To most residents of the neighbourhood today, the Bank of Montreal parking lot near the intersection of Wellington and Holland is just a boring parking lot for twenty cars accommodating customers of the bank. However, Wellington Village residents with long memories will recall the gas station which existed at this corner for many years. There's quite a bit of history to this parking lot, worth digging into. Through the years I've also collected a few photos of the old station, so it was only a matter of time until I wrote about it! So here we go!
The land which today is the BMO parking lot was once about 300 feet inside the western border of the Hinton family farm. The future Huron Avenue was the location of a deep manmade trench that carried away the spring melt waters, and the overflow of Cave Creek, down to the Ottawa River through the Hinton farm. This trench passed underneath old Richmond Road (and Wellington Street as it was renamed to in 1907), along the east side of what is now Huron, and it is likely a decent-sized culvert existed right here in front of where the BMO parking lot now stands. Overtop of the trench on the north side of Wellington in the 1910s, and perhaps even earlier, stood a large, V-shaped billboard with advertising.
At the big 1920 Wellington Village auction of lots held by the landowners the Ottawa Land Association, John M. Ahearn, the 38-year old assistant manager (and future manager) of the Ottawa Electric Railway (sister company to the Land Association) purchased three prime lots along Wellington Street: adjoining lots 498, 499 and 500. These three lots at the northeast corner of Huron and Wellington were purchased for a total of $1,500 (which is all of the land today constituting the Bank of Montreal building and its parking lot). Ahearn was the nephew of Thomas Ahearn, who established the Ottawa Electric Railway and later the formation of the Ottawa Land Association, which was primarily interested in acquiring land along the future route of the streetcars.
The younger Ahearn's purchase was likely for investment purposes. An investment which paid off, when he formally sold the three lots in January of 1928 for $3,600, more than doubling his money, just before the economic depression set in.
The first service station
In April of 1925, Ahearn made a preliminary agreement for sale of just the one lot (lot 500) on the corner of Huron to Victor W. Quigg, who operated an auto garage at 286 Elgin Street.
Just four months later, in August, a new agreement for sale was made for the same lot, selling it to Henry G. and Colin Campbell. The Campbells were the owners of well-known Ottawa firm Campbell Steel & Iron Works (Henry G. was president and manager; Colin was secretary-treasurer). This business was described as: "Structural Steel engineers, boilermakers, electric welding, forgings, tanks, etc." which was located at 855 Carling Avenue, on the northeast corner of Champagne. The company was in business from 1870 into the 1990s, where the shops on Carling stood until then.
Anyhow, in late 1925 or early 1926, a very small service station was constructed on this lot. It may have been started by Quigg who bowed out due to costs or some other reason. Or it more likely was built by the Campbells, who were getting in on the new phenomena of automobiles. In the 1920s cars were suddenly everywhere, which created a need for service stations and gas stations. The Campbell brothers evidently were getting in on this opportunity, and acquired a few lots across Ottawa and built small service stations in up-and-coming neighbourhoods.
At that time in 1925, Wellington Village saw another service station open just a block over, Welch & Davis at the corner of Caroline (which was probably unwelcome competition for the Campbells). Otherwise, there was only the Ottawa West Garage on Wellington just west of Western Avenue (which had opened in 1922), and a garage in Hintonburg at Merton Street.
The new station at the corner of Huron and Wellington was called the "Holland Service Station", and was assigned the civic address 1251 Wellington Street. A partnership with the Shell Company of Canada saw the installation of two large tanks (one 1000 gallons, the other 500 gallons) and two pumps. It is likely the building was adorned with Shell gasoline signage, and likely the name of the operator.
|Ad from around the time the station opened. |
The Ottawa Citizen, April 20, 1925.
I've never seen a photograph of this original station, which stood from 1925 to 1938, except for a couple of aerial photos which at least provide some detail on it. The photo below is from May of 1933, and shows the small station in the southwest corner of the lot, with cars parked on either side. A shortcut walking pathway goes in behind. You can see the Thyme & Again building on the left, and scaled against it, it helps show just how small the service station was.
|The Holland Service Station - May 1933|
As mentioned earlier, the formal sale of this lot, as well as the two to the east was made by Ahearn to the Campbells for $3,600 in January of 1928.
