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All images from Library and Archives Canada.

Streetscape Memory Bank: The heart of Uppertown

By Andrew Elliott on June 1, 2016









Streetscape Memory Bank draws on Library and Archives Canada’s photographic records of Ottawa’s past to create a picture of Ottawa as it once was.  Be sure to take a look at parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 of our journey through Uppertown, and check out our complete Streetscape Memory Bank archives here.

In the 1913 Auditor General’s report on government spending, we can get a sense of the financial implications of Uppertown’s expropriation the previous year. The report noted that the Department of Public Works was receiving casual revenue from the rents former Uppertown property owners were now paying. In Block A, $7,659.00 was received, Blocks C and D generated $5,424, Blocks E, F, and G provided $6,961 in revenue. However, the department received the most money from Block B, to a tune of $23,229, with the largest sums coming from commercial businesses such as: the Vandome Hotel, Goodall Brothers, AA Fournier, and AE Workman and Company. We’ll look at these names in more detail shortly.


On the other hand, the total cost to the government, via Public Works, was 1.3 million dollars. Broken down, we learn that some of this sum was racked up in the following way: $12, 498 was paid to property evaluators, legal services cost $877.00, a survey of the entire Uppertown area cost $2,945, and payment also went to the services of landscape architects Frederick Todd ($1,808) and Edward White ($2,433). And a W.J. Carson, a photo and paint supplies dealer, was paid $112 for photo glass which went to the photographer’s branch of Public Works.

With this financial prelude over, we’ll now continue our walking tour of Uppertown, and look at some of the places located in Block B of the government’s expropriation area.

Our tour picks up on the south side of Vittoria Street. Here there was rich mix of housing: stone, wood frame, and brick, with some single one to two storey residences:

Alongside these were row houses:


In the centre of block was the wonderfully designed Ottawa Curling Club clubhouse:


The Clubhouse looked like any other residential building, but it masked a long one storey building behind it which housed the curling rink:


When the club was forced to vacate the area, due to expropriation, club members purchased property at the northwest corner of O’Connor and Catherine Streets and built a new curling rink, an iconic building still used today.

One of the joys of viewing the images available to us is that there many that provide us excellent views of backyards and back lanes, and houses hidden away in back courtyards. The photographer of the day captured the complicated, rough and tumble, if not organic nature of the old Uppertown neighbourhood that was enclosed behind Vittoria, Kent, Wellington, and Lyon Streets. Have a look at the following series of images and remember: this is a stone’s throw from Parliament!

Moving onto the the west side of Kent Street, which was primarily residential, we find for example, the beautiful row house at 28-34 Kent. Next door at 36 Kent was an equally stunning single family home:


Turning the corner and westward onto Wellington, we discover vibrant and multi-use commercial properties here, and all two to four stories high. On the corner itself was a commercial of some substance that housed many commercial businesses, including: L.G. Fournier & Co.; R. Craig, harness manufacturer; Kenneth McDonald & Sons, Farms Supplies; and L.E. Stanley & Company. The place was owned by William Arnold.

Further west along the block was the Vandome Hotel:


Then A. Workman and Company:


Then the Goodall Brothers Grocery Store:


Then a commercial building that housed businesses on the ground floor and the New Arlington Hotel on the top floor:


And then at the end of the block another commercial building housing the A.A. Fournier Limited Dry Goods:

Followed by a tiny stone building at the corner with Lyon housing a carriage business:


Various Ottawa Journal advertisements and reports suggest that A. A. Fournier was a flourishing business in the early 20th century and that it got its start in 1883. Fournier’s was the first store to install the arc lamp, which provided better lighting. The store of Wellington Street was expanded in the 1890s, and by the second decade of the 20th century was promoting itself with lavish advertising spreads in the newspaper.

In 1914, after the government had expropriated his property, Fournier purchased a new property- the Slinn Block- near the corner of Bank and Laurier. An August 1914 article in the Ottawa Journal suggested that the store was one of the most prosperous in the city, and showed a picture of Fournier:

image (1)

In 1915, Fournier was paid $247,599 in compensation from the federal government, as per order in council 1915-0970. Fournier used the money wisely, constructing a new building to house his department store, and this is the place you’ll see in this 1923 advertisement.

In the mid 1920s, after more than forty years or business, A.A. Fournier became part of a conglomerate known as Canadian Department Stores Limited. This conglomerate didn’t last long, and went into receivership in 1927, and in 1928 was purchased by the T. Eaton Company. The Eaton’s department store at the corner of Bank and Laurier was for many years one of the only non- local department stores to operate in Ottawa.

Here’s an image of the Bank and Laurier intersection, showing the former Fournier store, in 1938. The building is now called the Jack Layton Building:

jack layton

It is worth noting that most of the photograph albums showing the various places I’ve been profiling in Uppertown have now been digitized by Library and Archives Canada, and can be found in the Department of Public Works accession 1959-084 NPC. To view more images from this accession click here.

We’re almost finished our tour of the lost neighbourhood of Uppertown. Next time, we’ll look at the commercial stretch of Wellington from Lyon to Bay Streets, and wrap up the series with some insights on the what we lost and we gained from the government’s decision to overhaul the area.