Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Elgi

This week, I bought a copy of "A Theatre Near You: 150 Years of Going to the Show in Ottawa-Gatineau" by City of Ottawa Planner and heritage geek Alain Miguelez. The book was calling at me from the window of Perfect Books on Elgin near Somerset, and had been recommended to me for research into the Centretown Heritage Project. Well illustrated, it makes for a great coffee-table book, and goes all the way from the oldest vaudeville theatres to the multiplexes opened in 1999.

Miguelez discusses nearly a hundred stages, movie palaces and theatres in the book. He devotes 13 pages to the Elgin Theatre, which he defended in a passionate (yet ultimately unsuccessful) campaign to save from closure in 1994, at a time when Famous Players and other theatre chains wanted to get rid of such distractions from their suburban multiplexes (two screens no longer being enough). Originally opened in 1937, the addition of a second screen in 1948 made it the first multiple-screen theatre in Canada, if not the world.

After closing, the Elgin was converted to cafés and restaurants. The Teriyaki place next to Harvey's was recently replaced by a Quizno's, and I guess some of the lights weren't working. In this photo, it is simply the "Elgi".

A Theatre Near You is published by Manotick-based Penumbra Press, and is available at a bookstore near you.

[Look for more one-photo posts under the label Singles]

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Rideau Canal 2010: The second half

In the last post on the Rideau Canal Skateway, I shared photos from the first few days that the canal was open, and focused on what was new for 2010.

But last weekend, the canal was only open from the Mackenzie-King Bridge to the Bank Street bridge. Since then, it has opened past Bank Street the whole rest of the way. More importantly, the sky has opened up, giving us those cheerful bright days and majestic sunsets that keep me coming back onto the ice.

Up until today (Saturday), the canal was closed past Bank Street. Here at dusk, the BeaverTails chalet in the closed section at Bronson Avenue is all closed up. A crescent moon shines above.

At the Dow's Lake pavillion, the igloo-shaped change huts are ready for activation. The tire tracks in front evidence the preparation.

Between Bank and Bronson, the rose and lilac sunset shines through the silhouettes of pine trees alongside the canal, which was still closed to skaters when I took this photo.

Under the heading of 'what's new in 2010,' there's some work being done along the pathways to repair the crumbling walls of the canal. There's a stretch about halfway between Bank to Bronson on the Queen Elizabeth Drive side, and another stretch right where the leg to Hartwell's Locks meets Dow's Lake along Colonel By Drive. The respective pathways are closed and detours are in effect for pathway users.

I had already gone by here a few times this afternoon until I noticed the lamp resting on its side along the retaining wall.

I took another photo of kids playing on the banks of Pig Island, which was a great winter fun shot. But on another skate past, maintenance workers were reinstalling the tall flags. I couldn't help taking a photo of the partially-obscured flag as it read "le Pig".

Today, the parts of the canal past Bank Street, to Bronson, Dow's Lake and Hartwell's Locks, were all opened up, and the skateway was very popular--So much so that a layer of snow had accumulated from people's skate blades, which had to be cleared mid-day by the sweeper machines. Here they are making a pass across Dow's Lake.

Also in the maintenance arsenal this year, as mentioned in the previous post, is a zamboni an ice-resurfacing machine with a 60-foot-wide blade. Here it is seen in the maintenance machine pit, with the blade extensions folded alongside it.

What's really remarkable about this shot (click to enlarge, as always) is the horde of tiny skaters going along Dow's Lake. Yes, it's just a perspective thing, but the machine looks sixty feet tall, too!

This photo is actually from the opening day, taken at the BeaverTails at Fifth Avenue, but it got misplaced on one of my camera cards. When I went past, the girl was already standing like that; the photo pretty much took itself. There weren't too many people buying BeaverTails on a Thursday afternoon...

...but nine days later on a bright Saturday afternoon, the crowds were tremendous!

Here are some folks skating under the Bronson bridge, past what is apparently chalet number 1. Bronson bridge is no longer under construction as it was last year, which has good and bad effects. On the good side, we no longer have to worry about the terrible visibility and ice conditions under the scaffolding. However, one's attention, no longer focused on the ice, now is freed to take in the ugly view of the freeway overpass-type bridge (thankfully not in clear view in this photo).

Today we again got one of those spectacular, majestic sunsets, with rolling clouds painted in ethereal colours. I had to stop and just stare at it for a few minutes. The sunset does a wonderful job of framing the dome of the Lady Aberdeen Pavillion in Lansdowne Park. Click the photo to view it in full resolution and glory.

