was later replaced and relocated. (More on the pro shop in part three!).

37 new memberships were sold during the off-season of 1928-1929, showing the increasing popularity in the golf course. Unfortunately, 1929 would mark a negative milestone, as the global economic depression commenced that fall. The golf course would experience difficult times in the 1930s, and some significant events occurred that would later shape the future of the property.

The 1930s: The McKellar Golf Club endures hard times & changes hands

Before times got too tough, and when optimism still ran high, the golf course owners added an underground water supply system, which was completed in June 1930. Through a series of pipes and pumps, water was piped in from the Ottawa River at a point on the shore directly in line with Wavell Avenue. A small pumphouse was constructed to house the equipment and electric motors. The pipes then were installed up along Wavell Avenue to the golf course, supplying the greens and fairways with much-needed water. Recall at the time there were no services to the golf course area at all; water and sewage was years away; residents got by using wells which were dug on virtually every occupied property in McKellar Park. It's a wonder to think how McKellar was able to feature a quality playing surface with only minimal access to water.

The club also began applying a layer of oil to Balmoral Avenue (Dovercourt) in 1930 to help keep the dust down. When cars would whip through the course, it would leave behind a "dust nuisance".

The quality playing conditions was in large part (or perhaps fully because of) the efforts of Thomas Unsworth, the long-time greenskeeper at McKellar. Of course this article would be incomplete without dedicating a section to him. He was considered one of the top men in the business, a business which "requires a man to be part scientist, part mechanic and honest workman to assure any measure of success" (wrote the Journal in 1954).

Tom Unsworth was born in England in 1887, and in his early teens began doing landscape work for large estates and castles in England, and built a nine-hole golf course. He came to Canada in 1927, and was hired by the McKellar Golf Course soon after his arrival. His exact start date conflicts in old reports and documents. In some stories, he is cited as being the original landscaper who built the McKellar course; others mention he did not arrive until 1929 or 1930.

A photo of Tom Unsworth later in his life.
Ottawa Citizen, March 14, 1953.

Unsworth had his son Thomas Jr. help him from a young age, eventually becoming the only father-and-son greenskeepers in Canada. The pair remained at McKellar until 1938, moving on to the Chaudiere Golf Club in 1939. The operators of the club built a house for Unsworth in 1930 right on the course, just to the south of the 1st hole green on what is now Fraser.

When I interviewed early and long-time Fraser Avenue resident George Bond a few years ago, he shared a story of Unsworth giving him a few seedlings 18" high, and advised him that if he planted them with a handful of oats that it would help them grow. All of the trees George planted grew in to what he called "whopping big poplar trees", several of which still surround the house at 623 Fraser. Many others which Tom had planted still survive, and George could point them out. The Bond house sat right next to the 1st hole green (to the north) and George told of sitting on the porch and watching the balls land all around the house. I was fortunate to be able to chat with George a few years ago while researching Fraser Avenue and I've always wished I'd made a second visit. (George passed away in June 2019 at the age of 98).

As mentioned above, McKellar had a youthful feel to its membership. But also notably it had a high number of female players, a fact highlighted in an article in Canadian Golfer Magazine in 1930. It was mentioned that McKellar had 200 female members, which would have been almost half of the total membership.

Canadian Golfer Magazine, July 1930.

A notable event occurred in the fall of 1930 when Norman Kilby Hodgins and Irene Slattery Hodgins took Edward D. Watson to court for the sum of $500 over an incident at McKellar on June 28th. The first case of its kind ever to be taken to the courts, Irene alleged that Edward had teed off on the first tee before she was sufficiently out of the line of flight of his ball. His ball struck her, inflicting serious injury, which she argued constituted “negligence and recklessness”.

Canadian Golfer Magazine - December 1930

A three-and-a-half hour hearing was held in April 1931 in Ottawa in front of a Judge Colin O’Brian. Both counsels agreed there was no direct precedent which could be found in law. According to the evidence presented, Irene had been 160 yards out on the fairway from the tee when Watson teed off. His ball struck her on the chest, causing injuries which she claimed had necessitated an operation a few months later. Meanwhile the defence claimed there was no negligence “as Mr. Watson had given the required warning, the call of ‘fore’ prior to hitting the ball”. The defence also stated that that in participation in the game of golf one also took the risks inherent to the game.  The Judge dismissed the case June 19th.

