Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Wellington Street Part 5: Tinkering with traffic (1910s to 1940s)

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Let's continue with our journey exploring Wellington Street as the street was extended, renamed, and rerouted over its 200-year history. In today's post, we'll look at the many little clues that give us an idea of what traffic was like on Wellington Street from the 1910s to the mid 1940s.

During this time, Wellington street wasn't extended or curtailed, but traffic in the city got busier as more people drove automobiles and the City's response to this traffic problem had to mature to cope with it. To set the scene, here's LeBreton Flats from around 1930, with Wellington Street coming in from the left and winding up through to downtown:1

Black-and-white aerial photo taken from above Preston and Somerset with LeBreton Flats, Chaudière and Victoria Island, and Hull at left, and Somerset/Booth, Bronson/Laurier, and the Parliament buildings on the right. The Alexandra/Interprovincial bridge crosses the Ottawa River at the top. From the left near the bottom Wellington Street comes in and splits at Broad Street with Albert continuing straight and Wellington turning left at a shallow angle. On the north side of Wellington, west of Broad, is the Marine Signals building ('the longest in the British Empire') with trainyards and Nepean Bay beyond, and the blocks abutting Wellington on the South side are occupied by a few large industrial facilities. The other blocks further south are primarily residential.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Wellington Street Part 4: As the City grows, so does Wellington (1880-1912)

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Before our foray into the east end of Wellington Street in the previous post, we were talking in Part 2 about the first roads in Ottawa and how the fledgling town's road network began to develop in the new neighbourhood that would one day be called LeBreton Flats.

In this post we'll look at the period from about 1880 to 1912, during which time rail lines cross over Wellington at grade, fires ravage the western part of the street, Ottawa absorbs various suburbs, and an excessive number of bylaws authorize the renaming, widening, and paving of Wellington Street. To set the scene, here's what it looked like to walk in the middle of Wellington Street in 1898:1

Photo taken from Wellington Street, looking east, at around O'Connor Street, with the street extending into the horizon. From left to right: The stone and wrought iron fence at the perimeter of Parliament Hill, the north sidewalk (material unclear), a boulevard planted with a continuous row of trees, the roadway which is dirt and rutted, a bicyclist in the road heading straight toward the camera, a horse drawn carriage further away on the opposite side of the street, telephone poles each with nine rows of eight insulators, the south sidewalk (concrete?) with some trees, buildings on the south side of Wellington Street, all around 4 storeys tall. The photo has an all-caps caption at the bottom (from the book from which it was scanned), Wellington Street Looking East

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Wellington Street Part 3: Wellington and Rideau's on again, off again, connection (1820s-1913)

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In this blog series about 200 years of physical and nominal changes to Wellington Street, most of the action is West of Bank Street, particularly in LeBreton Flats. The previous post showed the earliest of these changes. Today we will examine the changes to the east end of Wellington Street in the 1800s, as it dabbled with connections to Rideau.

This photo is of the Plaza Bridge, which spans the Rideau Canal to connect Wellington and Rideau Streets, looking east up Wellington Street with Confederation Square in the foreground and Parliament Hill on the right. It was not taken in the 1800s, but in 2012 when I visited the Chateau Laurier during Doors Open Ottawa

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

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Wellington Street Part 1: Ottawa's earliest roads and their namesakes (1800-1826)

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To go beyond a simplified summary and conduct a thorough review of the history of changes to all the roads in Ottawa called "Wellington Street", we need to go back to Ottawa's earliest days as a settlement and where that all came from.

It's easy enough to say "Richmond Road was named after the Duke of Richmond and Wellington Street was named after the Duke of Wellington", but that doesn't answer the questions of who those people are and what relation they bore to Ottawa and to the people who built its first roads. So let's get into that.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The many traces of Wellington Street - Introduction

You may already know that Ottawa has both a Wellington Street and a Wellington Street West, but it was not always so simple. A man standing at the corner of Scott and Bayview in the pre-smartphone days of the early 2000s asked me for help finding an address on Wellington Street, and I had to confess that I didn't know which of three Wellington Streets to direct him to!

I was reminded of this recently and got curious about when these various geometric and name changes took place. I already knew that the City of Ottawa renamed many streets, including two of the Wellingtons, following amalgamation in 2001, and a quick look at an aerial photo reveals clues to how various physical changes broke Wellington Street up. Dennis Van Staalduinen tried his best to explain it on a couple of Jane's Walks in 2012 and 2013, the notes of which he has posted on his website, and a follow-up map in 2016. I even covered the topic myself in a 2010 blog post!

Photo of a green highway-style sign reading Wellington East and pointing to the right

But these were all snapshots; I wanted the whole story. I searched my own collection of books on LeBreton Flats, Ottawa, and the NCC, and found nothing describing the actual changes to Wellington Street. I searched the Web as well, but found only the most recent changes. It turns out that anybody who's written about LeBreton Flats has been more interested in the buildings, people, and land, than on the nomenclature and alignment of its primary artery! (I jest; this is entirely reasonable)

So I took a few trips to the Ottawa Room, bought a subscription to, and collected a trove of information about Wellington Street, with many twists and turns along the way. Changing names and alignments is a Wellington Street tradition that goes back to the early 1800s and most recently this past September!

Over the past two months, I've painstakingly assembled this information into the following blog series to detail everything I can find out about Wellington Street—everything, that is, except for the buildings, people, and land! Depending on how you count it, Wellington Street was officially renamed between 7 and 21 times, and that doesn't even count all the times where it got physically disconnected or redirected! 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).

The first part goes up tomorrow at noon, and the rest of the 10+ parts are in various stages of development and will be posted thereafter. The posts and the headings within them will be added to the bottom of this post as they are added. But first, a quick rundown of Wellington Street: