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

To recap the story so far, Wellington Street and Rideau Street were laid down by Colonel By in 1826, forming the respective backbones of the Uppertown and Lowertown neighbourhoods.

The Fortress at Barrack Hill

Rideau Street—sharing its name with the Rideau Falls, River, and Canal—and Wellington Street, named after the Duke of Wellington (see part 1), were in line with each other, but Wellington only officially extended a little east of Kent Street. The two were separated not just by the alignment of the future Rideau Canal, but also by a section of land reserved for government use as a future military fortification. This 1831 plan of By Town,1 a portion of which we saw in Part 2, shows what that citadel might have looked like along the south shore of the Ottawa River:

Map drawing showing the Ottawa river in the foreground, the Rideau Canal locks to the left, Upper By Town in centre, and Chaudiere islands to the right. Between Wellington Street and the Rideau Canal is the outline of a fortress wall with jagged, but symmetrical, lines, extending south of Wellington Street, to protect the buildings on Barrrack Hill. Wellington Street is straight and wide between Kent and Concession line (later Bronson), after which a thin ribbon road extends west and turns north to cross the Ottawa River at the Chaudiere crossing. Formal lots are laid out between Wellington Street and the Ottawa River, with some buildings on it; this is labelled Upper By Town.

However the site at the time only contained a 20-bed military hospital and three stone barrack houses built in 1827,2 giving it the name Barrack Hill. That year, Colonel By also acquired 104 acres of land cut out from the middle of Nicholas Sparks' Concession C2 for Ordnance purposes,3 i.e., construction of the canal and the future fortress. He had a sturdy stone bridge built by the Royal Sappers and Miners across the newly-excavated canal cut.4

Wagon Trail to Sappers' Bridge

The Sappers' Bridge connects with Rideau Street in the east and extends south-west across the Canal. The west approach of the bridge is in the unimproved Ordnance no-man's land reserved for the fort, so instead of a proper street being built, it winds to Wellington Street via a "wagon trail that winds between large boulders, many of which weigh several tons".4

This section from a plan drawn by District Surveyor Donald Kennedy, dated December 4, 1842,5 shows the extent of the Sparks property (outlined in yellow), and the "Part of Lots taken by Government the Property of Mr. N Sparks" which I've outlined in red. This version of the map has some theoretical streets sketched in on the seized land.

Drawing showing Bytown (Ottawa - modern day street names used here) from Bronson to Waller, centred on the area between Wellington and Laurier. This area is owned by Nicholas Sparks. South of Laurier is dark and undivided. North of Laurier streets and individual properties are laid out west of Kent to Bronson (Uppertown), and east of the Canal (Lowertown). The Rideau Canal extends roughly north-south through the property near the east end, and a basin sits squarely in the middle of it. A subsection of the Sparks property, from just east of Kent Street to just east of the Canal and basin, is highlighted showing the section of the property taken by the government.

The wagon trail can be seen in this 1845 map6 (the eastern half of the map in the previous post), as can the arrangement of buildings on Barrack Hill and an "Old Burial Ground" in the bend in the wagon trail.

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 left 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. The Rideau Canal's first eight locks are drawn on the right, ending at the Sapper's Bridge. Between Wellington and the Sapper's Bridge is Barrack Hill, modern day Parliament Hill (Lot B). A narrow road connects Wellington Street with the Sapper's Bridge, and this road winds south giving Barrack Hill lots of clearance. Hugged in the southern bend of this road is an area marked Old Burial Ground, and the Lockmaster's House is on the west shore of the Sapper's bridge just southeast of it. Within Barrack Hill there are small footpaths leading to the buildings at water's edge: a row of three buildings, two marked Ruins and the third Soldiers Barracks, a Stable, Officers Quarters, Store, Gardens, Cook House, Privy, Guard House, Commissioner Wood Yard, Well, Tanks, and a zigzag footpath down the hill to the Commissariat, modern day Bytown Museum.

This 1853 map shows, in green, parts of Concession B that had been sold off by the Ordnance "for building & other purposes" in both Upper Town and Lower Town. Also visible are the outlines of Sparks Street extended to the Canal, and the previous wagon-trail road and burying ground.

Map showing Ottawa mostly along the axes of Wellington/Rideau and Sussex, along with the Rideau Canal up the frist eight locks to the basin. Between Bank St and the canal is a pink area labelled Barrack Hill (now Parliament Hill) which extends south to overlap with the Wellington Street alignment. A narrow road (labelled old Road) swoops south around Barrack Hill to connect Wellington and Bank to the west end of Sapper's Bridge. Between the canal and the properteis along the west side of Sussex is marked Pink in what is now Major's Hill Park. In the crook of this curved road is a small area labelled Old Burial Ground. Properties north of Wellington, west of Bank, (Upper Bytown) and on both sides of Sussex (Lower Bytown) are painted green to indicate that they are properties sold off for private development. The street grid has been extended south of Barrack Hill overlapping the curved but still not including Wellington. The Old road crosses Sparks Street, which now connects directly with the west end of the Sapper's Bridge.

