Saturday, September 10, 2022

The doctor is in: Meet Israel Goldwin Smith, Kitchissippi’s first doctor

My Early Days column in September's Kitchissippi Times was a long-overdue profile on Dr. Israel Goldwin Smith, who was the first Doctor to open a practice within Kitchissippi's borders. He was a mainstay in Hintonburg from 1896 until his passing in 1936. As you can imagine, life as the doctor in a growing turn-of-the-century village had its interesting highlights. I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet Dr. Smith's granddaughter, who shared some great stories and photographs. 

You can read the full article at the Times here:

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

A hidden piece of 124-year old Wellington Village history

The oldest building on Wellington West in Wellington Village may come as a surprise. It's a smaller, square old building that is somewhat squeezed between two much more well-known buildings. But it has a unique and interesting history all its own, and for years I've wanted to unearth that history, which I've done over the last couple of weeks finally!

The timing is good, as there is a new business opening up in half of the building this week. The Thrifted Mini is a popular kid's consignment business which has existed only online, until now. They open in their first physical commercial space in today (September 8th) here in Wellington Village, in this historic old building. 

That's the present, but the building at 1239, 1241 and 1243 Wellington Street West actually has a history that ties back to the late 1800s!

It's hard to tell from the street, as the commercial portion of the building that abuts the sidewalk is most of what is visible, but behind the 13-foot 1950s addition is an old square duplex house that was built 124 years ago and has seen its share of west end history over its impressive lifetime!

Construction & ownership history

The construction of the building appears to have been a messy affair. Land registry transactions were not registered as immediately as they are today. Back then, sales, mortgages and other transactions could take months or years to be officially registered. Often a seller would cut a deal with a buyer on a handshake or verbal deal, and only after certain conditions were met would the transfer go through. Thus, specific dates are lost in piecing together the construction of the building, and even pinpointing 100% who the builder(s) were. Making things even more challenging is that none of the bills for the construction were paid to the contractors, and the owner skipped town altogether, leaving the building in legal and financial limbo for several years.

Information indicates it definitely was constructed in 1898. It is possible that there were two people who owned the property and oversaw construction. Guillaume Chouinard (his wife Albina on the paperwork, as was common in the era), certainly acquired the lot from the well-known Hintonburg Stott family for $450, and took out the initial mortgage towards construction of the building, for $1,200 from the Canadian Mutual Loan and Investment Company. Whether Chouinard started the project and sold it off mid-way through is lost to history, but at some point, either early or during the project, he got out of the whole thing, and sold it to a young man, 22-year old Oscar Alexander Philion, a former journalist with the Ottawa French language newspaper 'Le Canada'.

The building appears to have been completed by late 1898, but the end of the project was disastrous. In my research, I'll occasionally come across a "mechanic's lien" on a property, which is registered when a contractor has not been paid for work done on a property. It's a legal lien placed against the property until the owner's debt is paid. It is sometimes common to see even two liens placed on the same project. But seven??? I've never seen anything close!

Something happened, the exact details of which appear to be lost to history, but whatever the case, starting in early September 1898, the liens started rolling in. Meanwhile Philion had skipped town, and his father Alphonse Philion was dragged into the financial affair. By Christmas, the Citizen was reporting the details of his experience with the 2022nd regiment of New York, Philion apparently enlisted in July 1898 when the Spanish-American War broke out!

Ottawa Citizen
December 21, 1898

Philion stated he may return to Ottawa in the spring, but that never happened. The 1900 US Census caught him as part of a regiment in Dumanjug in the Philippine Islands, and some light digging on Ancestry revealed he ended up a couple of years later in St. Joseph, Indiana, where he married, began his family and lived the rest of his life, never returning to Ottawa.

The builder of 1239-1241 Wellington 
Oscar Philion (pictured at his 1903 wedding)
Source: Ancestry.

Back to the building on Wellington Street... The good news about all of these liens is that it gives us a full list of who was involved in the construction of the building in 1898, which is quite rare. 

That list of liens, and their values includes: George Faulkner ($30.90), Louis Piché ($42.00), Samuel McArthur ($83.50), William F. Frazer of Frazer & Hamilton ($188.14), the Farley Bros. ($168.30), Edward Clairmont ($50.00), Henry Living ($56.47). 

Samuel McArthur is the most notable of the names on the list. He was a well-known local small-time house builder, and very likely was hired as the lead for the construction. He was living on Carruthers at the time. 

The Farley Bros. were a Hull-based brickworks and lumber plant, where a lot of the building materials were likely sourced; Frazer & Hamilton was a small sash and door factory and planing mill at 46 Elm Street; and Henry Living operated a hardware store at 105 Bank Street, where some of the tools and materials were likely sourced.