Willam Henry Dwyer passed away on December 12th, 1930, while still holding the title of President of the McKellar Golf Club, which he had since inception. He was an active member of Ottawa business, political and social life, one of his most significant accomplishments being a key part of the committee of the Board of Trade for Ottawa that pushed for Lemieux Island as the home of Ottawa's filtration plant, versus one far outside town at 31-Mile-Lake.

In the early 1930s, membership appeared to decline a little, but the operators of the course continued to operate the course despite the financial hardships most in Ottawa and the rural west end were facing. A popular feature continued to be the 75 cent round for anyone starting a round before 2 p.m. on weekdays.

Also popular was the social life of the club, which included regular dinners, dances and concerts. Members experienced the benefits of regular golf, but also an active social life with their friends and fellow members. During a time where entertainment was increasingly difficult to find or afford, the McKellar Golf Club would have provided ample opportunity to stay busy and connected, for a relatively low cost.

May 1933 aerial photo of the entire course with some
key landmarks labeled

The golf club owners began taking out loans as early as 1932 on the property. Financial losses were beginning to be felt. In 1932 and 1933, the golf course owners did not pay their municipal taxes to the Township of Nepean. Warnings were issued (as they were for thousands of other property owners in the Township who were unable to keep up with the relatively small tax payments, particularly when it involved small vacant lots that at one time was an investment, or part of their dream to one day build a home of their own; neither of which was sustainable year after year with the economy floundering with no sign of recovery), but the company was unable to come up with the funds. In addition, lenders began to get weary, and by 1934 the issue was full-blown.

The late winter of 1934 appears to be the first time that the club's financial issues were made public. With the Canadian economy suffering through the financial depression, the real estate market was dead, growing unrest in Europe cast concern of another potential world war, and the number of Ottawans with expendable money for pastimes such as golf was declining. On the eve of their annual general meeting in February of 1934, the McKellar Golf Club directors were considering to suspend operations.

With the closure of McKellar looming, some golfers in the City of Ottawa began pushing for the City to acquire the course to become Ottawa’s first municipal course (publicly controlled and city supervised). It was estimated that $30-35k would buy the club, not including the club house and its accessories. P.J. Nolan who had helped campaign for the McKellar Club back in 1926 when he was a City Alderman was now Mayor of Ottawa, and he was supportive of a municipal course, but was non-committal to the McKellar site (likely for the obvious reasons of what could be pending negotiations for the purchase). He felt that municipal golf was a good idea, that “public patronage would repay the city for its investment”. Special legislation from the provincial government would have been required for the city to operate a municipal club outside the city limits (as McKellar would not be part of Ottawa for another 16 years), if public interest was sufficient.

Following the McKellar Golf Club AGM, all talk of financial difficulties were played down, and it was “authoritatively stated that the club will function in 1934 as usual, a prosperous summer being anticipated this coming summer.” Yet, just days later the Journal ran a small blurb noting that Laura Carmichael was filing for an unpaid debt of $1,000 from McKellar, from a promissory note from August 1932 that was now 6 months overdue.

The shareholders of McKellar Golf Club met several times in the spring of 1934 to discuss the issues, and a “reorganization of the club” was made, “it is understood that the co-operation of all shareholders will be required in order to bring those arrangements to a successful issue”, wrote the Citizen. By May, the group was still meeting and negotiating on the way forward, but had great difficulty in solving the issues.

Then in early April, Dwyer Investments Ltd., the company holding the name of McKellar’s original leading booster, the late W.H. Dwyer, sought foreclosure of a mortgage held by the McKellar Townsite, from June 1928, of the $10,000 principal and $496 of interest owing, on the club house and other property (though not the golf course). A week later, Dwyer's heirs filed a writ suing for another $5,190.52, claiming the McKellar Golf Club owed this sum as the amount paid by the group of investors to the Canadian Bank of Commerce as surety on a promissory note. The estate of Margaret McKellar also held a mortgage on the club property, and it too was pushing for a plan.

Unfortunately, the Ottawa newspapers of the day did not publish the full story, but however it was done, the directors survived the spring of 1934.

However, it was not to be, and by later in the year, it was known that the golf course was in significant trouble. Dwyer Investments foreclosed on the mortgage and took over ownership of the clubhouse and the 4 lots it sat on, on November 28th 1934.