Sparks Street Extension to the Canal

Here we get to our first disconnection of this end of Wellington Street.

After Sparks won his fight to have the land returned to him in 1849,4,7 he had extended Sparks Street through the area (this area between Upper Town and Lower Town would become known as Centre Town). Wellington Street could not yet be formally extended to the canal because its alignment was still within the portion of Barrack Hill "necessary to be retained for Military Purposes". The wagon trail still connected from the end of Wellington to Sparks, however, and this connection was proposed to be widened more formally with the yellow section in this 1851 plan by Pilkington:8

Map showing the southern extent of Lot C, Concession C as it adjoins the Sparks Street property, between Bank Street and Rideau Street. The southern boundary of the Ordnance (government) property on Barrack Hill takes up nearly the entire width of the erstwhile Wellington Street alignment. The existing narrow road is shown in context with the subdivided block at the southeast corner of Bank and Wellington, and a new, wider, road is drawn connecting the opposite corners of this block, so as to connect Wellington with Sparks.

If we consider the old wagon trail to have been part of Wellington Street, then this would be the first time Wellington was cut off and reconnected to another street.

This drawing from January 1851, also by Pilkington,9 shows a proposed continuation of Wellington Street in line with its current alignment, which would take it through Ordnance lands (it may be hard to read without zooming in, but it says "Proposed continuation of Wellington Street"). The dotted lines optimistically connect up with Rideau Street, but the profile of the elevation along this route, at the top of the page, shows that there is quite a difference in grade (not to mention a Canal!) between Wellington and Rideau.

Map titled 'BYTOWN. Plan shewing by Yellow lines the proposed continuation of WELLINGTON STREET. To accompany the Commanding Royal Engineer's letter to the Inspector General of Fortifications ,dated 6th January 1851, No 244' It shows Wellington Street near the Rideau Canal from Bank Street to a little west of Sussex and Rideau. Barrack Hill is north of Wellington, and the old road which curves down south of Barrack Hill is drawn (along with the Old Burial Ground). Buildings are outlined between Wellington and Sparks near the canal on the Sparks property. The Wellington Street alignment is drawn out, most of which is obscured by the Barrack Hill and thus does not exist as an actual street, however it is labelled Proposed continuation of Wellington Street. The elevation of this section of Wellington is drawn separately at the top of the map.

Wellington Street extension to the Canal

Wellington was eventually extended to the Canal, and Sparks was able to sell the blocks opposite Barrack Hill for development. The diagonal connection from Wellington to Sparks was returned to service as development land. While people could still travel to Sparks to cross the Canal, this blog series is about the connections, disconnections, and renamings of Wellington Street, so a key consequence of this change is that Wellington Street was no longer connected in a continuous path to Sparks Street, Sappers' Bridge, and Rideau Street; one must jog to Sparks on one of the cross streets, as seen on this 1856 map (a more western section of which appeared in Part 2).10

Crop of an 1856 black and white map of Ottawa with extents Hugh (Kent, West), Ottawa River and Church/St.Patrick Street (North), Nicholds (Nicholas, East), and Maria (Laurier, South). Centred in the section is Barrack Hill, on the west bank along the firs teight locks of the canal, also labelled Cricket Ground in smaller print. The outline of the hill extends along the Rideau Canal as far south as Slater Street, before curving west and back up toward Queen and Metcalfe. East of the canal opposite Barrack Hill is Major's Hill. Just south of this hill is the Lay By, a basin in the canal. Streets are drawn and named, and properties are indicated and many are numbered sequentially, bu tonly as far south as Albert Street. Wellington Street goes up to the edge of the hill but not down it, nor across the Canal. Sparks Street crosses Elgin Street and meets the west abutment of the Sapper's Bridge, which crosses the Rideau Canal and meets the west end of Rideau Street.

Wellington Street is shown reunited—in a sense—with Sparks and the opposite side of the Canal this 1874 map by Mara & Maingy,11 when the Ottawa City Passenger Railway opened its first line, the Hull-St. Patrick line, in 1870.12 The rails of the horse-drawn streetcar route turn off Wellington to Bank, then take Sparks Street across the Sappers' Bridge and up Sussex. We can also see in this map section the south and west town limits and the Parliament buildings constructed in the 1860s.

