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:

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The day Mechanicsville nearly burned

Ottawa Citizen headline - May 22, 1956

The Victoria Day long weekend of 1956 is likely one that long-time Mechanicsville residents have never forgotten. Tragedy and devastation was narrowly avoided, thanks to the incredible efforts of the Ottawa Fire Department, and a little luck from mother nature.

As anyone familiar with the area might reasonably question, the close proximity of the houses in Mechanicsville, along with their simple wood-frame construction (and particularly at the time, the questionable materials used in their finishing - the chimneys, the stoves, the pipes, the insulation, etc.), how has Mechanicsville made it through 145 years without being wiped out by fire? The answer is, they haven't exactly... fires have been a significant problem for the neighbourhood. Of course, major changes to the building and fire codes, as well as improvements in the homes themselves have minimized the risks in 2017. But up until the 1960s, fires were a regular event in the neighbourhood, and there is hardly a lot in Mechanicsville which hasn't seen a fire at one time or another. Major blazes have taken out a few house at a time over the years, but thankfully (and luckily) there was never an inferno that destroyed the community as a whole. But such a fire was maybe never closer than on the evening of Sunday May 20th, 1956.

In late afternoon, three young boys aged seven, eight and ten years visited a corner store in Mechanicsville. As it was the Victoria Day weekend, the store had a large stock of firecrackers on hand. One of the boys had 10 cents on him. He purchased 10 firecrackers for 5 cents, plus a book of matches for another penny. The boys took their purchase to the old Artelle icehouse, located on the east side of Forward, where the Place Allard rowhouses now stand.

Google Streetview 2016: Forward Avenue east side near
Scott, where the Dore ice house was located

The ice house was a monstrous building, 60 by 40 feet in footprint, and stood 50 feet high, the equivalent of a four-storey building. These buildings were huge structures, and there had been several in Mechanicsville, where the ice-men of the era had stored they had pulled out of the Ottawa River the prior winter, for sale and home delivery throughout the following spring and summer. With the electric refrigerator becoming an affordable appliance for just about every home in the 1950s, the icemen were more or less out of business. The Artelle ice house had been sold to the Dores in the 1940s, but ceased being used as an icehouse in 1953. It had then been sold to the James Tapp & Sons Construction Company to store construction equipment.

Just before 7 p.m., the boys went alongside the building, and set off their firecrackers. They put one firecracker between boards of the of icehouse's outer wall, and into the sawdust insulation. They later claimed they believed the firecracker to be "dead" when the did that. They then left the area, and went to go play on swings nearby. A short time later, they noticed smoke and flames coming from the roof.

They ran to the house next door at 191 Forward and alerted Mrs. Ouellette, who was watching television on the main floor. "I went outside shortly after 7 o'clock to find flames slapping our house" Mrs. Ouellette recalled to the newspaper. "My husband was upstairs sleeping and all I could think of was getting him awake." Just moments later the Ouellette's bedroom was a mass of flame. The Ouellette family were in the midst of renovating their home at the time. This was in fact their third tragedy in three years. In August of 1955, 7-year-old daughter Nicole was killed when hit by a car at Parkdale and Scott, and in 1954, youngest son Denis spent two weeks a in coma after being hit by a train at Forward Avenue (he survived).

191 Forward Avenue as it burned
(City of Ottawa Archives, CA-38569)

Meanwhile, next door, neighbour Leo Monette was also watching television when he heard the cries in the street, and saw the boys running past the front window. They had run to the fire alarm box (which was located at the corner of Hinchey and Lyndale) to alert the fire department. Someone else had already pulled the alarm.

Frank Albert who lived at 195 Hinchey came running over, and was one of the first on scene. He had seen the smoke coming from the warehouse a block over. Albert and other neighbours began to help as was common in the era in the event of a fire: begin to quickly remove furniture, clothes and personal property within the houses of those affected. Thus for as long as they could, neighbours helped empty 191 and 189 Forward of as many of their contents as could be carried out in the short minutes they had before the homes were engulfed. 191 Forward was also the location of Lucille's Beauty Salon, and as much of the hairdresssing equipment owned by the Ouellette's daughter were brought outside.

