Monday, August 1, 2011

Colonel By Day in Ottawa

Here's a photo from April of the Rideau Canal locks at the Ottawa River. In the background are the Bytown Museum (housed in the oldest building in Ottawa), the Canadian Museum of Civilization behind it on the other side of the river, and the Alexandra Bridge connecting Ottawa and Gatineau. Walking across the uppermost lock is a wedding party.

You can celebrate too today: in Ottawa, the first Monday in August is Colonel By Day. There are events going on at the Bytown Museum, and at Confederation Park. It's named for Coloney John By, who was the engineer in charge of the construction of the canal in the 1820s-1830s. Bytown, later renamed Ottawa, was named after him.

Not visible in this photo, but at the bottom of the locks, is a stone Celtic Cross monument honouring the (mostly Irish) workers and their families (as many as a thousand) who died in the construction of the Rideau Canal.

The Corktown Footbridge is also named to honour the many Irish immigrants who built the bridge. They lived in an encampment along the canal which they called "Corktown," named for County Cork in Ireland, where many of them were from. I was on the naming committee for the bridge, and one of the striking aspects of the name is that it isn't named for a single powerful individual, but the everyday people who were just as instrumental for the accomplishment of great projects (it also balances the nationalities of the Laurier and Mackenzie-King bridges crossing the canal in downtown Ottawa). The Corktown Bridge restored some of this balance that was lost when the Sappers and Miners Bridges were merged and renamed the Plaza Bridge.

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

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