Monday, January 6, 2020

Wellington Street Part 2: The west end's Muddy Trails to street rails (1828-1870s)

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In the previous post, we drew lines from the Dukes of Richmond and Wellington and connected them to the roads bearing their names in Ottawa via the Earl of Dalhousie and Colonel By. We ended with Colonel By establishing By Town and laying down Wellington and Rideau Streets in Upper Town and Lower Town, respectively.

Today we continue the saga of Ottawa's Wellington Street and start to look at its earliest connections with other roads and the names they've had. We'll be focusing on the western end of Wellington Street as it skirts around the edge of LeBreton Flats. (The full list of posts is in the Introductory post in this series, populated as each part is posted)

Map (Sketch) of Rideau Canal drawn by Lt Col John By 1828-05-05, cropped to the intersection of Ottawa and Rideau Rivers with the nascent Bytown and initial canal locks. A yellow east-west line along the path of Rideau/Wellington Streets curves at its east end northwards and crossing the Ottawa River at the Chaudière Falls, where it intersects with Wright's Britannia Road (later Aylmer Road). At the curve, a less prominent line extends southward toward Hogsback and continues following the Rideau River. Obtained from

Union Bridge across the Chaudière

One of By's first orders of business was to contract Thomas McKay1 to build the two stone arches of the Union Bridge across the Ottawa River at the Chaudière Falls, thus connecting the newly created By Town with Wrightstown (later Hull, now Gatineau) in Canada West (later Lower Canada, later Quebec),2,3 as that more established settlement had the necessary resources with which to build a new one and, in turn, a canal.4

This connection across the Chaudière Falls was built in Winter 1826-1827 by two companies of the Royal Sappers and Miners who would then "live in tents near Richmond Landing until their stone barracks on the eastern slope of Barrack Hill are constructed."5 The row of bridges ended in the lowlands near Richmond Landing, on Nepean Township's Lot 40, the northern part of which was owned by Colonel Le Breton (who hadn't granted permission).6

Pooley's Bridge and the Wellington link

A connection would necessarily have been made between the Union Bridge over the Chaudière and the western end of Bytown, marking the first of what would be many times that Wellington is connected to another road (there being nothing else to connect to, such a connection would presumably have been continuous), however I've seen no sketch of what this would have looked like, aside from the above, and Wellington might have only gone straight to the water down the cliff without connecting to the Bridge.

In 1827, By ordered Lieutenant Pooley to construct a bridge over a gorge to make this connection more direct, resulting in a bridge of round timber7,8 (replaced in 1873 by a stone bridge built by Thomas Keefer as part of the Fleet Street water pumping station and aqueduct).7 The bridge now only carries pedestrian and bicycle traffic, but is still called Pooley's Bridge. That bridge appears on this 1828 sketch,6 showing Wellington meeting the "Road to Hogsback" at a right angle. If there had previously been a continuous road/trail between Wellington and Chaudière, this right angle would make it the first time that Wellington was disconnected.

In An Acre of Time, Jenkins writes that "John LeBreton ... paid for two road extensions to link Pooley's Bridge with the west end of Upper Town,"9 which fills in a piece of that puzzle. I'll use the term "Wellington trail" to distinguish the informal narrow route that winds around according to geographic features from the formally laid-out and squared section of Wellington.

At the Ottawa Room, I found this photocopy of an 1858 reproduction (NMC43156) of a map from 1831 (NMC14284).

NMC43156: Similar boundaries as the 1828 map: excerpt of a map with the Chaudière crossing at the bottom (north) side of the map, and various buildings and landmarks are indicated on the map. A windy narrow road leads across various bridges from Hull through the islands to LeBreton Flats on the Ontario side, then the road soon after splits into one fork heading southwest to Richmond, and the other heading southeast over Pooley's Bridge. At the top of the hill, at the left of the map, is Upper By Town, laid out north of the very wide and straight Wellington Street, with Kent St and Vitoria St and various lots laid out with building outlines sketched on them. These three streets are the only square, formally laid out ones, aside from unbuilt road allowances (reserve roads) on the concession lines between lots. The west end of Wellington Street, the square portion of which ends before the concession line (modern day Bronson Avenue) continues west on a non-straight narrow road that connects down the hill to Pooley's Bridge (which isn't labelled on this version). It forks just before Pooley's Bridge with a main section being the road south to Hog's Back.

