Friday, September 15, 2017

Nepean High School Class of '67!

This week's Kitchissippi Times includes an article that I wrote about Nepean High School's Class of 1967, and their 50th reunion being held this fall. 1967 was of course a significant year in Canadian history, arguably a major turning point in Canadian society. My article focuses on the work that goes into organizing a reunion, and the impressive dedicated group that has undertaken this job. A few stories about Nepean in the 60's, and details about the reunion and more in this jam packed article which you can view at:

And don't forget I will be set up tomorrow (Saturday) from 11-4 at Wellington and Gilchrist for the Tastes of Wellington West festival. I'll have a ton of stuff, including rare videos of trains travelling through our neighbourhood in the 1960s, and fire insurance plans of Wellington Village and the surrounding area from 1922! Come find your street/house in 1922. Cheers for now!

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Kitchissippi Museum returns to Tastes of Wellington West!

As I do every year, I will be setting up shop for Tastes of Wellington West. This year Tastes falls on Saturday September 16th, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

I will be set up at the corner of Gilchrist Avenue and Wellington West, with a few tables of photos, maps, artifacts and more. Stop by to have a look through, share stories, or feel free to bring along photos if you have some neat shots from our area's past that you'd allow me to scan/borrow!

Of course, my booth will be weather dependent, so here is hoping for no rain! Hope to see you there. Cheers!

Here I am at Tastes of WW in 2013!
(Source: WW BIA Twitter)

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Caffé Mio: The original edge of the city

Caffé Mio over its 12 years of existence at the corner of Wellington West and Western Avenue has become one of Wellington Village's most popular spots. It isn't easy to survive that long on a main street; many other Wellington West restaurants/bistros/pubs have opened and closed unable to find the recipe of success. Mio has, and the little bistro-bar in the converted corner store continues to grow, both amongst its large established clientele, and also to new visitors to the neighbourhood. It has a constantly changing menu, and a reliably comfortable atmosphere; a perfect combination. 

The focus of my article today is not so much on the business itself, but on its historic building. Dating back nearly 100 years, the building has stood the test of time on developing Wellington West. It has a unique appearance, with its instantly recognizable extra-large bricks and eye-catching slightly-pink and white colour scheme. The building has also been seemingly extremely well maintained. Adding to its importance is that it truly was at the western edge of the City of Ottawa until 1950 (Western Avenue was the border between Ottawa and Nepean until the great annexation of 1950). It had the highest address number on Wellington Street (though that later changed in 2002 when the western end of Wellington was extended to Island Park Drive). 

I love Caffé Mio, and I love the building even more (of course, I'm a history/built heritage geek, so that probably comes as no surprise). I appreciate so much how the building has been preserved, it truly is a Wellington Village landmark (one of many that stand tall on Wellington West). It's a great property in a great neighbourhood (I'm just a block over on Gilchrist myself), and I have a life-long tie-in to the place. I spent some of my favourite times as a kid there, as it was the nearest candy/convenience store to our house, so most of my allowance money ended up there throughout 1986 and 1987.  

The property was originally on the western edge of the Stewart family farm, which existed from 1832 until 1893. Western was the border between the Stewarts and the Cowleys, and a little lane (and likely a fence or two) separated the two farms in the 19th century. Western was appropriately known as River Street in its earliest days, as it was the path you would have used to access the Ottawa River from Wellington. Beyond 1893, for the next 27 years the property sat largely empty, part of the holdings of a land investment company waiting for the real estate boom that the Roaring Twenties eventually provided. 

I've previously detailed that fateful auction day in June of 1920 when the Wellington Village properties were all sold under a circus tent at Holland and Wellington one at a time (, and the Mio lot was of course a part of that auction.

The buyers at said auction were a mixed group. Many were simply investors, looking to scoop up a few cheap lots in anticipation of selling them for a quick profit. Others were small-time developers, anxious to make their mark in the newest Ottawa subdivision. The third category were the dreamers, the individuals who were sold by the Ottawa Land Association's promises of a cheap lot, and assistance to build a home right away, for less than the price of renting a home.

Albert E. Knight in 1938
The Mio lot was one of four lots purchased that day by Albert E. Knight, a 38-year old policeman with the Ottawa Police Department. Knight had come to Canada from England, where he had been a policeman with the Worcestershire force. He joined the Ottawa Police in 1912 as chief police photographer, and from 1914 until his retirement in 1946, he was in charge of the issuing of licenses (largely for dogs and cars), retiring with the rank of Inspector.

Knight bought his four lots for $1,020. Two of the lots were the Mio lot and the one next door to the east (the used car lot), and the other two were two lots at the south end of Ross. It is probable that Knight acquired them solely as an investment. Indeed he never took out any permits, nor built in Wellington Village.