Crop of 1874 map of Ottawa with extents Sussex Street (East), City Limit (Gladstone, South), Rochester/Broad Street (West) and the north edge of Ottawa River (North). Victoria Ward and Wellington Ward are both noted in large print. The city limit runs along what is now Gladstone Avenue in a straight line as far west as Division (Booth) despite the road not continuing west of Concession Line (Bronson), then continues north along Division to Richmond Road (Albert), then goes west out of view. Various prominent buildings (churches, schools, Parliament buildings) are outlined and labelled. Geographic features (islands, hills) are also drawn. Wellington Street runs along the south border of Parliament Hill, between the Rideau Canal and the gorge just east of LeBreton Flats. A hashed line, indicating the streetcar route, begins at the north end of Bridge Street (at the south shore of the Ottawa River), down Bridge, turning southeast at Duke, east at Queen Street, northeast at George Street (Wellington), east on Wellington, south on Bank for one block, east on Sparks Street to and across the Sapper's Bridge over the Rideau Canal, then up Sussex Street off the map.

Dufferin Bridge restores Wellington-Rideau connection

Wellington's road connection with Rideau was properly restored with the construction of the Dufferin bridge in 1873, named for the then-current Governor General,13 as reflected in this photo from around 1880. The Dufferin bridge (at right) is nearly 100 feet wide, and provided considerable relief to the Sappers' Bridge (left):13,14

Photo from 1880 taken from the east side of the Sappers' Bridge looking west along Sparks and Wellington streets, showing the diverging Sappers' and Dufferin bridges, between them across the canal the elaborate Post Office building, and on the far side of Wellignton Street the east and west departmental buildings on Parliament Hill. Along the surface of the bridge there is a plank sidewalk, then dirt roads with two sets of inlaid rails, one of which carries a horse-drawn streetcar. In the middle of the two bridges is a continuous wall which curves around and which has a plank sidewalk doing the same. At the apex of thsi curve is a utility pole with eight rows of 4-6 insulators carrying telephone lines.

Here's a photo of the same scene from a bit higher vantage point, in the 1890s:

Photo from around early 1890s showing a scene with the same description as above, but from higher up and with the structure of the Sappers' bridge more visible, mostly metal posts supporting the platform ove rthe canal, and stone walls at eithe rend. The lower level of the Post Office building is also visible. The lockmaster's house along the west bank of the Canal north of the bridges is visible, and all three parliament buildings are visible, as is the circular roof of the Library of Parliament. A blurred horse drawn cart is  making teh turn from Wellington EB to Sparks WB along teh curved meeting piont of the two bridges. Various pedestrians are on the sidewalks, walking or leaning against the bridges' railings. A horse drawn streetcar is visible in the distance on Sparks Street in front of the Post Office; no sign of electric trolley wires.

In 1911-1913, the Dufferin and Sappers' bridges would be demolished for the construction of Connaught Square/the Plaza*, so that an interprovincial passenger rail link could be run underneath it, alongside the new Union Station and Château Laurier hotel also opening in 1912:15

Scan of a colour advertisement by Grand Trunk Railway System for their new Chateau Laurier hotel in Ottawa, 'The New $2,000,000.00 HOTEL situated in teh heart of the Dominion Capital. Accommodation 350 rooms, Comfortably and artistically furnished; the latest in hotel construction; rates $2.00 upwards; European plan; F. W. Bergman, Manager'. The scene is a bird's eye artist's rendering looking north up the Rideau Canal with the Union Station and Chateau Laurier at right, a steam train along the east side of the Canal heading under the triangular Plaza between the Sappers' and Dufferin bridges (which has a statue in the middle) with the Alexandra (Interprovincial) bridge in the distance, two steam boats on the Canal near the centreline. At the left side of the Plaza is the Post Office building,  and various other buildings, and the Parliament buildings (Centre and East blocks). Depicted on the plaza are plenty of tiny people, including a group of red-coat military men, various horse-drawn cards, streetcars, motorcars, and plenty o fpeople walking and standing around. The Gatineau Hills are visible on the horizon, and blue-grey clouds with afternoon sun is depicted in the sky.

Thereafter, save for construction here and there, Wellington has always had a direct inline connection to Rideau Street in the east. Confederation Square would undergo many changes over the years, most notably the construction of the national war memorial, but with only peripheral changes to Wellington Street, such as this one:16

Line drawing of the triangular Confederation Square with Wellington along the left edge, Elgin coming in from the right, with red lines showing lane markings and directions. Traffic is intended to go around the war memorial in a counterclockwise pattern; islands at each corner of the triangle each permit three lanes channelized traffic to pass around the traffic circle. Streetcar lines come frmo Rideau Street at the top along the south edge of the triangle, with a pair of tracks splitting off to head west along Sparks Street and another pair continuing to turn West onto Albert. Various small text in red notes recommendations for changes to the road structure, including 'Close Driveway to Traffic' (the FDC Driveway, now Queen Elizabeth Driveway, which before the National Arts Centre connected directly to Confederation Sqaure), new signs for turn restrictions etc.