The Holland Service Station was very small in size. The photo below probably is very close to how it would have appeared. The aerial photo above shows a small 1-storey structure, with a large overhang in front that would have helped protect the single car that approached for gas. The two pumps would have looked and been located similarly as well.
|Sample photo (not of the Holland Service Station)|
to show how the original station likely appeared
The station advertised itself in listings as a "service station and gas oils" business, providing "gas, oil and greasing".
Herman Armstrong was the manager by the summer of 1927 and may have been its inaugural manager. He lived at 42 Caroline Avenue and managed the station until at least 1929, possibly a bit longer. G.R. Allan was the operator in 1932.
By 1933, 23-year old Lewis Whitney Fuller (at first with a partner Robert J. McKendry) became the new operator of the service station, a role he would keep until 1941. (McKendry would be involved only until about 1935).
In early-mid 1933, after Fuller and McKendry took over operations, the station changed names and became the "Wellington Service Station".
Below is a rare ad for the gas station, run in the Ottawa Journal in 1935 (it's the last one on the list). "Subway" refers to the area where Bank Street dipped under the train tracks (now the Queensway) at Catherine Street, creating a 'subway'. The "Subway Service Station" (as it was actually known) was operated by McKendry, so it makes sense the pair would run a listing together, even though the two stations were across town from each other.
|Ottawa Journal, May 4, 1935|
This ad below mentions the Fuller station on Wellington, and also lists all of the other Shell stations in town at the time.
|Ottawa Citizen, July 23, 1936|
The second station
On March 22nd, 1938, it was announced that a new service station would soon be built by Shell at Huron and Wellington, replacing the original one (which was only 12-13 years old). This was a significant investment by Shell, as they did not own the property, nor had they owned the first station, but now they would own the new station (on leased land from the Campbells).
|Ottawa Journal, March 22, 1938|
These plans was later confirmed when the building permit was noted in the April 2nd newspaper, indicating the Shell Oil Company had taken out a $5,000 permit to build a "cinder and stucco service station".
April 2, 1938
The new station was to be much larger and have many more features. To compare, the original station had a tax assessed value of just $500 in 1937, but the new station had a $2,600 valuation in 1938. The new building had two halves. The west half was an office, about 30x30 in size, while the larger, eastern half, had bays for cars to be worked on, and was closer to about 50 feet wide, and 25 feet deep, set back just slightly from the office. The building had a light grey stucco finish, with red lettering advertising the Shell name. Two pumps without any overhead covering were placed out front for drive-in service.
L. Whitney Fuller remained on as operator of the new station, which would have opened by the fall of 1938.
The building is illustrated in the 1948 fire insurance plan for Ottawa (see below). It appears in blue as it was of cinder block construction. The new Bank of Montreal building is shown next to it, as well as 153 Huron Avenue in behind. The fire plan doesn't share too much detail, though it does note the location of the underground tanks.
|1948 fire insurance plan|
I'm glad to say I have a few photos of the gas station, all taken within the same period of about 1949-1958. (If anyone else happens to have any other photos of the station, I would love to see them, and add them to this post!)
This first photo below doesn't actually show the station unfortunately. It's from a video clip of a vehicle driving east down Wellington approaching Holland. The red and yellow truck or jeep at left would be parked at one of the pumps. The BMO building at left has an awning up:
|1949. Shell station just out of view on the left.|
This photo is from 1957, and is fuzzy because it is the background of another photo, but I've cropped it down to show the Shell station (as well as Higman's Hardware store - now Thyme and Again).
|Circa-1957 view (courtesy of Suzanne Abercrombie)|
|Ottawa Citizen, February 28, 1947|
In 1948, a new operator took over the station, Ed Joiner, who became a big name in the auto service industry in west Ottawa.
|Ottawa Citizen. November 18, 1952.|
|Ottawa Journal, April 12, 1954|
|Ed Joiner's car "in the pits" at Lansdowne Park|
June 6, 1956. Photo by Ted Grant. Courtesy Ottawa Archives.
|Ottawa Citizen, April 28, 1958|
|Ottawa Citizen. January 22, 1962|
|Albert Legault, circa 1961 at the Shell|
station, Huron and Wellington.
(Courtesy of Jeff Legault)