Tuesday, December 12, 2023

A 1940s Christmas at Byron House

For the December issue of the Kitchissippi Times, I've written about a local history story that has unfortunately become lost to time. 

One of the most impressive homes on Island Park Drive played an important role during WWII! Read all about "Byron House" at https://kitchissippi.com/2023/11/30/early-days-a-1940s-christmas-at-byron-house/

Byron House/Kirkpatrick House in 1940

Bonus content! Incredibly, a telephone call from July 1941 made by two of the children at Byron House on Island Park Drive back home ot the UK was recorded and preserved by the BBC. You can hear a snippet of this call from Polly and Geoffrey Carton at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/school-radio/history-ks2-world-war-2-clips-children-evacuated-abroad/zby4bdm

I've also amazingly tracked down video footage of the children at Byron House in an archive in the UK. I'm working with an archivist there to hopefully acquire this film footage (I have no idea how long it is, or what it shows), but I think it would be amazing to see some video of the house and the children enjoying it 80 years ago. Fingers crossed I'm able to get ahold of it soon.

The Byron House children out front of 539 Island Park Drive

The Byron House children work on a miniature model
of Island Park Drive as part of a school project in 1940

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Kitchissippi's Heritage over the last 20 years & the urgency of what's coming next

My November article for the Kitchissippi Times is an important one. I usually cover a single topic or event for the Times, but this month, as it was the 20th Anniversary issue for the Times, I chose to write about how heritage has evolved in our neighbourhoods over the last twenty years. But more importantly, how heritage is severely threatened by Ontario Bill 23, which in a year's time will effectively render almost all of our most heritage-worthy (but not-yet-designated) buildings exempt from designation. 

This is an issue which is getting hardly any attention in mainstream media. Maybe because there's still another year to go until it becomes a real problem. But that year will go quickly, and by then, or even six months from now, it will be too late. 

Please read the article to learn more about what we stand to lose not only in Kitchissippi, but across Ottawa and the province as a whole. 


The only solutions are to cross fingers and close our eyes and hope the provincial government changes its mind about the heritage registers (not likely, maybe not even possible now); to ignore it and just let it happen and see so many heritage designation-worthy buildings be torn down and there will be nothing we can do about it; or we can act now and pursue designation of those buildings we deem most important to maintain. 

As part of the article, the Times filmed me giving a little 15 minute guided tour of Kitchissippi's most heritage-worthy buildings, with a few quick facts and details about a few of them. You'll find the video at the bottom of the article, or you can view it directly on Youtube at:


I know the City and our councillor Jeff Leiper, as well as each community association in Kitchissippi, are taking steps to review what might be possible, and to prioritize which buildings ought to be reviewed for designation. I wrote up a detailed report myself for Jeff's office, and included a "top 25" list for his consideration, and I'll be speaking with all the community associations next week about it, and offering my help. But it will take a lot of community input to help push this along. It's a mad scramble, and it's a mess, but this is what we're stuck with.

If you'd like to provide your input, the City is asking for it! Check out this link for how you can contribute: https://engage.ottawa.ca/reviewing-heritage-register

More to come!

How garbage helped build the parkway and saved Mechanicsville

This fall, I wrote a two-part column for the Kitchissippi Times on how garbage was used to fill in three bays on the Ottawa River, between Mechanicsville and LeBreton Flats, creating artificial land. That land was primarily used for the creation of the Kichi Zībī Mīkan (Ottawa River Parkway), but much of it still remains unused, awaiting potential future use by the NCC for embassies or who knows what at LeBreton. 

Part one I previously posted here in the Museum (https://kitchissippi.com/2023/09/11/early-days-from-landfill-to-useable-land-how-the-ottawa-river-shoreline-was-built-using-garbage/).

This is part two: https://kitchissippi.com/2023/10/25/early-days-how-garbage-helped-build-the-parkway-and-saved-mechanicsville/

Part two focuses on Lazy Bay, and how this popular water spot was filled in, which may have actually saved Mechanicsville. If it wasn't for filling in the Bay, the Parkway may have had to run much further south, which would have cut significantly into the housing of the neighbourhood. And honestly, that wouldn't have been seen as that bad an option to City Council, who considered the whole of Mechanicsville for major urban renewal at the time. A huge 1960s project would have seen the entirety of the neighbourhood torn down a la LeBreton, and replaced by apartment blocks. Thankfully this was avoided, in part due to the filling of Lazy Bay. 

The building of the National Arts Centre also played a key role in filling in these bays, and you'll want to read about the astonishing fact that less than a year after garbage was dumped indiscriminately in to the bays, expensive contracts were let to remove some of the garbage! (But only in certain areas, certainly not the full length of the Ottawa River). 

I plan on writing a "part 3" over the Christmas break (exclusively here for the Museum) on what all this means today, and what water and soil testing and sampling has shown over the last 20-30 years. The results are interesting, and I put in quite a bit of time in the fall digging in to the results. So more to come on that soon. 

Note, I will also be making a presentation about this whole topic, which will feature many visuals/photos/etc. for the Historical Society of Ottawa on Saturday January 27th. It will be at 1 p.m. but will NOT be broadcast online I don't think. It will be an in-person Speaker Series event at the auditorium of the Ottawa Public Library. I don't believe you need to be a member of the HSO to attend, but I certainly encourage you to consider taking out a membership to help this valuable group, and the work they do to help promote and preserve heritage in Ottawa. 


Please enjoy part two and perhaps I'll see you in January!

Lazy Bay-Bayview Bay-Nepean Bay in 1928

The same three bays in 2022