Notes from my fourth Jane’s Walk: “Uptown Rideau: Main Street Interrupted”

Details: Sunday, May 3rd, 2015, 10:30 a.m. – 12 noon
Start: Rideau Branch of the Ottawa Public Library;  End at Besserer Park, overlooking the Rideau River and Cummings Bridge

Welcome!  This is a 90-minute tour of one of Ottawa “traditional main streets.”  Why do I say it has been “interrupted”?  I mainly mean that its line of cheek-by-jowl small stores development started breaking up in the 1950s.  This is also when the automobile, which for four decades had been welcomed into our lives, either in reality or as an aspirational dream.  To have a store with only one parking spot for customers – that curb directly in front – soon was deemed insufficient.  The healthier businesses bought a neighbouring business to replace it with off-street parking.  The suburban merchants were now providing their residents with free parking, and downtown merchants had to compete.  Besides, zoning rules now existed, and any change in land use or building form brought into play these new rules (banks pretty much the same thing).

But Rideau Street also has another factor that hurt its ability to become a full-fledged main street: it was not a central focus of a neighbourhood; rather it was the boundary between two very different ones: Lowertown which by the 1950s became a guinea pig for urban renewal – subsidized housing and community services such as Ste-Anne Public School, Academie de la Salle and Le Patro, all establishing the “French fact” (when neighbouring French-speaking Vanier/Eastview was still a separate municipality).  Sandy Hill, to the north, was the traditional home to the city’s elite, business people and senior bureaucrats, with tram service along not just Rideau but Laurier Avenue E.  This created an “upstairs, downstairs” situation.  This has been exacerbated by the area being adjacent to the east part of the central area, which is home to our city’s homeless – with several drop-in centres – two along Uptown Rideau – operating as satellites.  And then there is the University of Ottawa, to the South along the Rideau Canal, bringing young adults with dreams of success and accomplishment, but also with very little money.  its student population is exploding so much– with Sandy Hill’s community association pressuring the University to take more responsibility for good and integrated housing – that two seniors homes and one hotel have recently been converted for housing freshmen, the only students the university has taken responsibility to accommodate.  Exacerbating the divide is the fact that Rideau Street is the widest of Ottawa streets, perhaps because it provided, until the building of the Queensway in the 1950s, the link to the closest of our country’s truly large cities, Montreal.

There was a third factor.  At the east end of Uptown Rideau was Ottawa’s first “heath campus” (or at least that is  what we would now call it).  It probably located here, on what was the eastern edge of the city proper, because four graveyards existed just north of the street.  A hundred years ago, the graves were (mostly) removed, and the four cemeteries – between Cobourg and Wurtemburg, owned by the Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Episcopalian – were transformed into Macdonald Gardens park, by the famous landscape architect, Frederick G. Todd, arguably Canada’s first (who first did a park plan for the predecessor of our National Capital Commission, in 1903). The “hub” was the County of Carleton Protestant Hospital [the Catholic one – for the French-speaking and the Irish and other early immigrant groups from Europe – was north of the Market on Bruyere].  As they were phased out and relocated, they left a gaping hole at the east end, which has still not been filled, except by several newer Ottawa Community Housing buildings for seniors, and the former hospital, which was somehow not demolished, even after a couple decades as a recruiting centre for Canada Forces, became a condominium under the preservation eye of Ottawa icon Sandy Smallwood, now known as Wallis House.

The details that I worked from was the “business directories” that listed occupants of all structures in the city.  Remember, it predated phone books (which, themselves, are probably living on borrowed time), and they still exist.  The early ones I pored over at the new City Archives (in Centrepointe) didn’t even have street numbers, since buildings didn’t have, then, need them).  I have recorded the information on a spreadsheet that I can share, which has the years – every five years from 1872 to the present – on the X axis, and addresses on the Y axis.  It is too big to printout.

Here are some other interesting facts about the street:

1.    The Jewish community first settled here.  Although they aspired to have businesses in the central area – and many succeeded – many opened businesses along Uptown Rideau.  Its cultural life locus was at Chapel, but it was recently sold to developers, and the procession, by foot, to the new synagogue in the west end, occurred just weeks ago.  Its community centre and Torah Talmud school were relocated to the west end years earlier.  All tThe main Jewish presence left is Rideau Bakery (across from the Rideau Library branch) and the small synagogue, the Orthodox Community of Ohev Yisroel, near Cobourg.