Three months later, on February 21st, 1935, virtually the entirety of the unsold McKellar Townsite lots were surrendered to Nepean Township for unpaid taxes. This included all of the golf course! The figure owing to Nepean for the 251 golf course lots south of Balmoral (Dovercourt) Avenue was $3,808.86 (they also owed $5,048.72 for 249 lots north of Balmoral throughout the rest of McKellar Park). A grand total of exactly 500 lots in McKellar Park handed over to Nepean Township for less than $9,000 of tax debt. Amazing to consider 85 years later.

The golf course lots south of Balmoral were sold directly and immediately on the same date (February 21st, 1935 - which must have been arranged in advance, with the Township knowing they were imminent to claim ownership of the lots) to John Herbert Ralph, a law student at Osgoode Hall, and just 24 years old. Ralph merely had to pay the taxes owing ($3,808) and the lots were his.

The registration of the sale took most of 1935 for administrative reasons, becoming official on December 4th. Ralph then sold them 3 weeks later to John E. Cole and Alexander McKechnie. Cole was a long-time Westboro figure, whose family had operated the Highland Park Dairy Farm. McKechnie was one of the principals in the Westboro Townsite Company, and had been the secretary/treasurer of the McKellar Golf Club! Surely a little fishy that he was able to acquire all of the lots in his own name right away, and perhaps that was why a 24-year old law student was used as an intermediary. It is worth mentioning that Ralph tragically died suddenly the following November at the young age of 25 from an infection following a tooth extraction.

McKechnie bought out Cole of his half in July 1938 to become the sole owner of most of the golf course lots.

Ottawa Citizen photo of McKechnie,
who with his large acquisitions in
1935, 1938 and 1941 became the sole
owner and operator of the McKellar
Golf Course property. 

As for the lots north of Balmoral (Dovercourt), Nepean Township sold those off gradually (mostly after WWII), but McKechnie waited until December of 1941 to acquire a large chunk of them just on the north side of Dovercourt, a total of 81 lots. During the period Nepean owned these lots (1935-1941) the McKellar Golf Club had still been using these lots anyways, perhaps under a side deal or arrangement. McKechnie purchased all of these lots, and now owned the entirety of the golf course property.

He continued to add to his collection by acquiring single lots as they became available (or as he could convince the owners perhaps) along the border of the property. He surely knew what he was doing in building his holdings as much as he could. McKechnie's investment would pay off in the 1950s (more on that in part five).


Back to the Golf Club history...

The Club had hired well-respected club pro Ernie Wakelam away from the Brockville Country Club for the 1931 season. He stayed with McKellar through the 1933 season, but perhaps owing to the uncertainty of the club in 1934, he left for the Gatineau Country Club.

By 1934, fees were $40 for men, $35 ladies, or $55 for a family of two. Juniors could obtain a golf membership for just $20, and a special "morning only" membership was offered at $25.

Ottawa Citizen, April 25, 1934.

In September 1934, the Citizen published what may well have been the first public article about the idea of a western parkway, a "scenic driveway as a westerly entrance to the city". The Ottawa Town Planning Commission, Nepean Township and Ontario government officials had been in extensive discussions about the plan, and the Ontario Highways Department had engineers on the ground examining the proposal. The initial plans called for the parkway to follow the route it currently does from Bayview on west past Island Park Drive, along the river past Westboro, but then it was to "swing south through the Cole farm (aka Rochester Field) to the Richmond road and on south west through the neighbourhood of the McKellar Golf Club grounds to Carling avenue" (rather than at Lincoln Fields as it does now). This project was also considered to be an employment tool to bring desperately needed employment to Nepean Township and Ottawa, as it would employ hundreds of men for months. The plan had some wheels, but ultimately would not see the light for 20 years, and instead a mix of the parkway and Queensway would eventually serve the intended purpose.

Headline from the Ottawa Citizen, September 28, 1934

Here is an ad offering membership for the "last half" of the season. It also lists daily rates as well:

Ottawa Citizen, July 27, 1935

A few more interesting tidbits from the late-1930s:

* In 1937, it was decided to change the greenskeeping approach. Prior to 1937, most of the attention was on the greens, but it was decided to focus instead more on the fairways.

* In May of 1937, an unusual event occurred when an “enthusiast” played a round on McKellar with a bow and arrow. “He shot the arrow as one would a golf ball, a handkerchief indicating the hole. His score (with the arrow) for the round was 66”, reported the newspapers.