For the rest of this Wellington Street blog series, we'll focus on the west end of Wellington Street, past Bay/Bronson. Next time, in Part 4, we'll watch as Wellington Street follows the westward expansion of the City of Ottawa. 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). See also the full list of posts in the Introduction post.

Since the topic is only peripherally related to Wellington Street and I haven't bothered to add any images to it, I'm putting this zany side story about the name of the Plaza Bridge in a postscript:

Postscript: Confusion Square

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The plaza that bridged and partially replaced the Dufferin and Sappers' bridges (what we now know as "the Plaza Bridge"14,17) was initially referred to as "Plaza Laurier" when the project was announced on August 15, 1907.18 It continued to be referred to as "Plaza Laurier" as the project progressed19 when the plans, estimated at $90,000 to $100,000, were ready in November 1910,20 through to at least 1911, including in the announcement of the $235,000 contract awarded to O'Toole and McGillivray, the lowest of four bidders.21 In 1911, some articles dropped the name Laurier and just referred to it as "the plaza" or "the new plaza" (lowercase).22 The name Laurier returns for a few months before disappearing again in March 1912.23

In January 1912, Confederation Square was proposed (in its current location) as an extension of the plaza, and this was assumed to be the official name for the plaza,24 but in July, murmuring started to circulate that the name was not appropriate because it was not easy to pronounce and that the location is "not a square but a plaza", with "Dominion Place" suggested in its place by unnamed members of "official circles".25 Want ads for carpenters by the contractors, O'Toole and McGillivray, refer to "Plaza, front of Post Office" in April26 and "The Plaza" in August.27 The name "the Plaza" (uppercase P) also begins to appear in editorials and news stories in August28 and October.29

In November 1912, the Ottawa Evening Citizen takes matters into its own hands and prints ballots in the newspaper for people to submit their preferences in a two-week 'referendum' between "The Plaza", "Confederation Square", or writing in their own.30 By November 30, Plaza leads Confed Square 10 to 1 with write-in names an order of magnitude smaller.31 Ballots and interim results continue to be printed in the paper until a victor is declared on December 9, 1912, "The Plaza" with 12,190 votes to Dufferin Place's 3,961 and Confederation Square's 3,531.32 This of course, was an unofficial referendum, but the government dragged its feet and waited until March 24, 1913 to officially assign the name "Connaught Place".33,34

The name "Connaught Place" stuck well enough but never fully dominated: a quick search of articles in Ottawa newspapers between 1900 and 1950 returned 1,544 for "Connaught Place", compared to 1,035 for "Confederation Square" (also 280 for "Connaught Square" and fewer than 100 for "Plaza Bridge" and "Plaza Laurier"). Dwarfing all of these results is "The Plaza", although these could be referring to any plaza, so to narrow it down, '"The Plaza" Rideau' returned 7,175 results, '"The Plaza" Wellington' 6,150, and '"The Plaza" Chateau Laurier' 2,366.

The term "Plaza bridge" (note capitalization) first appeared in November 1912 in an article about the imminent restoration of streetcar service over the bridge,35 but it is still just called "the Plaza bridge" or "the bridge at the Plaza" up into September 1920.36 Only three references to "Plaza Bridge" (uppercase B) appear in September 17-18 papers, but these are ads for an escape artist.37 Only a handful of references to "Plaza Bridge" come up in 1927 and 1928, and by the late 1930s, the name Plaza Bridge is common in both the Citizen and the Journal, with the Citizen preferring the lowercase b.

Oh, also, at the outset there was a lot of controversy over the initial plans to install a statue of Thomas D'Arcy McGee in the square,19 with some proposing instead a statue to the late King Edward VII, "and a further suggestion made by the Women's Historical society is for the erection of a symbolical memorial of Confederation."38

Getting back to the name, I presume the name Confederation Square was reapplied when the war memorial was built (the name gets consistently mentioned more often around 1937-1938). I'm not sure when the name "Plaza Bridge" became official, if ever. It was definitely in common use in the restoration that was completed in 2000,39 but then it was in also common use back when it was officially known as "Connaught Place". What I do know is that the street running over it is called "Wellington" (or, as the Urbsite author pointed out to me, only part of the way across it), and that is sufficient for the purposes of this blog series. Someone else can write up the parts I've missed!

End of Postscript

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