Louis Piche (a butcher from 10 Eccles), George Faulkner (a teamster living in Mechanicsville), and Edward Clairmont (a carpenter on St. Patrick Street) were likely labourers on the project.

All of the liens were registered between September 3 1898 and February 22 1899, and in March 1899, certificates of lis pendens were issued, with some of the contractors suing each other, and the whole thing is just a financial mess. In the end, it appears that the original mortgage holders, the Canadian Mutual Loan and Investment Company, took over ownership when the mortgage owing by Philion was obviously defaulted on, and would have paid off all the liens. And oddly, they (Canadian Mutual) maintained ownership for the next decade, acting as landlords to the property. (At some point it had become the Colonial Investment and Loan Company, but was conveyed to the Anglo American Fire Insurance Company by about 1910).

The house was originally numbered 227 and 229 Richmond Road (as Richmond road extended to Western Avenue until 1908, when that portion was renamed to Wellington Street). 227 was the east half (1239 Wellington) and 229 the west half (1243 Wellington).

Anyways finally in March 1910, it was sold to William Joynt, a Hintonburg-based real estate investor and agent, for $2,000. It was very common in this era, for real estate dealers to actually purchase the building and re-sell it, unlike today where the agent simply coordinates the sale. 

Within days of purchasing the building, Joynt had it listed for sale in the Journal with a large ad:

Ottawa Journal - March 19, 1910

Even Joynt at the time saw the potential the building had in being converted for commercial purposes. 

Of course it is obvious even more so today that this should have been its original build type, but at the time of construction, Wellington Village was still just largely vacant farmland. Most of the land was owned by the Ottawa Land Association, who were still nearly 20 years away from offering it for sale. 

If you were standing at the corner of Holland and Wellington at the time, you would have seen only a handful of structures to the west, before the small subdivision around Carleton Avenue. Wellington Street was a commercial thoroughfare only up to about Holland Avenue at the time, when it transitioned to being the road out to the country, towards Bells Corners and Richmond. Even the streetcar line (which arrived in 1900, two years after the building was completed) turned off Wellington at Holland, turning south towards the Farm. So though one could have foreseen a likelihood that Wellington would eventually grow into a commercial street further to the west certainly in 1910, and even possibly in 1898 when the building was first built, it wasn't a sure thing, and certainly would have had minimal interest for commercial purposes at the time.

Joynt incidentally had also acquired the property next door (to the east, at the corner of Holland) in August 1906, which at the time had a small wood-frame duplex.

He kept ownership of both properties, which remained in the Joynt family as tenanted properties until the mid-1940s. Joynt passed away in 1930 after an incredible career, working his way up from a grocery store owner in Hintonburg to becoming the largest landlord in the west end, to eventually being appointed Magistrate for Carleton County (despite having no legal training!).

View of the two buildings on the 1922 fire plan.
That is Holland on the right edge. The pink colour
indicates brick, yellow is wood, and grey represents
a small garage, shed or outbuilding.

Aerial photo from May 5, 1933. Also visible is the
"Holland Service Station" which opened at the corner of
Huron in 1926, and remained there until about 1973.

The building was sold in June 1946 to William E. Haughton for $7,250. Haughton also acquired the lots to the west, and constructed the Haughton Building (better known as the Bank of Montreal building) in 1947 to house his law firm. Haughton built his new building abutting the duplex at 1239-1241 Wellington, which actually ate 7 feet into the original lot space of 1239-1243 Wellington.  

Haughton continued to rent the duplex out to tenants over the next few years. He later, in October 1951, acquired the property to the east, which was still the old wood-frame duplex, for $23,000 (the Joynts had sold it in 1945, but Haughton re-acquired it). At the close of 1951, Haughton owned the entire block of Wellington from Huron to Holland.

In April 1953, Haughton sold the two lots (not his building, but the two duplex buildings) to Pearl E. Fenton for $52,000. Pearl Fenton was the wife of George Wesley Fenton.  And he had big plans for the property.

In 1953, he renovated the building at 1239-1241 Wellington, putting on a small addition at the front of the building to bring it to the sidewalk line, creating a commercial frontage to the building. 

On the east half, at 1239, he opened the 10th bakery of the local Fenton's Bakery chain that would eventually grow to 12 branches. 

Ottawa Journal - September 30, 1953

The renovation essentially eliminated the main floor residential portions of the house. There were commercial spaces on both halves of the main floor (1239 on the east half, and a new number 1243 Wellington Street West on the west half). Upstairs was both 1241 Wellington West, with a small commercial space on the east half, and a residential unit on the west half. Interestingly, the long-time tenants on the west half remained in the building, even after the renovation eliminated the downstairs half of their home! 