2.    Uptown Rideau is undergoing its second effort to define its “design.”  The initial 2005 “community design plan,” like others done across the city, was deemed lacking, as community groups kept asking why the City tended to ignore them as land-development occurred.  The existence of buildings taller than the 3-6-storey height is limited only, ironically, to the Lowertown side of the street, with most of them being built for “social housing” plus one for National Defence.  The height on the south side is mostly below the ideal heights, but the two taller structures – four storeys and five storeys – are both office buildings, giving the street some employment independent of the people working in retail, restaurants, and in their nearby homes. The street doesn’t have a coffee shop.  As the National Defence building is vacated for pending redevelopment, the businesses at the west end have really noticed the drop in trade.

3.    The oddest height-breaker is the tallest, 160 Chapel.  It is now a tony rental community, with nice shops on the ground floor.  But it started out as a students’ residence known as Pestalozzi College, planned as a clone to the notorious Rochdale College in Toronto.  While Pestaozzi, its retail space was never rented.

4.    The street is undergoing its first reconstruction in 75 years.  Work will be completed by July at a cost of $22 million.  Note the distinctive lighting, but also the fact that all wiring is buried.  Watch for four art installations.

Specific properties and features:

Lists of interesting facts at each of 10 stops along the way.

✰    Rideau OPL Branch:
–    I want to thank the short-lived Uptown Rideau Business Association (URBA) and its successor group, Friends of Uptown Rideau (FUR) for their support for this work.  It started out as simply a list of current businesses, religiously kept up-to-date, that grew to have an historic angle.  My interest was to get people together to champion the ideas of Jane Jacobs for street vitality based on understanding the business that function along main streets.  I  include a quote (below) from a little known talk she gave in 2000 in Washington DC, when she received the Vincent Skully Award — and which I transcribed from a video tape and included elswhere on this site.
–    I have used primarily “municipal directories” which are stored at City Archives: and have a spreadsheet A-Z and 1-300 to share. I “sampled” every five years: 02-03 and 07-08 every decade
–     Importance of King Edward Avenue as boundary, as route.
–     Rideau Bakery and Jewish business that supported Jewish immigrants
–     Heritage building – how few we have (only Ottawa Public Library branch, 373, and Wallis House, 589).
–     Interruption #1: Rebuilding the street (paving stone inscriptions possible, as Lowertown Community Association is proposing?)
–    Blocks cut the long-dimension on south, but the short-dimension on the North (the blocks on north are much bigger, longer)
–    Most business don’t last five yrs.  And so many relocate as part of the process of trying to survive.  To last in one location is rare.
–    LeDroit bldg on Loblaw’s lot started in 1958.  Might redevelop again, with much more height.
–    Rideau Bakery (owned by Abraham Kardish) started across street  (2 addresses) from  Littman Kardash, furrier); Sugarman’s Fine Foods from 1948-63.
–    Tasse Sporting goods (1917-1973, started out as music teacher)
–    Public Library branch, now “heritage,” started in late 1930s;
–    Fred Lallemand, yeast manufacturer, (1943-58), followed by hardware
–    The Smoke Bar (1938-63) was tobacconist, then deli.
–    Sandy Hill Cmty. Health Ctr. Was previously LaPaloma restaurant. (1953-1984), then Juliano’s.  Before that it was six different groceries, none lasting long than 5 yrs.
–    Rideau Pharmacy, also our Canada Post outlet, was previously O’Sullivan’s drugs  (1948-78) and before that John Brown Drugs (1902-1943).
–    Miss Alvira Lockhart, “artist” was a fixture from 1892-1917, then moved next door (from 386 to 384)
–    Before Rideau Gardens was built in about 1985, the last short-lived business was Grassroots Stained Glass Studio (before that, a string of groceries and cleaners and shoemakers/shoe repair)
–    Ezra Haist, physician, was at 362 from 1912 to 1938 (remember, Ottawa General Hospital was nearby and County of Carleton Protestant Hospital now at the other end of Uptown Rideau, MORE LATER)