The original map10 show below has more detail, and more clearly shows Pooley's Bridge (which is not labelled) and seems to show Wellington trail more clearly. It either forks evenly at Pooley's Bridge, or the Road to Hog's Back is more prominent. This would suggest that rather than meeting the Pooley's-Hog's Back road at a right angle, they were now both continuous with Wellington.

NMC14284: Same description as above, except the settlement on the Quebec side (Township of Hull) is in view, and throughout there is more shading to indicate the geography. The gorge under Pooley's Bridge is far more identifiable, as is the cliff on the river side of Upper By Town.

If true, this would make it the first time Wellington was reconnected to another road. However, both the 1828 and 1831 maps appear to show the roads meeting around roughly the same geographic features, so it's likely they're both describing the same on-the-ground situation (albeit very differently—look at the Hog's Back Road in relation to the Concession line!), and given that the 1831 map refers to "Mr. La Britton", and elsewhere Besserer as "Mr. Bissera" one cannot consider it perfect.

These are the kinds of inconsistencies that have made this project take so long. I think it's safe to say that Wellington (or the trail extending from it) has had at least one disconnection and/or reconnection from another "road", at the very least with the creation of Pooley's Bridge (vs. whatever route was used prior), and possibly another depending on the connections on the bridge's east side in the maps above.

Incidentally, the Wellington trail would have also connected to the Richmond Road, although not continuously (the map above shows it forking in the opposite direction, coming off the bridge), foreshadowing Wellington Street's future connections to Richmond.

LeBreton Flats is laid out

In 1842, a plan was developed to lay out the roads and properties on LeBreton's lot. The map, drawn by District Surveyor Donald Kennedy on December 4th, also features a detailed rendering of the Union Bridge over the Chaudière.11

NMC19056 1842-12-04 Plan of Bytown, focused on the area showing divided lots in Upper Town, Spark's property, and LeBreton Flats (west of Concession Line, modern Bronson, and north of Richmond Road, modern Albert/Laurier), Most of the planned roads in LeBreton Flats are drawn as they would be until the 1960s.

It's important to note that these are merely lines on paper; nothing was built yet, as is evident by the conflicting extensions of Wellington Street at the south end of LeBreton Flats.

This drawing of "the Chaudière area", an inset of a 1980(?) redrawing of an 1842 map,12 shows little but the Wellington trail crossing Pooley's Bridge and connecting to the Chaudière crossing and road to Richmond:

Map of 'The Chaudière area from plan by lt-col by, aug 11, 1828' showing Victoria and Chaudiere Islands, the north end of LeBreton Flats, and the west extension of Wellington Street. The Wellington trail comes in from the right, then down, makes a sharp turn west across a body of water then curves up to meet the road connecting to Chaudière crossing and the road to Richmond in a Y of ambiguous orientation.

More precisely, this 1845 map13 shows only a single tail of Wellington, leading across Pooley's Bridge, and no other streets. However, it appears that a new road has been built connecting to the Chaudière Bridges and the Québec side of the river. The roads to Richmond and Hog's Back are not shown at all, suggesting that the roads shown are more built up than the trails to those places (and perhaps, with the canal having been completed in 1830,14 the road to Hog's Back may have become redundant). Or perhaps the map maker simply didn't draw them, as is the case with the Sparks property, which would have at least had a farm on it.15

1845 Plan of Upper Bytown Shewing the boundaries as marked on the ground and laid out agreeably to the M. G. & Board's order, with a boundary line added 1848 showing the northern limit of the Sparks property (Lot C, Concession C). Wellington Street is laid out on the right side of the map, with Upper Town lots and building outlines drawn north of it (between modern day Bronson and Bank). South of Wellington Street it just says Mr. Sparks and Kent Street is vaguely drawn. At the west end of Wellington, just before modern day Bronson, the road turns southwest and begins to narrow to a small lane, before reaching Pooley's bridge (the waterway underneath it not being drawn in) and then extending west as a narrow ribbon toward the Chaudiere crossing.

Note that in the above map, alongside the connection to Union Bridge (which roughly follows the alignment of the diagonal road on the 1842 plan which would eventually become Duke Street, also named for the Duke of Richmond9) is a second road labelled "old road", which means that we have found another time that Wellington's connections have changed!

This black-and-white reproduction of an 1845 watercolour by Thomas Burrowes, reproduced in the 1927 book by Ross (the one with the wrong information about the first settlers in Part 1) shows a scene looking east from the "West end of Wellington Street".16 I'd venture to guess that the road along the right fence is the connection between Wellington Street and Pooley's Bridge.