* A day following the bow and arrow round, it was reported that a deer was seen trotting across two fairways and headed in the direction of the city. “The animal appeared to be in no hurry but did not stop to sample the greens or the fairways”

* In June 1939, the McKellar Clubhouse was broken into and robbed. Someone entered on a Sunday night and stole $35 in cigarettes and tobacco from the restaurant, and also broke into the garage and stole an old truck with no license plates. The Royal Ottawa and Ottawa Hunt and Golf were also broken into that week – a string of thefts at golf clubs.

* Later that same month, 22-year old Edward Norman Shaver of Maitland Avenue pled guilty to stealing four golf balls from the vicinity of McKellar, and sentenced to seven days in jail! Nepean Constable Borden Conley had no evidence, but went off complaints from golfers that youths were hiding in the bushes and stealing the balls from the fairways before the players could retrieve them. Shaver claimed his family was destitute and their only income was from the few dollars he made selling lost golf balls. He had been warned twice previously. Similar thefts were reported at the Hunt Club as well. Seems a little harsh!

* There was also a story from 1939 about golfer Bill Shore hitting a “birdie” teeing off from the 290-yard fourth hole. "His ball went about 100 yards when it struck a robin in mid air, knocking the bird senseless to the ground.”

* The big "Beef and greens" dinner which annually marked the end of the golf season was held September 30th, 1939. Trophies and awards were handed out, and the speaker of honour at the dinner was club member Harry Bramah, who survived the torpedoing of the SS Athenia earlier that month. The Athenia was the first UK ship to be sunk by the Germans in WWII.

The 1940s: The McKellar Golf Club gains in popularity as the neighbourhood fills in around it

There is little to be written of note on the McKellar Golf Club in the 1940s. The club continued on successfully, and the real estate market in the area boomed. By the end of the decade, the streets had filled in quite well throughout McKellar Park, and Westboro, and the golf course gradually became one of the last large open spaces close to the city (McKellar Park would not become part of the City of Ottawa until 1950). By that time, it became clear that despite the popularity of the course, the land was becoming valuable, and its days were likely numbered.

The highlight of this section for me, is this amazing photograph provided by Miss Catherine Swimmings, daughter of Edwin K. Swimmings, who took a series of photos around his Windermere Avenue home as a teen in the summer of 1942. Several of his photos will be featured in part two, but for now, this amazing photograph captures the north end of the golf course in wonderful detail.

He was likely standing in front of his house at 622 Windermere when he took this photograph, and as you can see, there is almost nothing to the east. Visible in the photograph in the distance are Broadview School at left, and the Bond family home at what is now 623 Fraser Avenue in the center.  To the right of the Bond house is a rough, and then the green of the 1st hole. The flag appears to be visible as well. Just an amazing photograph.

McKellar Golf  Course - Summer 1942
Looking east from Windermere Avenue
(Courtesy of Catherine Swimmings)

As the neighbourhood built up, the McKellar Golf Course was of course widely played in the summer, but the land was also popularly used in the winter for skiing and tobogganing. Many long-time residents of McKellar Park have shared great memories of cross-country skiing all over the course. Eventually Alex McKechnie had to put up barriers around the greens, to provide extra protection for them from potential damage. In 1948, it was reported that many of the barriers had been ripped down, and the greens trampled on. “These ski marks go into the turf and remain there until late Spring” McKechnie said to the Citizen. “Any place on the course except near the greens we do not mind, but if skiers persist in breaking down the fences and damaging property, we will have to keep them off. The foreman at the course has his orders to keep persons away from the greens. This measure is merely to protect the course."

Below are a few additional photos taken at the McKellar club in the 1940s. They were used by Flagstick Magazine in their 2008 article on the club, and I thank Joe McLean for sharing with me his copies of the photo. They originate from a member's personal collection. (Others will appear in part three of this series). I'm afraid I don't have names or captions. The top two appear to be taken out on the course, while the bottom two were taken in front of the clubhouse.