So that pretty much sums up the highlights from the couple hundred photos I took so far in this year's Canal season. While I'll still be skating as much as I have this last couple weeks, I hope to turn my blogging attention back toward roads and buildings.

If you're still hankering for Canal-related posts, click on the Canal label.

Kenson Building entrance

Maybe I've been spending too much time hanging out with the Midcentury Modernist or watching Mad Men, but I've started to actually appreciate some '60s modernist architecture. My photo collection has grown lately by photos of things like this entrance to the Kenson building on Metcalfe at Cooper:

[Look for more one-photo posts under the label Singles]

Monday, January 18, 2010

What's new on the Rideau Canal Skateway in 2010

The Rideau Canal, allegedly* the world's largest skating rink, and verifiably an UNESCO World Heritage Site, opened its skateway for the 41st season on Thursday.

If you're planning on going out, be sure to check out this page, which says whether the canal is open, how much of it, and what the conditions are (currently listed as poor).

Here's a tour of what's happening this year so far:

First of all, the Canal is only open from the NAC to Bank Street, just over 4 kilometres. See? Fence at Bank. At least this year they kept the stairways on the inside of the fence--it was a long walk last year to the next set of stairs when the ones at Bank were closed!

Not much happening until Fifth Avenue. Here they're loading the souvenir hut onto the ice.

A minor detail, but an important one: they added stairs to the near side of the washroom trailer at Fifth Avenue. The heavy traffic on the stairs on the other side, combined with the heavy traffic on the stairs up to the roadway, made it dangerous to go to the loo last year.

Ever seen a sixty-foot-wide zamboni ice-resurfacing machine? Now you have. (I haven't seen it in action yet)

Edit January 2011: Article on the machine in the Citizen: click here

Fans of the proposed Midtown Footbridge will be keen to see the footprints crossing the canal between Second Avenue in the Glebe and Herridge Street in Old Ottawa East.

And after many years, they finally moved the stairs at Patterson Creek so they are right in front of the doors of the heritage chalet. They've also upgraded these and many more of the stairways to the sturdier new metal design.

Pretoria Bridge is no longer under construction. Really I just like the bridges along the canal.

The canal also has a new pet this year. This muskrat has been hanging around the ramp at Concorde, diving underwater for weeds, then bringing them back up to snack on. This photo may not be the best, but I wanted to give the little guy some space.

The skate rental place is, of course, still there. You can rent those red sleds, too. I'm pretty sure they've modified the front steps from last year. Definitely different from two years ago. The skate rental/sharpening place at Fifth Avenue is only open on weekends. The one at the NAC is open all week, as will be the one at Dow's lake once the canal is open that far.

And red flag means the end. The north end is not yet open, but it's most of the way there. Since all the salty stormwater flows out through this, the narrowest part of the Canal, it's often the last bit to open. The snowbowl is not happening this year, but the skateway is not likely to go all the way under the bridge due to the aforementioned diffculty to attain sufficient ice thickness.

What are you waiting for? Go out there and enjoy it!

^ Ironically, despite being founded to settle arguments about superlatives, the GWR website bears no reference to such a record

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sharpen your skates...

It's that time of year again: the Rideau Canal Skateway will be opening soon, likely within the next week if the weather stays cold.

While you're waiting, why not check out these canal-related posts from the 2009 skating season:

Other Rideau Canal-related posts (not necessarily in wintertime) can be found under the Canal label

[Look for more one-photo posts under the label Singles]

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A glimmer at City Hall

Raymond Moriyama and Associates put a lot of symbolism into the construction of RMOC headquarters (now Ottawa City Hall, 110 Laurier Ave. W). For example, the pillars/columns/walls around the rotunda represent the various former municipalities.

Also interesting are little quirks like this stained-glass window. I managed to catch it at the right hour one morning as it shone a circle of light onto the floor:

[Look for more one-photo posts under the label Singles]

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A History of the Jackson Building

At the corner of downtown Ottawa's Bank and Slater streets is a large but relatively unspectacular looking nine-storey office tower.

The Jackson Building, at 122 Bank Street, may not look like much, but its understated exterior belies its rich history. Fame, chaos, and controversy are all quietly tucked into the brick walls of these government offices.

The story begins, indirectly, in the mid 19th Century. Being newly chosen as capital of the United Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, Ottawa received many migrants, many of whom were Presbyterians. Ottawa's two Presbyterian churches lent a handful of members to found a new congregation, culminating in the opening of the Bank Street Presbyterian Church in 1868 at the corner of Bank and Slater streets. Here's a map of the area from 1878, with the Church grounds at centre-right: