Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Kenniston Apartments, Elgin Court, and the Lieutenant's Pump

Here are the Kenniston Apartments at 341-359 Elgin, spanning Waverley to Frank. The building is over a century old (a Library & Archives Canada photo dates from 1909) and contains residential apartments surrounding a court.

At Waverley, the Lieutenant's Pump occupies the split lower level of the building, which comes right out to both streets.

Between the side streets, the building sits further back, creating a courtyard with half-basement retail, and residences and balconies above. In addition to the Pump, the court includes Booster Juice, Kochu Sushi, Oz Café, and Pancho Villa.

The sunken retail is a relatively new feature, added in the mid 1980s; previously the court was a raised lawn with four large trees (replaced in these renovations with the four younger trees there now). The building and Elgin Court is described in the October 1983 Heritage Ottawa newsletter (PDF),

"The building as it now stands is red brick with wrought iron balcony railings, and in a faintly European manner curves around one of the few remaining grass lawns on Elgin Street. Four huge old maple trees grace the yard, which is raised about two feet up from the sidewalk.
"According to the artist's sketch on the sign out front, the plan is to cram 9,600 sq. ft. of glass, greenhouse-type shops on a lower level, beneath the apartments. This necessitates removing the entire lawn and all but one of the graceful old trees." (p3/4)

Until even more recently, the Lieutenant's Pump had a patio out front at sidewalk level, around which you walked to get to the pub's entrance in the back corner of the court. Here's how it looked in June 2010:

Last fall, the fences were dismantled and workers were removing the other elements of the patio. Scaffolding was being erected for some work.

By mid-November, the patio had been removed and a hole was excavated. The hole came dangerously close to the roots of one of the trees, and we'll see if it comes back to life in the Spring.

In early December, some framing was assembled for a new structure:

Throughout the winter, work continued behind an orange tarp, leaving the final design as a surprise.

In late March 2011, the work was revealed--a new street-side entrance for the Pump, with darkly-stained wood and glass doors and brickwork echoing that of the original building, including the cornice at the top of Kenniston Apartments. Work continued on the courtyard.

Not long after, the new entrance was opened up and the was patio complete, with brickwork highlighting the tree. At night, the new entrance glows bright, much more invitingly than the old one.

A bench and some barrels has been added to animate the streetscape, as was a canopy and a pair of lanterns. The renovations look to be a big success! Lots of people were out this past weekend and passersby stopped to chat with people eating on the patio. Cyclists, however, found that bicycle parking was in short supply.

To top it all off, a cast iron mailbox was installed.

In contrast to the damage done to the building's heritage features by the "greenhouse" retail courtyard in the 1980s, this latest renovation added an element that, I think, enhances the building's heritage characteristics, while improving the pedestrian appeal of the Pump. This stretch is now so popular that there is pedestrian congestion. If only there were room to widen the sidewalks!

[Reminder: Public meeting on Section 37 at City Hall tomorrow at 5pm. Rescue Bronson Avenue walking tour for Janes Walk Ottawa on Sunday. Details of these and other upcoming events in Centretown.]

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