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View of National and Capital Breweries at Northeast corner of Wellington and Bay, 1912. All images, unless otherwise noted, are courtesy of Library and Archives Canada.

Streetscape Memory Bank: Lost Uppertown’s commercial district continued: Wellington Street from Lyon to Bay

By Andrew Elliott on November 18, 2016

Just when you thought that one could come to the end of the history of Uppertown, this lost neighbourhood coughs up some further interesting pieces of information. Last time, we stopped our tour at the intersection of Lyon and Wellington, but the commercial strip continued all the way from Lyon to Bay Street and beyond. We know this stretch as the spot where the ill-fated monument to the victims of communism was going to be placed, in the park-like green space next to Library and Archives Canada’s 395 Wellington building.

Over a century ago, this was a business street, as Anson Gard called it in his book about Ottawa, The Hub and Spokes. According to the 1912 fire insurance plans, the 1912 city directory, and the photographs taken at the time of government expropriation, this area – like everywhere else in Uppertown – was a tightly knit complex of stone and brick commercial and semi-industrial buildings. The photographer sent out to document the area made sure to capture both the fronts and the backs of the buildings, so we have an interesting documentary record of the polished public street facade and the less polished, hardscrabble look of the rear courtyards.

So on the corner of Wellington and Lyon Street (343 Wellington) was the Modern Machine Company, which appears to have taken up residence in both a purpose built newer building as well as a much older building with dormer windows.

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There is not much information about this business, but a 1912 publication by the Ottawa Industrial and Publicity Bureau lists it as a business devoted to the manufacture of brass work and iron and steel castings.

Next door was J.W. McKay, who operated a flour and feed business out of a lovely three storey stone building. Here is the front of the building:

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You can see the back of the business here:

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Not to be outdone in architectural grandeur is the business directly west which had some outstanding semicircular windows on the second and third floor. This place housed a furniture store called J. Oliver and Sons.

The Oliver family had a large furniture factory further west near Plouffe Park at Bayswater Avenue. James Oliver (born in 1848, and whose death in 1937 was reported extensively in the Ottawa Journal) went into the furniture-making business with his father John Oliver in 1872, and in 1899, James took over the business entirely after his father retired. By the early 20th century the company had offices across Canada, and at one time built office furniture for the federal government.

Next door in the same stone building was the business of Ebenezer Browne. His story is an interesting one, and I have been able to piece together his life and work through various newspaper stories in the Ottawa Journal.

Browne, born in 1847, originally started a grocery and liquor business at 101-103 Sparks, and then moved on to 357 Wellington in the late 1890s. Browne lived above his shop, 357 1/2 Wellington. At some point early in the first decade of the 20th century, Browne decided to become exclusively a tea merchant, and sold Ugalla Estate Ceylon Tea. He advertised regularly in the Ottawa Journal, and operated his shop until retirement in the 1918. He died in January 1932.

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Located just west of the tea store in was another commercial building housing a couple of businesses, including the Bunnell Brothers Confectionary. This business was run by Charles, Frank, and Milo Bunnell, who were originally from Kansas. The business opened in the 1890s and operated until the 1940s, and stores were located on Rideau Street and here on Wellington Street.

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After this we get to almost the end of the block and yet another surprise: here is a lovely little house sandwiched between the commercial establishments!

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Next door at the corner of Wellington and Bay were offices of both Capital Brewing Company and the National Breweries (see first image). National Breweries had recently taken over the local Capital Brewing Company which had been established in 1899 by Henry Kuntz.

Kuntz was originally from Waterloo, Ontario and lived not far away at 86 Vittoria Street. National Breweries were based in Montreal, and advertised in Ottawa as Dawes and Co.. They later merged with Carling Breweries.

Here are some great advertisements from the Ottawa Journal from around 1912 from both companies:

Although the government expropriated the land, they allowed the companies to carry on the brewing business until 1930. They had a yearly rent of $111,292.60. The government photographer even managed to get a shot of the somewhat messier back side of the property. In this case, it would appear that the photographer even captured one of the employees standing in the yard:

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And so we arrive near to where we started all those months ago back at the intersection of Wellington and Bay Street, and our walking tour of the lost neighbourhood of Uppertown is now completed.

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