✰    Shoppers Drug Mart:
–    [Note that there were, in 1882 40-some addresses with business in this block]
–     Nelson/ByTowne Cinema
–    Bourque/Constitution building [DND and other gov’t dep’ts.: Manpower & Training(across street at Steve’s);
–    Hugh Hinds (tinsmith & junk); Max Altman (real estate); Dundas Battery & Ignition (#300, 1928-48); Jos Zelkovitz, Furs (1938-58); Shell Oil & Bannerman Service Sta. (#333, over 50 yrs.); Abraham Friedman (shoemaker); [One time Bannerman’s was listed as owned by “Ogilvy” Bannerman, but Francis Bannerman the next year]
–    Star Cleaners started on one side, and then moved to last 25-plus years more.  Also Rideau Tailors/Cleaners, did well, too (1938-58 @ #334)
–    Nelson Theatre appeared in 1948; Bytowne succeeded because downtown cinemas problematic (note that all downtown cinemas now gone; only Lansdowne – Alain Miguelez’s book chronicles them: Rialto, Somerset, Elgin, another on Rideau, Centre)
–    Nate’s Deli (and Nate’s Steak House and “The Place Next Door”) lasted until four years ago, replaced by this two-story bldg, but it is reserved for 15 storeys) 1978-2008.
–    Interruption #2: “urban renewal” and the concentration of low-income housing (at least they buried the services).

✰    TD Bank (prior Brewer’s Retail, )
–    This property on corner was several buildings with lower numbers, but most dominant was a transportation theme: Alfred Carboneau “cab owner” was followed by Pierre Cardinal “riding studio,” then Star Garage and Graham & Lillico Garage until 1963, when it became the Brewer’s Retail, which left after 2003, leaving TD Bank to move from the Constitution building to here (two blocks east).
–    #393 new number for Bell Canada.
–    #417 United Brothers Jewish Synagogue, 1902-1953, then Beth Shalom at Chapel, Torah Talmud school also relocated to former public school on site of Beth Shalom.
–    Rideau Upholstery (1933-53 @#424)
–    Maria L. Sarazin, “picture framing” then “art director), 1917-1938, followed by Henri Morissette “art store” and then Double-A Auto Supply 1952-63)
–    #428 “Donalda Apartments” in 1917, then Commodore Apartments from 1933 on. In 1953, they were mostly used for businesses. [T.E. Sherbinin, lamp manu.; 101 Aluminum goods ltd; 102 Lucien Leblanc, arch.; 103 Isabel Miller, millinery ; 106 Andre J. Lenieux, surg.; 300a Famous Sewing Mach; 301 Monogram Specialities; 304 Austin Music Studio; 304a Commercial Collection Agency (with numbering system of “offices” it is hard to tell whether there was a taller building then, or if #s didn’t follow convention)
–    In 1970s, 160 Chapel was built as one of the “colleges” of the Ontario government, with Toronto’s Rochdale being the most notorious.  It was totally reposition in the residential market, redoing the room configurations by Regional Realty, and converted to high-end rental housing.  The ground-floor commercial never was rented until this conversion.
–    Historic note: #434: “Charles Drinkwater, private secy of Sir. J.A. Macdonald” on corner where 160 Chapel is now.
✰    Trinity development site:
–    This was a public school before Beth Shalom bought it.  They used the school building for a while and then built new building on the corner for the Jewish Community Centre.
–    Beth Shalom, deconsecrated just last month.  But Heartwood House relocated a year earlier, after buying a former Giant Tiger at 400 MacArthur, with a Unitarian congregation looking for a building to convert (Beth Shalom moved to a temporary home in the new Jewish Community Centre on Nadolny Sachs in west end at Carling/Broadview).  All of the non-profit groups moved with them except Capital City Mission, which went up a block and a half to a storefront like it used at the beginning of its existence.  Hebrew Benevolent Society was located across street (#351) (1948-53)
–    Trinity is planning on two floors of commercial over the full site, on top of a parking garage, and up to 20 floors of apartments. (Peter Ferguson).
–    The Econolodge Motel, #475 which now takes up the rest of the north side of the block, started life as the Parkway Motel.  I remember it as the site of an important meeting in tenants affairs: a tenants association of a notorious slum landlord negotiated the end to a rent strike I had organized in early 1970, that made the news nationally.  It is now owned by a man and his mother, as an Econolodge franchise.  They bought and removed the Pioneer gas bar, which had been operated by different franchises for many decades, leaving the street with only one source of gasoline now.
–    #470: a series of auto-sales lots, the Korea Gardens was built there in about 1985.  This restaurant moved down the street near Rideau Bakery only a year ago, changing its name.  The Korean grocery, Green Grocers, closed soon afterwards (although the real-estate signs are down, the premises sits dormant, full of what looks like personal effects).
–    #478: used car lot (1923) and then Molot’s Drug Store, before it moved to Charlotte and into a building with its name on it; then in 1973, the home for Hobby House, now in Vanier, where you can see a display of their many-location history.
–    On opposite corner: It was a grocer’s space for many decades, first a franchise for the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (A&Ps), then Simpson’s Food Market, which interestingly became Simpson’s Hardware, before becoming, for 20 years a video-rental place, for Marmaduke and then the Adult Video Warehouse, which moved kitty-corner to its present place in the next block.