McKellar Golf Course 1940s
(Courtesy of Flagstick Magazine)

McKellar Golf Course 1940s
(Courtesy of Flagstick Magazine)

McKellar Golf Course 1940s
(Courtesy of Flagstick Magazine)

McKellar Golf Course 1940s
(Courtesy of Flagstick Magazine)

The following two photos were also from Flagstick Magazine, and were from the collection of Ken Robertson, who was a caddy at McKellar Golf Course, and was interviewed by Joe McLean for his article. They were both taken in front of the clubhouse:

Ken Robertson 1940-41
(Courtesy of Flagstick Magazine)

Ken Robertson and Bob Miller on
Clubhouse verandah. Circa 1940.
(Courtesy of Flagstick Magazine)

The beginning of the end for McKellar Golf Club came in April of 1948, when Nepean Township released its tax assessments, and had increased the golf course’s assessment substantially once again. In an interview with the Journal on the morning of Saturday May 1st, owner Alex McKechnie said “there is nothing else we can do. The new assessment is putting us out of business. The people can not be expected to pay higher fees. At present the club amounts to a public club, and fees are only sufficient for its upkeep.” McKellar was acting basically as a public course, with non-members being allowed to play at their leisure, for $1 a day during the week, and $1.50 on weekends and holidays.

“This will be the last season for the club. It will be impossible to permit low priced golf playing. The revenue for the Summer season is not sufficient to carry on when the course is assessed on a building lot basis”, he added.

Recall that the golf course sat on the originally laid out McKellar Townsite plan lots, numbering about 500 lots. Yet the Township historically charged taxes based on acreage of vacant land. Now they were attempting to charge the club owner for taxes based on the lot value of each individual lot, as they would all of the homes in the neighbourhood.

“From 1933 the golf course seemed to be an asset to the community, and assessment was within operations. In 1946, the assessment increase was almost $50,000”, McKechnie stated. “Now this year a further increase of $110,000 in the assessment was made by Nepean Township. The daily playing fees can not be raised to take care of this escalator plan of assessment, and whether beautification schemes are wanted or merely talked about, the result is that this area will be offered for sale as building lots.”

Assessment had been fixed at $10,300 in 1933. In 1946, that figure jumped by $46,500 to $56,800, and then by another $11,500 in 1947 to $68,300, and then $110,000 more in 1948 to a total of $178,300. The increases were further difficult to accept, as no sewage, water or additional services had been provided by the Township.

McKechnie may not have been all that sad about the increase. Though he was one of the original principals in the club, acting as secretary/treasurer for its first decade, his investment in the 1930s to buy the club's land outright was a wise one. With the post-WWII housing boom in full swing, there was potential for a hefty profit. He was now 59 years old, and though I’m sure he loved the McKellar Golf Club, it probably was a difficult decision.

On Nepean Township's side, their strategy was intriguing. They stood to earn substantially more tax proceeds if the club was converted to residential lots and built on. So the huge tax increases may have been strategic to try to force the sale. They knew the value of the land too, and they could not continue on taxing it at such a low assessment regardless.

McKechnie succeeded in fending off the increases and won reductions at the Court of Revision for several years, but eventually his hand would be forced. (The complete story of the sale of the McKellar course and all of its rumoured future uses makes up the very interesting 'part five' of this series).

Below is a photo taken on the McKellar course in June of 1949, and features former Ottawa Rough Rider great Rick Perley:

Ottawa Citizen, June 23, 1949

The 1950s: The end of McKellar Golf Club

As the calendar turned to 1950, a large swath of Nepean Township was added to the City of Ottawa. The McKellar Park neighbourhood and golf club was included in this annexation. This change expedited the situation, as the club was now paying city taxes, which included business assessments, and a more rigid structure of assessing.

Once 1950 hit, no seasons of golf were ever assured at McKellar Park. Often right up until April or May, it was unknown whether the club would operate and the course would open. Ownership was non-committal on long-term plans, and so announcements were typically made in late winter to confirm the club would operate. Complicating things was that Alex McKechnie passed away May 17th, 1950. His family would continue to operate the course.

Despite all of this, the McKellar Club did operate for three final seasons in 1950, 1951 and 1952.

There was a curious water incident in May of 1951. On Monday morning May 21st, staff arrived at the course to discover that no water was coming in. An inspection was made at the river end, and the pump was working fine, the intake was working, and the water was going in to the pipe perfectly normally. Club officials frantically searched the pipeline route up to Wavell from the river, and found the pipeline had been cut. And not just cut but removed. A long ditch appeared instead “A big ditch, almost canal-size”. 500 feet of 3” iron pipe had vanished.

