Monday, February 26, 2024

A big change: Island Park Drive just before the Queensway arrived!

I recently found a very cool photo that I just had to write a blog post about. But the photo requires a little background info...

The summer of 1960 was the beginning of major changes for the residents of Island Park Drive near what is now the Queensway. This would have been a pretty quiet spot for the most part, especially after the trains stopped running in 1952. Westenders must have enjoyed the quiet from the disappearance of the trains, while also enjoying the new found freedom of crossing north/south without the safety risk.

Up until 1952, the CNR Renfrew Division line had tracks running through the entirety of Kitchissippi. This line has a history all the way back to 1892 with the creation of the Ottawa, Arnprior, and Parry Sound Railway. This single track certainly created a division line through the neighbourhood, but it was nowhere near the size or obtrusion that the Queensway would become, making 1960 a true milestone year when the neighbourhood changed significantly.

Here is what the track looked like near Island Park Drive in 1955, which would have been about the same five years later. Just an abandoned lonely railway track to nowhere.

Abandoned CNR rail tracks in August 1955. 
Kingsway United Church (now Kitchissippi UC) is at
left, and the view is to the west. The crossing at Island 
Park Drive is in the foreground. 
(City of Ottawa Archives, CA-024213)

The track had been removed in the late fall of 1952 from just west of this location, at about where Carling intersected the old CN line, all the way west to South March, and then trains still running into Ottawa were permanently switched to the Beachburg line instead. This little diagram from the Ottawa Journal does a good job of describing that:

Ottawa Journal, September 16, 1952

The tracks running east from Carling through Kitchissippi sat mostly abandoned for another 7-8 years, until the NCC finally removed the tracks to as far as Bayswater sometime between late fall 1959 and early 1960. The downtown tracks on the crosstown line were still being used for reversing trains, and for downtown businesses who used spurs and still depended on them until they could relocate their operations. They would come out a couple years later.

The big day came on August 2nd, 1960, when Island Park Drive was closed to through traffic, to allow for a complete makeover of this location. Sewers were rerouted, the new Queensway overpass was constructed, and the actual route Island Park Drive took would change. With the closure of Island Park Drive, all traffic was instead rerouted down Harmer and Helena!

The closure lasted more than a year. Holland was also closed for similar Queensway-related reasons during this time, and when it was finished, Parkdale then was closed. It must not have been an easy time to get around in the west end. In fact, the Citizen called it "bedlam" at one point. Especially for the residents of Helena and Harmer. Can you imagine steady traffic running in both directions on those streets? With no Queensway yet, Island Park closed, and Holland closed?  

Ottawa Citizen, August 2, 1960

Ottawa Citizen, August 29, 1960

The changing of the path of Island Park Drive was a big change. But the original Island Park Drive still remains today. What is today Island Park Crescent is actually the original Island Park Drive. If you drive along Island Park Drive south from that spot where you can turn off IPD onto Island Park Crescent in front of Hampton Park, all the way until you come out from under the Queensway by Kitchissippi United Church, that is all "new" roadway created in 1960-1961. 

The trees and greenspace of Hampton Park used to come much further east all the way over to what is now Island Park Crescent (so that open, hilly greenspace next to the Queensway offramp was originally all part of Hampton Park, as was what is now Island Park Drive in this section).

So here comes the photo I was excited to find...

On August 8th, a photographer from the Ottawa Citizen captured the Dibblee Construction Company working on the rerouting of the sewers.

Island Park Drive looking south-east during sewer rerouting work
August 10, 1960 (City of Ottawa Archives, CA-27955)

The photographer would have been standing in front of Hampton Park, about where the offramp ends and curves onto Island Park Drive today. Some of those sewers and works can be seen today in the grassy area between IPD and IPC still. And they certainly still exist underneath... that is the beginning of the Cave Creek Collector.

I cropped out the ugly sewer trench for the below photo, which then creates a cool panoramic view of Island Park Drive itself, and the houses at left, as well as start of Island Park, Ruskin and Kenilworth streets that can be seen in the distance on the right.

Same photo cropped (pt of City of Ottawa Archives, CA-27955)

It's impossible to be able to do a then-and-now kind of comparative photo because the Queensway just takes up so much of the old space, and it is elevated enough that there's no way to capture a similar angle. I did the best I could using Google Streetview, which at least shows the three houses at the left, and then whammo, there's the Queensway overtop of most everything else in the centre of the above photo. So, so different:

Google Streetview 2016 - Island Park Drive offramp

And to get a close-up view of those three houses (625-629-633 Island Park Crescent today), also shows how cut-off they became. They went from being in the wide open, on the main, picturesque Island Park boulevard, with just a solitary train track separating them from the greenspace alongside and the rest of IPD on the south, to being literally walled in.

Considering that the original right-of-way for the CNR line was only 80 feet, and the NCC was obligated under the terms of the agreement to expand this to 180 feet to fit the Queensway, it's surprising that very few houses in this vicinity had to be expropriated and moved/demolished to make it fit (this was not the case a little to the east, and particularly through Hintonburg, where groups and sometimes full blocks of houses had to be expropriated and either demolished or moved). 

The Citizen published a photo of the ongoing construction a week later, but other than the creative view through a sewer, it's kind of a boring photo. 

Ottawa Citizen, August 16, 1960

Here is a view less than a year later of the same area, with the overpass construction underway. I wish more progress shots like this existed, but this appears to be the only close-up oblique aerial I've seen of the IPD part of the Queensway under construction.

April 1961 Island Park Drive overpass under construction.
Island Park Drive running south at top.
(City of Ottawa Archives, CA-08453)

Hope you enjoyed seeing this photo of the final days of Island Park Drive before the Queensway arrived in and changed the neighbourhood!

p.s. You can read more on the arrival of the Queensway in an article I wrote (9 years ago!?) at the Kitchissippi Times:


  1. I am curious. Why cannot an eastbound Queensway driver exit onto IPD. Why cannot IPD drivers exit onto the Queensway. This was intentional in the 1950's planning, but why?

    1. hi Ed. I think it's simply a case that they didn't have the space to add it in that area. They had to do a lot of expropriation to widen the right-of-way through Hintonburg and downtown, and even there they squeezed in where they could (the offramp westbound at Parkdale went down Westmout Ave, there is no onramp eastbound all the way from Parkdale to Metcalfe).

      In this particular area, they couldn't (or didn't want to) touch Westgate or Kingsway Church and the upper-end houses along Island Park, Ruskin, etc. that would have had to be expropriated, so they couldn't add any kind of ramps on the south side I guess. Even in recent years, they had to abandon the handy eastbound onramp behind Westgate because new rules about required onramp space couldn't be met after the widening. And that was a squeezed-in on-ramp too (as is that Parkdale on-ramp... it's an unbelievably fast merge at that spot).

      It clearly was a major planning challenge to make the QW on/off ramps work between Kirkwood and Lees. Outside of that segment, they were able to build what they called "cloverleaf" access ramps, to allow for easy access on and off in both directions, but it was a lot of Macgyvering to make it work in the central area.

  2. Hi Dave I love what you do. I have a question about the house at the corner of Island Park, Crescent (now,) and Geneva. I saw a story about the Sears Magnolia model home that was a kit , and I think that House might be a Magnolia ( currently a residence of the Ethiopian embassy, I believe) I’m curious if there are other kit houses in the neighbourhood. Thank you.John Lindsay