✰    Parking Lot at Shawarma King
–    The third “interruption” is poverty, mental illness, and drug use.  We stand between our two drop-in centres, one of which recently lost its funding, and can’t offer meals anymore, as the City is emphasizing housing now.  This is the most visible mark in Uptown Rideau of the more visible signs of it to the west of King Edward Avenue.  But poverty is not always so visible: the Ottawa Community Housing buildings visible from here represent “housed” poverty, mostly of seniors living on only their OAS and GIS cheques.  There are those with mental illness who live at MacDonald Manor at Cobourg and Beausoleil, who are trying, somewhat successfully, to stake a claim to the August turnaround for their outdoor space (which is now part of the draft Uptown Rideau Community Design Plan.  And there are the bulk of OCH buildings, including the tower at Angelsea Square on Murray and the two slightly newer towers on Friel behind the Bell building and th, mostly for low-income familes.  There is also the converted retirement residence now used for Ottawa U. first-year students. These units are filled mostly now – quite different from 45 years ago when I was involved with the Canadian Association of Public Housing Tenants (1971-1974), organizing rent-geared-to-income tenants at the city, provincial, and national levels – by new immigrants, many refugees fleeing persecution.  These immigrants are luckier than the ones living in our suburbs, where not having a car is a real problem.  Not only do we have two supermarkets and seven pharmacies, but Rideau Street has at least four bus routes, with extra ones at the ends (plus, the #5 crosses at Charlotte and the #1 and #9 at the west end).  Another “immigrant” community are the 50,000 students attending the U. Of Ottawa.  Several of our businesses now have 10%-off days for them (no such treatment for the others who are poor).
–    #530 Shawarma King, like the Quickie store at the other end of the block, shows the influx of the fourth “Interruption” the car.  Both have off-street parking provided, which the city zoning pretty much requires, although that is changing a bit.  The Quickie was a Seven-Eleven before, and this restaurant was a Tommy’s Doughnuts shop. In between the latter two, there were two directories that listed no business in the premises.
–    #516 was a series of business that stayed longer than one directory listing: a shoemaker, and a couple grocers.  Then in 1933 the Sandy Hill Fruit Market stayed for four editions, and then the Vienna Restaurant for nine listings.  Now the Orthodox Community of Ohev Yisroel, our only remaining Jewish synagogue and vestige of the Jewish immigration wave of early in the last century, remains.  They have recently done exterior improvements.
–    The building to its west of it is owned by a Polish man, and housed a travel agency, Nelson Travel and the Polish Travel agency.  This closed down only in the last years, along with a web-design business, converting the space back to apartments.  The only business now, is ZURT, a another Polish immigrant, Richard Rat, who opens only in the early evening after he finishes a day job.  Another Polish immigrant owns – and lives in – one of the Domicile live-work units across the street – where he once operated a shoe-repair shops, and the drop-in centre at the corner, where he once operated a café.
–    This block has seen its share of redevelopment lately.  The buildings across from us were part of John Doran’s Domicile Development’s project in the late ‘90s.  Mostly made up of smaller townhomes, he thankfully reserved the Rideau Street frontage – and little more – for “live-work” units that are even smaller.  The nice apartment building in their midst was saved and converted to a condominium.  Note that the “back yards” of the north-facing row units sit on the stores’ roofs.  These units, Doran said during a Human Library session I had with him two years ago, were sold for $79k.  The unit at the west end, for a long time our only furniture store, the Watermelon Seed, was listed for $450k.  The Regine hair stylist storefront beside it, is a nice repurposing of an older building, and is still the nicest property on the street.  The post-amaglamation zoning allows up to three units to be converted to residential uses only (no storefronts on ground floor).
–    The former Culinary Conspiracy café and catering business is in a building that spent most of its life as as Landmarck Apartments.  It was not used for commercial purposes until the 1970s, as a real-estate office.  But before that, tenants’ business interests would be mentioned in the directories, one being Wm. Heal, undertaker, (1923) and Francis H. Ennis, “public works.”  Another interesting thing is there must have been three buildings between it and Cobourg, as I have directory listings for them (Cobourg was widened during road work for the urban renewal).  The current owner of the building, Robert Jutras, has sold the business to an employee and is now trying to sell the building and land for redevelopment – to boutique builder, Akash Sinha, of Darma Developments.
–    #538 (1933, first structure, Nellie Sack confy.  After: Augustin Proulx, confy; Centurion & Nathan’s Deli (1884), and finally Angelo’s Pizza since mid-1980s.
–    #544 (Passage to India next door).  Yakatoria House rest.
–    #560 Richcraft site (former Don Mann Motors, McKenzie Motors, and Rideau Street Garage, vacant since about 1980)  [Peter Ferguson]