In May of 1922, Knight sold the Mio lot to Antonio Mendola for $600. He would certainly profit on that lot, as anyone who re-sold them prior to the late 1920s did. The adjoining lot (car lot) he wasn't as lucky with, holding on to it for 13 years until losing it due to unpaid taxes during the depression (land values reached extremely low levels, new home construction was at a standstill, and the City was still charging relatively high property taxes, leading many to simply surrender their lots rather than pour money into them year after year in the hopes that the depression, and later WWII, would end). 

Antonio Mendola operated his own grocery store at 438 Preston Street at the corner of Pamilla (now EVOO Greek Kitchen restaurant), and must have had a plan to build a new grocery and confectionery shop on Wellington Street in the new subdivision, and move. 

ad for Mendola's original grocery store on Preston.
From the Ottawa Journal, March 1st, 1920.

Mendola did build it, likely starting in 1924, and completing it sometime between the fall of 1924 and the summer of 1925. But it was not Mendola who would open for business in the new building. For reasons that are unclear (but are likely financial or personal related), Mendola put the property up for sale just after construction was complete. He sold in January of 1926 for $1 and the assumption of the remaining balance of the mortgage, a transaction which seems to indicate Mendola was simply looking to be rid of the property. He was soon after listed as living back on Preston Street, running a store next to where he previously had, at 440 Preston Street.

Rather than Mendola opening in the new Wellington Street storefront, it was 31-year-old Edward S. Howard who opened the first shop in the future Caffé Mio building in very late 1924 or early 1925. Born in County Kerry Ireland, he arrived in the Ottawa as a teenager. He married his wife Edna Smith on the lawn of her family cottage in Champlain Park in 1913. (That cottage/house was 101 Cowley Avenue, located on the northeast corner of Pontiac, now NCC-owned greenspace. Edward and Edna lived there until it was expropriated by the NCC in 1959). The Howards operated the grocery/confectionery store until 1929 when the building was sold. Howard then moved on, still working in the grocery business, but with Bryson-Grahams.

Meanwhile, Mendola sold the store in 1926 to John Wesley Summers and his wife Edith, of Westboro. John was 34 years old, and employed as a civil servant, with the intriguing job of photostat operator with the Department of the Interior (a photostat being the earliest version of a photocopier, which as you can imagine in the 1920s sounds like it was quite the involved machine). The Summers seemingly acquired the property as an investment, holding it as landlords for just three years, before selling in February of 1929.

It was in 1929 that the property begins its first true notable era when Joseph Shaeen purchased the property, for the total cost of $3,950. Joseph had led a very interesting life to that point. He was born in Syria in 1890, and had escaped from there in 1909. He came to Canada and settled in the tiny oceanside town of Pouch Cove, Newfoundland, where he operated a butcher shop. He fought in WWI as a member of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, enlisting in December of 1914. In July of 1916, while in battle in Beaumont-Hamel, France, Shaeen was shot in the left leg. He spent two weeks in a field hospital, transferred to England, and from there spent an incredible 29 months in hospitals, eventually returning home to Newfoundland in December of 1918. By that time, his medical file indicates he had received 18 operations on his leg, which was still not healed. He later spent 5 months in Camp Hill Hospital in Halifax in 1920, at which time records seem to indicate the leg was amputated. He also lost his first wife during this period as well, and he had two young children when he enlisted, for whom there is no trace beyond that point.

In 1925, he married his second wife Alice Ganim, who was also Syrian-born. Travel records show he left Newfoundland (which required immigration, as Newfoundland was still not part of Canada at the time) for three weeks in 1925 to come to Ottawa, and it was here that he married Alice. The couple returned to Newfoundland. There they had their only child, a son Albert. In October of 1928, the family planned to move to Ottawa, and boarded the S.S. Caribou from Port-aux-Basques to North Sydney, Nova Scotia. However, upon arrival in North Sydney, the family was rejected. They appeaed the decision, and for 16 days the family would have stayed in limbo (perhaps at some kind of temporary holding location), until the appeal was heard. It was approved, and they were free to come to Ottawa to start their new life.

It did not take long for the Shaeens to find their new home: the Caffé Mio building on Wellington West! On February 6th, 1929 the sale was official. The Shaeens paid $3,950, half down and half paid through a mortgage from Westboro's Rev. Steacy of All Saints Church. It was more common than not in those days for loans to be acquired from individual lenders, rather than a bank or loan company. How the Shaeens met Rev. Steacy and were able to borrow $2,000 from him after being in Ottawa only a few months must be an interesting story unto itself. 