I wish I had a photo of the building prior to the renovation, but I have yet to find one! If anyone reads this, and has an old family album with a photo of even a part of the original building visible, please let me know.

Meanwhile, in late 1954, Fenton demolished the old wood-frame duplex at the corner, and immediately took out a permit to construct the Wesley Building. It was completed just in time for Christmas 1955, by James More and Sons Ltd., at a cost of $225,000.

Below are two photos (and one neat illustration) of the construction of the Wesley Building, the middle photo shows a good view of the newly-renovated Fenton building, with Richards Jewellers on the left, and Fenton's on the right. The old Haughton Building sign which was once fully exposed is now seen as mostly covered up by the front addition.

Ottawa Citizen - June 8, 1955

View of 1239-1241 during the construction of the
Wesley Building, September 21, 1955
(City of Ottawa Archives, CA-25262)

The Wesley Building completed. December 1955
(City of Ottawa Archives CA-35918)

Another good way to see the renovation and new construction visually is the comparison of the 1948 and 1956 fire insurance plan sheets of the block. See below:

1948 fire insurance plan, pre-reno

1956 fire insurance plan, showing the new front
addition (the blue colour indicates concrete block
construction), and the new Wesley Building

The building at 1239-1241-1243 Wellington has largely been unchanged since 1953. The biggest change has probably been the addition of a large parking garage in behind the building, which appears to have been constructed during the 1990s. In older photos from the 60s and 70s, it appears there were actually a couple of larger trees in this space.

Rear of 1239-1243 Wellington West - September 2022

In fact, a 1939 article mentions that long-time tenant Mrs. Beckworth hosted a large garden party and bingo in the house and grounds of the house! So it must have had a pretty nice backyard for a time.

Ottawa Journal - August 7, 1939

Fenton Realty owned 1239-1243 Wellington until March 1st, 1984, when they sold it for $950,000 to an numbered Ontario incorporation, and it later sold again in 1986 for over $2M. I didn't bother tracking its more recent sales.   

The early occupants: 1897 to 1953

The earliest confirmed inhabitants of the house are from the 1901 Census, where the east half (227 Richmond/1239 Wellington) was occupied by William A. and Charlotte Mason and their two children Robert and Catherine, ages 4 and 2. William was Village Clerk for Hintonburg at the time, which meant he was photographed as part of Hintonburg's Council in 1897:

William A. Mason in 1897

The west half of the duplex (229 Richmond/1243 Wellington) had interesting residents as well, James and Mary Mark, an Irish couple in their 80s, along with their 39-year old daughter Martha, and an 11-year old grandson Bertram Smith. (James would go on to live to the amazing age of 95). 

1901 Census-taker made his visit to the home on April 2nd, 1901, and also noted the house was brick, with 6 rooms in each half.

Tenants of the era often moved frequently, it was very common to see a new occupant in a house each year, and it was rare to see someone staying more than a couple of years.

By the summer of 1902, both sides had new occupants: 227 was occupied by Harry L. Routh, an electrician, while 229 was occupied by James Carkner, a clerk. 

227/1239 was occupied next by Thomas Turvey, a conductor for the Ottawa Electric Railway (1903-1904), before carpenter Thomas C. Fagan and his wife Elizabeth moved in for the long haul (1906-1930), then Emile and Emily St Aubin (1931-1933), Alfred and Marguerite Leduc (1934-1950), Hubert J. and Agnes Shellard (1951) and Clifford H. and Claudette Tyo (1953).

229/1243 meanwhile was occupied by James Carkner (1902-1909), James E. Sullivan (1910-1914), Leslie Tennant (1914-1916), Sophia Beard (1917-1920), Sidney E. Day (1921), Charles G. and Helen McFadden (1922-1934), Cecil W and Inez Joynt (1935-1937), and then the longest occupants, Bernard H. (Tom) and Agnes Beckworth (1938-1961). What's most interesting about the Beckworths is that they remained in the house even through the conversion to commercial, and would have had to accept the renovation which would have halved the size of the apartment in 1953.

The WWI period is worth discussing, as both sides of the building saw the occupant families significantly affected by the war.

Thomas Fagan in 1239 was employed as a saw filer, and must have been a pretty tough character, for he enlisted in March of 1916 to fight for Canada. What made him a bit unique was his age: Thomas was 46 years old at the time. He also had four children, ranging in age from 15 years to his daughter Frances who was only 13 months old. Within a month, he was in England, a member of the 224th Canadian Forestry Battalion, with the rank of Private. He was soon shipped to France, where he spent the next two and a half years, until the end of the war. He returned home in May 1919, a Lance Corporal, and just shy of 50 years old. For those three-plus years he was away, it must have been difficult on his wife Elizabeth. 

