PO Box 523, Station B,
Ottawa, ON, K1P 5P6

PO Box 523, Station B, Ottawa, ON, K1P 5P6
Tuesday, 30 April 2024 09:50

Ottawa’s Landmark Homes

149 Somerset West 149 Somerset West Photo by Richard Collins

Ottawa is one big graveyard! Cemeteries are peaceful. Some like to stroll among the dearly departed to get away from the noise and chatter of daily life. Historians, on the other hand walk among the graves hoping that the tombstones will tell a story of those below.

I feel the same way when I walk the streets of Centretown, Lowertown, Sandy Hill, and Hintonburg. Old houses are my memorials to the past. Big or small, elaborate or modest, Ottawa’s houses of the 19th and early 20th century tell us how the people who lived in them . . . lived. To me cemeteries are about death. But the homes of those now gone are about the life that they chose or inherited.

For the HSO March 13, 2024, Zoom presentation, I took people on a journey of the residences that were once a place of relaxation after a hard day at the office . . . or store, or operating room, or laboratory, or forest. The unadorned elegance of homes in Lowertown – some of wood, others of stone – reveal the modest lifestyles of Ottawa’s labourers and lower management civil servants.

Brick, on the other hand, was the preferred choice for the upper crust of Upper Town. The streets of Centretown run red with Edwardian masterpieces. These homes hint of a congenial social norm where the women played Whist in the parlor, while their husbands discussed the rising or falling business climate in the sitting room across the hall.

At the southern extremity of the Bank and Elgin streetcar lines, Glebe became the exclusive domain of brokers and bankers. These people could afford the services of local architects like Werner Noffke and William Caven Beattie, who were commissioned to design “revival” homes in colonial and Classical styles, and to avoid, at all costs, the staid British styles of the “old money” families.

Part One of Who Lived Here? can be seen at the HSO YouTube website.