Early records list Shaeen's business alternatively as a restaurant, fruit store and confectionery in different sources. It is likely true that the shop had a few functions during the early years, as the Shaeens would have done anything they could to stay afloat during the difficult years of the depression.

The building was originally smaller than it is now. An addition was put on the rear between 1930 and 1931 by the Shaeens. This can be seen in the aerial photo comparison between 1928 and 1933 below. That is Wellington running left to right, with Western and Gilchrist running north off of it. The building on the northeast corner of Western is noticeably extended in the 1933 photo.

November 1928 aerial photo

May 1933 aerial photo, with new addition showing

Initially, the Shaeens lived in a split-level apartment, occupying all of the space above the store, and a portion at the back of the ground floor. The renovation in 1930-31 added an additional apartment on the 2nd floor, and another unit on the ground floor, both with Western Avenue addresses.

In August of 1935, Shaeen acquired the vacant lot next door from the City of Ottawa, who had acquired it due to unpaid taxes by its original owner Albert E. Knight. It was a shrewd acquisition by Shaeen, who picked it up for next to nothing (less than $100 I believe) to give himself an extra-large parcel of land fronting Wellington Street. This double-lot remains as one parcel today.

Joseph Shaeen continued to operate his store until 1947. I found very little written about the family or the store during this period, and in fact could only find one advertisement for the store during this entire time, an ad which ran on Christmas Eve 1936, which misspelled Shaeen's name.

Ottawa Journal, December 24, 1936

Attempts to locate a descendant of the Shaeens proved difficult, and thus I am unable to find any vintage photos or stories from this period, unfortunately.

Joseph retired in 1947, and sold the building and the lot next door to Esau and Rose Kavanat, who had been living in Spencerville. The store then operated as "Kavanat Confectionery" for 2 years, then "Western Confectionery" until 1961.

In the summer of 1948, neighbourhood institution Gerry C. Lowrey Roofing opened in the vacant lot at 1375 Wellington Street. They must have opened an office in a temporary structure of some kind, perhaps using the lot for storage of roofing materials. There certainly was no permanent structure on it at the time, and in an aerial photo from 1953, there was not a temporary one by then either.

Journal, September 11, 1948

Soon after the lot was co-leased by A. Bethell & Son, a "concrete floor" business, who shared the space for a year or so with Lowreys. Lowreys remained until April of 1953, when they moved a block over into the building at the corner of Gilchrist which is now Lauzon's Music. The vacant lot was immediately leased by Hughie Henderson, who opened Parkway Motors, the first car dealership in a long line of car dealerships, which technically is still the use of this lot today.

Journal, May 6 1953

In 1952, part of the Kavanat's shop "Western Confectionery" was sectioned off (I believe even by an interior wall with a separate entrance) and the "Western Barber Shop" operated out of the east part of the building, with civic address 1377 Wellington for over 20 years, until about 1973.

In 1961, the Kavanats sold to Rodger Harold Moodie, a car dealer himself, who saw potential in owning the lot. He opened "Moodie Motor Sales", with a sizable starting stock of cars, as evidenced by his first newspaper ad:

June 9, 1961 Journal

Moodie then rented out the corner store to tenants. But business would not go so well for Moodie. By 1963 he was out of business, and that fall he was foreclosed on by the owner of his $51,000 mortgage, an Ottawa lawyer John Barber Ebbs. Interestingly, Ebbs would maintain ownership of the property for several years.

The confectionery meanwhile had different names throughout the years: Ganim's Emporium (1962), Wally's Emporium (1963-1964), Tony's Emporium (1965-1968), and finally Sam's Grocery (1969-1987).

Ottawa Journal, February 5, 1969

Sam of Sam's Grocery was Samir Ghattas. He and his wife Ruth acquired the property in 1969 from Ebbs, and opened his store that would remain open until the fall of 1987. Sam's would sell a variety of items. In 1974, a newspaper ad highlighted their chuckwagon sandwiches...

Ottawa Journa, February 1, 1974

Here is a view of the corner of Wellington and Western in July of 1974, looking northeast:

July 1974

Sam was quoted in a pretty comical article in the Journal in 1977, discussing the popularity of Penthouse magazines in Ottawa, after a news distribution company was charged with distribution and possession of obscene written and pictorial matter. Sam noted that he sold "more than 90 percent of the 60 Penthouse magazines he receives each month". His trial testimony, which now is kind of funny 40 years later, noted that "all kinds of people from all walks of life buy magazines of that kind."

June 21, 1977

I remember Sam and his wife, though by the time we moved onto Gilchrist in the spring of 1986, he was clearly tired of the business. I recall him sitting glumly at the cash, rarely with expression, and not really all that happy to have a 6-7 year old kid bugging him for a quarter's worth of penny candy.