Drawing of a fenced rectangle of cleared land with a farmhouse on the far end. On the left is a cliff down to the Ottawa River. On the right is a dirt road running alongside the property, with some pedestrians drawn in, including a mother and small child. Across this road is another farm property with fenced yard, and beyond that yard are faint outlines of buildings that presumably were on Wellington Street.

George Street and Victoria Terrace

Next we have this 1856 map,17 which shows the first time a road continuous with Wellington Street has a name. I can't find out how or exactly when it got the name, but so-called "George Street" now connects Wellington to Pooley's Bridge along the route I temporarily referred to as "Wellington trail", formally ending at Hill Street.18 The street continues as Victoria Terrace, connecting to Richmond Road, which by now has taken a more formal alignment, in line with the road allowance between Lot C and Lot D (i.e. Maria Street, present day Laurier Avenue). Lot 40 runs perpendicular to lots C and D so I'm not really sure how the concession line cuts through it, but there you have it. This map also shows only the lots, and not the actual built situation, but it does label the area "LEBRITTON", north of Richmond Road.

Crop of a map from 1856 which shows Bytown with limits at Bank Street (East), Centre Street (now Somerset, South), City Limits (Now City Centre Ave, West), and the Ottawa River (North). Wellington Street, Richmond Road, and the streets connecting them are highlighted in yellow, and the western city limits are highlighted in blue. The lots of Sparks, Sherwood, Rochester, 'Lebritton', and Malloch & Rochester are labelled, as are their subdivided streets and lots. Hill edges are marked at Mount Sherwood and along the Ottawa River behind Victoria St (present day Supreme Court), and continuing west along Wellington Street through to Richmond. Between Bay and Concession Line (now Bronson), Wellington Street makes an abrupt turn southwest and is labelled George St which heads to the east approach to Pooley's Bridge and continues to Hill Street (now Brickhill) after which it becomes Victoria Terrace where it meets Richmond Road at a shallow angle on the southern boundary of LeBreton Flats. Richmond Road is drawn as continuous in line with Maria Street (now Richmond). North of Richmond Road, nothing is drawn west of Broad Street aside from the name of the property owner (Malloch & Rochester), and south of Richmond Road nothing is shown that is more than a few houses west of Preston.

This was an official name for the street: In 1849, Bytown Town Council passed "Bye-Law (sic) No. 60 to establish a grade of Wellington street from Doran's Hotel to George Street",19 which is the earliest reference I found to that George Street. While the street name appears on two maps, I could not find many business references to this George Street. Their customers likely would have gone to the much more prominent George Street in Lowertown instead!

Two rental listings in the Packet on 1851-09-20 are the earliest reference I could find to the street. One is for a house on "Georges Street, East end Victoria Terrace"20 (in subsequent ads Reid's ad would read "To be let or sold" and would have an apostrophe on "George's Street"21) and another for commercial shops which "command the entire Western entrance to Bytown."22

TO LET. On Georges Street, East end Victoria Terrace, the large TWO STOREY STONE HOUSE, lately occupied by Francis Clemow, Esq., and ajoining the premises of Mr. Wm. Jemeson. ROBERT REID. Richmond Road./ TO BE LET. THREE SHOPS and an OFFICE, on George Street, Upper Bytown. The above are admirably suited fro GROCERY and DAY GOOD STORES, and command the entire Western entrance to Bytown. Apply to the Proprietor, EDW. V. CORTLANT.

The town council proceedings of August 28, 1850, show as the last order of business tendering "certain improvements" of Victoria Terrace to John Ring,23 for which he was reimbursed £12 10s in September24 and £7 10s in November.25 Unlike George Street, a number of businesses did advertise their location as "Victoria Terrace, Richmond Road" in classified ads in the newspapers, the earliest in 1853, and an 1851 obituary of John Rochester's brother-in-law, James Anderson, Esq., notes that he moved back to Bytown from Hull two years prior, presumably to Victoria Terrace where he died.26

This 1863 map,27 which shares many of the characteristics of the 1856 one, shows not just the legally defined lots but also the locations of actual buildings upon them, giving us more confidence that this map reflects the situation of the day rather than just plans. Wellington Street, and its pals George Street and Victoria Terrace, form the boundary between Victoria Ward and Wellington Ward, and they connect to Richmond Road, which forms the southerly city limit west of Division Street (later Booth).

