Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Peds on Weds: the first sidewalks in Centretown (Updated)

I was doing some research for a post about sidewalks that I'll hopefully pull together one of these days, when I came across this entry in the 1896 City of Ottawa by-law book, "to provide for borrowing money by the issue of debentures secured by special rates, for the construction of an artificial stone sidewalk as a local improvement on Elgin Street in the City of Ottawa."

While many of the by-laws of the era barely filled a single page of the annual consolidated by-laws book, this one, and others with the same purpose in other parts of the city, takes five pages to go into great detail about how the funding would be structured for a two-block section of sidewalk "on that part of the west side of Elgin Street, lying between Maria Street [Laurier Avenue West] and Cooper Street in Central Ward, in the City of Ottawa."*

There are a few things that get my geek on with this: The first is that this is the same section of sidewalk where two squares of sidewalk survived until just a few years ago. In the other blog post, I said that my friend (who now blogs himself) recalled that sidewalk having a plaque dating it to 1905. I am not sure if perhaps he misremembered the year, or if the sidewalk was re-done in 1905 (the by-law books of that decade didn't give any clear information).

Another is just the tremendous detail to which the financing arrangements are described in the by-law itself. It essentially starts with first principles and works each step toward the conclusion. Nowadays, the by-law would have very little information, the report surrounding the by-law might describe in vague terms how much it would cost, but the details about how much would be assessed to whom (setting aside the fact that we don't finance things this way anymore) wouldn't be available to anyone except with some tooth-pulling from the city bureaucracy and possibly an MFIPPA (freedom of information act) request)

I'm composing this far too late to type out the entire thing, but if anyone wants to do it and put it in a comment, I'd be happy to add in the text.

*EDIT: Owing to the aforementioned late hour, it was pointed out to me that the 100-year-old sidewalk was on the next block down, between Somerset and Cooper. Here are the by-law pages for the construction of "an artificial stone walk [i.e. concrete sidewalk] six feet in width on the west side of that part of Elgin street, which lies between Cooper street and MacLaren street in Central Ward". This will cost $671.58, "of this amount the City disburses the sum of $297.78, being the cost of two feet in width of the said sidewalk [which is the portion of sidewalk that will be on City property]. Like the first one, this took three pages of the by-law book in the form of by-law No 1618, "Given under the Corporate Seal of the City of Ottawa, this 4th day of November, A.D., 1895. Certified [by] JOHN HENDERSON, City Clerk [and] W. BORTHWICK, Mayor.":

[Tune in on Wednesdays at noon for a new pedestrian-themed blog post. View the Pedestrians label for previous Peds on Weds posts]

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