In October of 1987, Sam closed his store, and it became an H&R Block office. I'm not sure what happened to Sam and Ruth afterwards, I could find no real trace of them, though they did continue to own the building into the late 1990s.

After it was an H&R Block, it later became Almy's Deli, Wellington Deli, Lulu, The Cottage, and finally Caffé Mio by early 2005. The City of Ottawa Archives had a photo of the building from 1991 when it was briefly the Wellington Deli:

The Wellington Deli - June 1991
(City of Ottawa Archives - CA-24336)

So there you have it, the story of 1379 Wellington Street West. A building with so much history, all the way back to when it marked the edge of the City of Ottawa, but also one that has stood the test of time over its 93 years. Just one more reason to appreciate the charm and uniqueness of the West Wellington strip!

Caffé Mio (This photo and the one at the top borrowed
from Caffé Mio's website)

Friday, September 1, 2017

The history of the Holland and Wellington intersection

My article in this week's Kitchissippi Times is on the history of the intersection of Wellington Street West and Holland Avenue. Being arguably the busiest intersection in Kitchissippi, it has a lot of history. From streetcars to horses to gas lamps to bible agents to Laura Secords to fires and more, this corner has seen a lot of change over the 130 years of so that it has existed.

Check out the print edition, or you can see the online edition, which has many extra photos at:

Wesley Building 1955 (Ottawa Archives CA-25262)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Broadview School photos 1959-1960

A while back, I discovered a random little trove of photos taken of students at Broadview Public School during the 1959-60 school year. These were taken by the National Film Board, and were taken by NFB famed photographer Chris Lund for their Still Photography Division.

I am not certain why this set of photos was taken, but it is a nice sampling of school life 60 years ago. Have a look, particularly if you or a family member attended Broadview at that time - you may find yourself!

"A kindergarten class at Broadview Public School."
LAC MIKAN 4301849

"A woman and two children seated at table in the library at
Broadview Public School."
LAC MIKAN 4301850

"A close-up of a young student seated at a desk in the
classroom. Broadview Public School"
LAC MIKAN 4301592

"A Group of children standing around together. In the foreground
is a little girl holding a rabbit. Broadview Public School"
LAC MIKAN 4301593

"View of the Broadview Public School. In the foreground
can be seen children running out at recess."
LAC MIKAN 4301594

"A view from the back of the classroom looking towards the
teacher and the blackboard. Broadview Elementary School"
LAC MIKAN 4301595

"A high angle view looking down on a group of young students
who are seated on the floor listening to their teacher explaining
some material from a text book. Broadview Public School"
LAC MIKAN 4301596

"A high angle view looking down on students in the
Broadview Public School."
LAC MIKAN 4301597

Wellington Village residential-to-commercial, with a focus on the Wellington Diner

The current edition of the Kitchissippi Times features an article I wrote, describing the changes to Wellington Street West over the last 100 years or so, but most particularly since the 1950s, when the area was still largely residential. As the need for more commercial space has increased over time, houses have been re-purposed as shops, stores, restaurants and other businesses. Wellington West is fairly unique in this regard, and what's great is that almost all of the original buildings in Wellington Village still remain today (unlike Westboro, where a lot of these old converted houses were demolished during the late 1990s and in to the 2000s).

This article takes a particular look at the Wellington Diner, at the corner of Wellington and Western, and it's history from residential house, to used car lot, and eventually, a restaurant. The article also details just how it ended up that a vacant lot ended up in this spot, a story which originates all the way back in 1911. This vacant lot of course now is contentious over the establishment of a patio, the matter passing through Council but now headed towards the Ontario Municipal Board in Toronto.

The online version of the article contains a few extra photos of the neighbourhood, and some neat old ads for the used car lot which stood on this location for over 40 years. Thanks for reading!

The Wellington Diner - aka the Stacey home.
Circa 1930

A walk through Kitchissippi in 1867

I'm well behind in posting my updates to the blog! My apologies!

Earlier this summer, you may have caught it: the cover story of the mid-June Kitchissippi Times was my article on Kitchissippi of 1867. As we are the midst of Canada 150 celebrations, it was good timing to write an article talking about the people, places and streetscape that would have existed in our area in 1867. This was a really fun article to write, and combines years of research on various topics, culminating in painting a picture of exactly what someone in 1867 would have experienced. I included as many photos as I could find that would apply, including some very rare pictures I acquired over the last few months but haven't shared yet.

I hope you'll enjoy it, and gain a bit of an appreciation for just how different life would have been in our area 150 years ago. You can read the full article at: