Monday, April 27, 2009

Centretown History Project - Elgin/Museum

This is the inaugural post of the Centretown History Project. You'll be able to filter CHP posts by visiting the url

The Centretown History Project helps to get in touch with the history of Centretown. We've been here for a long time, and it's fascinating to get in touch with the stories that have gotten us to where we are today.

I've started with a visit to the City of Ottawa archives at 111 Sussex to get some old photos. I've scanned them in high resolution and done my best to get a comparable shot from today.

So without further ado, here's my first post:

Here's a shot from the 1954, taken on the grounds of the Museum of Nature ( The owner of Elgin Street Motors is giving away two Studebakers to a contest winner:

Below I've cropped a shot from today and the shot above so you can do a side-by-side comparison. As always, click to view full-size.

There are a number of things to note here. All the buildings on Elgin Street are still there, but a few new buildings were added. Even the two trees in the background are still there, though the one in the foreground has been paved with a parking lot.

The Tiffany building at 150 the Driveway was under construction in the background of the '50s photo. This building was quite a feat: in addition to being a luxury apartment building, it was built on a bog, north of what was eventually to become the Queensway.

There is one building that is visible in the old photo that isn't still there. See the building at the end of Park avenue? In the '60s the City bought up the whole block, as well as the one across the Canal from it, to serve as bridge footings for a second expressway (akin to the Queensway) that would come down Elgin and meet up with the 417. Of course, that never happened, and the the block is now mostly occupied by a residential tower and some houses. Correction: The building at the end of the street was 60 McLeod, Ottawa's first condominium. This replaced the former Cartier Street Public School, built around 1906 and closed in the 1930's to merge with the Elgin Street Public School. It was then picked up by National Defense during WWII, declared surplus and sold to developers in the late 1960s.

Correction continued: The block that the City had owned for an expressway bridge footing was the block *South* of Park avenue, East of Cartier. It was eventually sold to build the Barry Hobin condo at 130 the Driveway (the red brick condo visible on Microsoft Live Maps here).

So there's a little taste of Centretown history, from an amateur historian.

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