On the other side of the building was the Beard family. Mrs. Sophie Beard, lived alone, though apparently estranged from her husband Henry. The family had moved to Canada just five years prior (1912) from England, seemingly following over a daughter who had married and come to Canada in 1910. Sophie lived with her five youngest children (Henry, Lawrence, Edward, Lucy and Annie) who ranged in ages from 14 to 25. A short Citizen interview with her in May 1918 noted that the family of Mrs. Beard "has done its duty", as she had her two sons (Lawrence and E.C.), her son-in-law (Nelson Baker) and "forty near relations" fighting in the war. Sadly, I later found a Citizen article from November 1st of 1918, noting that the family had received word that her Pte. Edward Charles Beard had died on October 25th 1918, at the age of 20, from gunshot wounds in the head and arms in battle on September 30th.

The occupants: 1953 to Present

These were the commercial years, when the building was converted by the Fentons. Of course the upstairs remained largely residential into the 1990s or even 2000s. It has only been in the past few years that commercial tenants have been located here. It's the ground floor level where all the action has been!

On the 1239 (east) half, Fenton's Bakery remained for 17 years, and is likely the most memorable tenant of the building for long-time residents. Frustratingly, I could not find a better photo of the storefront from the 50s or 60s, than the photo above showing it next to the Wesley Building under construction. Here is a sample storefront view of a different Fenton's location:

Fenton's Bakery (not the Wellington location!)
storefront view (City of Ottawa Archives CA-44523)

Fenton's also had a popular location in the neighbourhood at Westgate for many years. 

Fenton's closed at 1239 Wellington in 1970, and closed their final store between 1974-1975, the end of a very popular Ottawa franchise.

In 1970, Fontaine's Colour TV and Stereo shop (1970-1975) opened up in Fenton's place.

Ottawa Journal
February 12, 1974

Then, Overseas Varieties (aka Overseas Imports) opened at 1239, operated by Amir Mussani, an Ismaili Muslim who was forced from Uganda when President Idi Amin expelled 52,000 non-citizen Asians for "sabotaging the economy". Canada opened its doors to 5,600 of these refugees, bringing them in through chartered planes, with 200 settling in Ottawa. Mussani's shop dealt in "imported garments, brass and wood carvings", and was open into the early 1980s.

Mussani in his shop
Ottawa Citizen, September 15, 1977

From what I can tell, around early 1987, Jimmy's Hair Stylist (which had been open for about two years prior in the 1243 half) expanded and took over the entire commercial space of both 1239 and 1243. It appears (though I could be wrong), that for the next 12 years or so, the ground floor was combined as one business space, later being re-split as it previously had been, around 2002.

Jimmy's remained open until about 1990, when an H&R Block moved in briefly.

Ottawa Citizen - December 8, 1987

Records are a bit spotty from the mid-90s onwards, but some of the more recent tenants of 1239 Wellington have been the Wellington Gallery & Gifts (1992); the Avalon Bookstore (specializing in spiritual healing) from 1995-1999; Tuesdays the Romance Store from about 2007-2015; and The Cell Doctor from about 2015-2017. Google Streetview reveals that the shop remained vacant and for lease until late 2019, when Panash Dry Cleaning opening, but they had the misfortune of opening just as Covid hit, and I guess never stood a chance, gone not long after opening. As mentioned at the start of this article, The Thrifted Mini becomes the newest tenant of this great location this week!


The 1243 (west half), has had some varied tenants over the last 70 years as well.

Brookshire Cleaners Ltd. were the first, opening a branch location in late 1953 or early 1954, but only staying about a year. 

Ottawa Citizen - November 16, 1953

Richard's Jewellers, shown in the 1955 photo above stayed for a few years, from 1955-1959.

Ottawa Citizen, December 3, 1953

They were followed by Capital Watch Repair (1960-1961), and then became a beauty salon for the next nearly thirty years. 

At first it was Muriel's Beauty Salon (1963-1973) operated by Muriel MacGregor, then Alex's Hair Design (1973-1986), and finally taken over by Jimmy's Hair Stylists as a second location (their initial location was at 905 Carling). 

Ottawa Citizen - November 13, 1967

Around 2002-2003 I believe, the commercial space was re-split into two separate shops, and the 1243 half briefly was the sales office for the Routeburn Urban Developments condo at 1277 Wellington West prior to its construction, and then became Heavens to Betsy from 2003 until they moved to Hintonburg in 2008. Allegro was in for several years (2011 or 2012 until 2016), then finally the Kindred Shop & Studio which has been in 1243 Wellington since 2017.

Here are a few final random photos of the building, to close off this exhaustive history of one of Wellington West's most unexpectedly-historic buildings!

June 5 1984 aerial view

April 2009 view

2020? doorway to Perfect Electrolysis upstairs

April 2021 view