✰    Wurtemburg & Lady Stanley
–    (Corner) #582 (Progosh, Harris – Samual and Ben, Nazrallah grocers) and Famous Falafels, at end
–    590 Barbara Ann Salon (1973-84)  [Barbara Ann Scott spent part of childhood in house demolished for road “improvements” at west end of Cummings Bridge.
–    Ottawa Transit Commission transfer point
–    #596 Focus Scientific (1984-88), then beauty depot, and now Hasty Mart
–    Richcraft “temporary” park and OMB-approved development [Peter Ferguson]
–    Wallis House and the “hub” of Ottawa first “health campus”
–    #600 Service stations, then plaza built in 1970s


✰    Wurtemburg in front of Watergate Apartments
–    Watergate [PETER]
–    Borden House [PETER]
–    McDonald Gardens [PETER]
–     #633-655 (east side of Wurtemburg) Children’s Hospital and then Children’s Aid Society, then a garage, before this OCH building, one of the first for seniors, was built.

✰    Pretoria Park
–    Prince Charles Court and Whitehall apts. on north side, where the Romania Embassy is now located [PETER, re development]
–    The bridges and island (view to east shows the former path of older bridge, which charged tolls when privately owned.
–    the boardwalk along the river on west side (largest section in Strathcona Park and Bordeleau Park).
–    There were nine houses that once sat here, but were in the way of “safety” and speed.
–    Changing the park’s characteristics.  Rather than cutting down the flow to stifle “street people”, I have chosen to open it up, enhance its views, make it a more direct route for “active modes.”
–    (wrap up)  Read quote (see below)

= = = = Jane Jacob’s 2000 Washington Talk upon Receiving the Vincent Skully Award = = = = (found on this site:

“My second suggestion has to do with communities’ needs for hearth, or centres, and with related problems.  Damage done to neighbourhoods by commercial incursion where they are inappropriate. The desirability of community hearths is well recognized nowadays.  Much thought goes into designing them for new communities and inserting them into neighbourhoods that have lost community hearths or never had them.  The object is to nurture locales where people, on foot, will naturally encounter one another in the course of shopping, doing other errands, promoting their causes, airing their grievances, catching up on gossip, and perhaps enjoying a cookie or beer under many-coloured umbrellas.”



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