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Streetscape Memory Bank: Clemow through the years

By Andrew Elliott on May 13, 2014

ClemowIn the Greber Report of 1950, one of the streets that was noted in passing as an example of successful beautification was Clemow Avenue Driveway. It is surprising that Greber did not spend much time on Clemow, given its success as a planned streetscape. Extending from the Canal driveway, this tree-lined driveway included Monkland Avenue and crossed the north end of the Glebe and passed through Central Park and ended at Bronson Avenue. Designed between 1904 and 1914 by the Ottawa Improvement Commission with the support and collaboration of a private development company, it had been a street that had immediately attracted many prominent people of local and national importance. By the late 1940s, the results of this early experiment in urban planning were in. Pictured right is what Clemow Avenue looked like from the air (photo courtesy NCC), as a long strip of green extending roughly east-west.

On the ground in the winter of 1948, here is the street, looking east, as seen here as part of an illustration for the Greber Report (left). Looking west, an unpublished photo (right):

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As one can see, the canopy of trees, the lamp posts, the wide boulevard, and the houses set well back from the street was no planning accident.

A number of interesting individuals lived here.  One was Chauncey Robert Bangs, who lived at 1 Monkland Avenue from 1928 to 1942. (Here‘s a view of Monkland in the 1920s.) By this time, the Bangs family had a distinguished place in Ottawa’s history – Chauncey Robert’s grandfather, Chauncey Ward Bangs, also known as C. W. Bangs (pictured below-left), had been an Ottawa alderman on city council for 9 years and was the Mayor of Ottawa in 1878. CW was married to the former Alice Maud Hurdman. C.W. Bangs, Jr.(pictured below-right), was the manager of the Bangs Coal Company. His wife and son Chauncey Robert lived at 328 Frank Street.

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The CR Bangs house was built in 1927 as a wedding present for CW’s son and daughter-in-law Dorothy, and the celebrated architect W.E Noffke was commissioned to design the house in a Mediterranean architectural style.

Born in 1901, CR Bangs had studied law at University of Toronto before he dropped out, joined his father’s coal company, and then made a name for himself as a successful, world class Canadian figure skater. He trained for many years at the Minto Skating Club, was its director for a while, and with his partner Marion McDougall he won the pairs gold medal at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships in 1927 and 1928:


He later paired with Frances Claudet, capturing the Canadian Figure Skating pairs title for a third time in 1931. In 1932, the duo competed at the World Championships in Montreal and at the Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid, New York, placing 6th at the competitions. Bangs was also known for his passion for golf and tennis. In late January 1942 he died after complications from a month-long illness and was buried at Beechwood Cemetery.

Here are some shots of the Clemow Avenue in the time period between 1905 and 1914. The first, (below-left) which was published in a 1909-1910 Ottawa Improvement Commission Annual Report, shows a section looking east between Bank and O’Connor. On either side is Central Park before any houses were built in the development of 1912-1914. For reference purposes, First Avenue Public School can be seen in the distance. Next to it is another of this section of Clemow, facing west, near the intersection with Lyon, ca. 1909:

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The Ottawa Improvement Commission, had all trees (elm trees) evenly spaced as would be the lamp posts. Driveways would lead to garages at the backs of properties, and all hydro poles would be hidden away in backyards. The nearby Central Park was also a manicured natural oasis, as you can see here in this 1920s shot looking towards Bank Street (below-left). The park would also have such things as wooden summer houses, including the following elaborate construction over Patterson Creek (below-right):

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By the 1930s, Clemow looked like this, at Percy, looking west (bottom-left) and east (bottom-right):

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John J. Allen , mayor of Ottawa from 1931-33, built a house in 1914 at 172 Clemow. Allen established Allen’s Drugstore in 1905 and ran the business until he sold it to the United Drug Company in 1918, which later changed its name to Rexall.

172 Clemow Avenue.

172 Clemow Avenue.

Allen stayed with Rexall until 1925, first as a branch manager, then operating 2 stores.  Before becoming mayor, Allen served as president of the Ottawa Welfare Bureau. 172 Clemow is designed in a distinctive Prairie architectural style. It is possible that the Ottawa architect Francis Sullivan designed it.

Later, from the early 1960s until his death in 1996, Douglas Fullerton lived here.  some of your will remember Fullerton as the lively head of the NCC from 1969-1973, who will be remembered for opening the canal for winter skating.   His widow Charlotte lived on here until her own death in 2013.  The house recently sold for over a million dollars, and, despite evidence of lovely interior and exterior features,  it is rumoured that the place could be demolished.

At 222, Another prominent figured who lived here in the 1930s to the 1950s was James B. Harkin, founder of the National Parks Service.

At 231, William M. Graham owned a Tudor Reival style house for many years from 1912 into the 1940s.  Though starting out his working life as a dentist, Graham was also a businessman,  and came from a prominent family.  From about 1930 into the 1950s, he was the joint director of the Bryson Graham Dry Goods and Department Store.

211 Clemow Avenue.

211 Clemow Avenue.

Or how about this place? In a “Gone-with-the-Wind” style, 211 Clemow was built for a dentist in 1910.  Located at a prime corner location at the northeast side of the intersection with Lyon, this was the home from 1935 until 1958 of James Gardiner, the long-serving federal Minister of Agriculture (originally from Saskatchewan) who ended up serving under Prime Ministers Mackenzie King, Louis St. Laurent, and briefly Lester B. Pearson. Today, the only thing missing is that the wraparound veranda is gone.

The elm trees that lined the street were decimated by Dutch Elm disease in the 1960s, and most had to be cut down. Although much of the inherent beauty of the full grown canopy of elms is gone, the streetscape is still one of Ottawa’s most beautiful, and most houses have retained their value. The area seems a world apart from the rest of the Glebe neighbourhood.  While Greber mostly passed it by in his rush to create his own stamp on the city, perhaps it is fortunate that he did so.  Now the street is subject to an ongoing research study  by the Glebe Heritage Committee and Heritage Ottawa, with aim towards having the city designating it a heritage conservation district.