The club officials called police. The police referred them to the City Complains Bureau. Who forwarded them to the Water Works Department, who forwarded them back to the Complains Bureau. As the newspaper reported it: “Finally the Complaints Bureau telephoned the clubhouse and in darkly confidential tones imparted the information: The Water Works took it.” (In fact the next day the paper ran a retraction, stating it was not the Water Works that took it but the Works Department). The City explained that the pipe was in the way of a drainage ditch. The City workmen had turned it up while digging and knew there was no city pipe there, so they simply took it away.

Ottawa Citizen, July 5, 1951.

Ottawa Journal, March 27, 1952.

Below is the schedule of events for McKellar for the last year it operated (1952):

Ottawa Journal, May 28, 1952

In April of 1952, Donald McKechnie stated that it was “very likely” the course would not operate in 1953, as taxes had become so heavy. He said instead consideration was being given to an elaborate sub-division which would make a “miniature Rockliffe” in the West End, which would require the services of water and sewage be added by the city (water was already at the boundary, with sewage planned for 1954).

1952 and 1953 were filled with rumour and intrigue as to the future of the club. Potential sales were reported but never made, over a dozen different outcomes were presented for the property in the media over time. (All of this to be detailed in part five).

On one of the final days of operation for the club, an amazing story occurred. On Wednesday September 17th, 1952, an Ottawa policeman caught a criminal on the course while golfing! Detective Lester Routliffe “policeman-turned-king-of-the-links”, scored his “arrest-in-one” on the fifth hole, when he arrested 20-year-old Charles Paul Gregoire for theft of more than $900 worth of golf balls and equipment from the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club’s pro shop (616 balls on 4 separate occasions ranging from Aug 14 to Sep 13, four pairs of golf socks, a windbreaker a golf bag and 10 clubs). Gregoire had stolen the equipment and was attempting to sell the balls at low prices to McKellar members along the course.

The Citizen ran a couple of photos of Routliffe the next day, which also provides a rare shot of the 4th hole tee and little wooden sign. (The 4th tee was just south of Dovercourt on the east side of Fraser. I believe that house in the background would be 544 Dovercourt Avenue at the corner of Denbury as it originally was built, but I'm not sure. It's the only house that would make sense based on the location of the tee and what would have been built at the time.

Ottawa Citizen, September 18, 1952

Though presented as somewhat of an accidental arrest in the paper, the story was followed up on by Win Mills in the Citizen in 1969 when marking Routliffe's 40 years on the force. As the story went, Routliffe was driving along on Carling when he spotted a suspect lurking in the wooded rough of the McKellar course. Parking his car, he got some clubs from the club house, and approached a nearby tee. He sliced a couple of shots into the rough and moved towards the buses.

“P-s-s-s-t” hissed the suspect from the bushes. “Wanna buy a few golf balls. Only 50 cents each?”

“Sure” said the detective, “bring ‘em over”.

“I gotta whole pailful” said the suspect.

“Let’s have a look” said Routliffe. He did, found the balls bore the markings of some that were missing from the Hunt and Golf Club and placed Gregoire under arrest. The police recovered most of the equipment except for one club and 600 balls which he had been selling for 50 cents a ball.

“I shoulda suspected he was a cop” the thief told Magistrate Glenn Strike later in court. “He was heading around the course the wrong way.” Gregoire pled guilty and was held in jail for a week until his sentencing, which was one year in an Ontario Reformatory definite and one month indeterminate.

The McKellar Golf Club had its last golf played on the weekend of November 1st and 2nd 1952. The Citizen even ran a short article about the closure of the club.

Headline from the Ottawa Citizen, November 1, 1952

In the early spring of 1953, there were some rumblings of a possible additional year of golf at McKellar. Demand was high from golfers in the west end. The course appeared to be in good shape in early April, except that a couple of greens had been deliberately damaged over the winter. Club officials continued to protect the facilities, in the small chance the course did operate.

However, the final nail in the coffin came on April 10th 1953 with the confirmed sale of the property. The McKellar Golf Club was no more.


Lots more to come! Check out Parts 2, 3, 4 and 5 coming soon!

(As I mentioned in the intro post, if anyone reading this has ANY old photos, artifacts or stories about the McKellar Park Golf Club, I encourage you to contact me at; still plenty of time to get them in to the next 4 parts! Thank you!)  

Please feel free to add comments/memories as well to this post. Thanks!

An original McKellar Park Golf Club sign.
(Photo by Joe McLean, since I can't find the ones I took
a few years ago). It now hangs in the bar area of the
Pine Lodge course in Bristol, Quebec.