Crop of a map from 1863 which shows Ottawa with limits at Bank Street (East), Centre Street (now Somerset, South), City Limits (Now City Centre Ave, West), and the Ottawa River (North), with city boundaries and wards indicated by colouring. Wellington Street and its extensions George St and Victoria Terrace, have a dotted line indicating the boundary between Victoria Ward (north of the line) and Wellington Ward (south of the line). The streets and individual lots (where blocks have been subdivided) are shown, and black squares indicating the location of buildings are on about a third of them. Between Bay and Concession Line (now Bronson), Wellington Street makes an abrupt turn southwest and is labelled George St which heads to the east approach to Pooley's Bridge (which is neither drawn nor marked) and continues to Hill Street (not labelled, now Brickhill) after which it becomes Victoria Terrace where it meets Richmond Road at a shallow angle on the southern boundary of LeBreton Flats. Richmond Road is drawn as continuous in line with Maria Street (now Richmond). North of the extension of Maria Street (Laurier), nothing is drawn west of Broad Street inside or outside city limits, aside from a label

George and Wellington: intersection or continuation?

The above two maps are the only ones I could find which label George Street and Victoria Terrace. Curiously, Wellington Street appears on the above map to extend west, past where George Street (apparently) intersects with it. This might suggest some justification in George Street not simply retaining the name of Wellington street, and could contradict my considering it as an extension of Wellington this early.

This 1874 map28 shows the extension of Wellington Street even more starkly (and labels Victoria Terrace, the only map to do so other than the two above). The horse-drawn Ottawa City Passenger Railway's initial Hull-St. Patrick line, which had opened four years previously,29 is shown passing through George Street in place of the street name:

Crop of a map from 1874 which shows Ottawa with limits at Bank Street (East), Biddy Street (now Lisgar, South), Broad Street (in line with Rochester, West), and the Ottawa River (North), with street names, city wards, and prominent buildings labelled. A hashed line comes in from the east on Sparks Street, jogs north up Bank Street one block to Wellington, then continues west along Wellington and George, crossing Pooley's Bridge, turns northwest up Duke Street then north to Bridge Street where the line is shown stopping before Victoria, Albert, and Chaudière islands. Wellington Street and its extensions George St and Victoria Terrace, have a dotted line indicating the boundary between Victoria Ward (north of the line) and Wellington Ward (south of the line). Hillsides are indicated. Wellington Street is drawn at full width continuing west, beyond where George Street turns off it at a southwest angle, until the gorge that runs under Pooley's Bridge a little further south.

However, the somewhat common 1876 bird's eye view of Ottawa,30 looking from across the Chaudière, confirms that the apparent continuation of Wellington Street past George is but a mere lane.

Crop of an 1876

And the 1878 Fire Insurance maps confirm this, reassuring us that George Street and Victoria Terrace are indeed extensions of Wellington Street.

Ottawa fire insurance map 1878, plate number 43, with limits Sally (now Lyon, East), Queen (South), Concession (now Bronson, West) and Vittoria (one block north of Wellington, North). Scaled Outlines of buildings are drawn on the map, colour-coded to their construction (brick, wood, etc.), and information about water supply lines and hydrant locations. The broad roadway of Wellington Street sweeps from right to left two-thirds up the image, then near the left side of the image Wellington turns about 30 degrees to its left and narrows. I've put a blue ellipse to highlight this intersection, off of which a very narrow lane extends in line with Wellington Street where it quickly encounters, and apparently descends, a steep hill which cuts across the top-left corner of the image. The lane is shown dotted and it peters out before reaching the dotted lines showing the imagined northerly extension of Concession (Bronson).

Tune in next time* for Part 3, which will discuss the many changes in the 19th and early 20th centuries to the east end of Wellington, where it meets Rideau Street. Then it's back to this west end of Wellington for the rest of the series. As always, I've done my best to filter out the wrong information and provide sources for the rest; corrections are welcome by email, tweet, or comment (all comments are moderated). (*When it's ready, I'll note the planned posting date in the full list of posts in the Introduction post)

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  1. Would you be able to pinpoint where 591 Wellington Street was?

    1. If you go to, you can see the old Wellington Street alignment with 587 on the north side, just east of the former Lloyd Street alignment. I suspect 591 would have been the building visible in the 1965 aerial photos at the north-west corner of Wellington and Lloyd (the first block east of Booth).