The first firemen on the scene included Acting District Chief Stan Pratt. He called in a second alarm, which brought Acting Chief Maynard Dolman to the fire, who saw the severity of the blaze, and called for all Ottawa fire stations and all off-duty firemen. 18 reels came rushing to the scene, and virtually all of Ottawa's firemen and their equipment from seven stations. Many off-duty firemen were called in, and others arrived voluntarily when they heard of the fire. Dolman later said that he believed on his arrival that the fire would likely "spread to the Ottawa River".

At the height of the blaze, it was stated that flames shot into the sky 60 feet over the roof of the former icehouse. Hoses began to melt and burn, and windows of neighbouring homes and businesses began to crack and shatter. Residents of houses 250 feet away stated they could feel the heat of the fire in their kitchen.

The firefighters at 191 Forward upon first
arrival. (City of Ottawa Archives CA-38557)

Early in the blaze, loud explosions could be heard. This caused great anxiety for those at the scene, as the explosions were contributing to fueling the fire, while also slowing the fire department's ability to fight it. The explosions were believed to have come from old oil drums, which were empty at the time, as well as the 15-gallon gas tank on the dump truck that was parked in the warehouse, and from its tires.

Meanwhile, down the street at 183 Forward, Teck Chiodo reported that "the heat was becoming so intense" that they began evacuating. Next door at 185 Forward, the Morisette family was forced out by a flaming roof. Suddenly houses all over Mechanicsville were becoming alight.

Sparks showered houses blocks from the fire. Homeowners throughout the neighbourhood battled the burning embers with buckets of water and hoses to keep roofs wetted down. Firefighters spread out over the entirety of Mechanicsville to assist, and keep watch. It would be a nervous two hours for the residents of the district.

The heat from the icehouse fire became so intense that 191 and 189 Forward were fully ignited. Firemen had climbed to the roof of 191 to help battle the blaze, but were affected by what was described as "blast furnace heat". One fireman, Kenneth O'Connor, was blinded by smoke and flame, and feel from the roof. A second fireman, Len Eburne, slipped from a fence. Both men were taken to the Civic by emergency ambulance. O'Connor had broken his ankle, while Eburne was looked at for a possible foot fracture.

Firefighter Ken O'Connor at the Civic Hospital
the day after the fire May 22, 1956
(City of Ottawa Archives, CA-38570)

The CPR's new "Canadian" train, on its way into Ottawa from Toronto was held up for an hour because of hoses over the track. The Police were also busy, managing area traffic and also the incredible flow of spectators that found their way into the neighbourhood. Large numbers of officers were required to keep the crowd at bay. The billowing clouds of smoke brought thousands into the area.

By 7:45 p.m., the icehouse was in ruins and the final portions had collapsed. The fire fighters turned their attention to the neighbouring houses, and by 9 p.m. had succeeded in calming the fire.

Photo after the ice house had burned and collapsed.
(Ottawa Journal, May 22 1956)

Police and bystanders interviewed said they had never seen a faster, more capable "stop" of a fire. All agreed that a major disaster was averted by the skill of the fire department. "I dread to think what the consequences would have been if there had been an easterly wind and it had been later in the night" said Michael Connolly of 124 Hinchey Avenue, whose house briefly was on fire owing to a spark that had travelled 400 yards. The roof of his neighbour at 120 Hinchey next door had also been on fire as well.

Equally as important a factor in why Mechanicsville was not razed that Sunday evening was the luck of the weather. The direction of the wind throughout the event was southwest. Residents and fire officials agreed it would have been disastrous had an easterly wind been blowing. Surely all of Hinchey and moving east would have gone up in flames.

Ottawa Citizen profile of some of the area neighbours
who did suffer damage/loss in the fire. May 22 1956.

Property damage was estimated in excess of $75,000. The ice house alone was valued at $30,000, though it (and its contents) were fully insured. 191 Forward was a total loss, partially insured for the $9,000 loss. 189 was severely damaged but was later restored and continued to stand into the 1990s. The three families who resided in 189 and 191 Forward were made homeless, and took temporary shelter in the homes of friends and family.

Aftermath of the fire, smouldering ruins of the icehouse
View looking east and slightly south, from middle of
Forward Ave. (City of Ottawa Archives CA-25267)

View looking north up Forward Avenue after the fire. Hinchey
Avenue in background at right.
(City of Ottawa Archives CA-25268)

Shockingly, not everyone learned from this incident! The following night (Monday night) firefighters were called back to Forward Avenue when another alarm was called in, after fireworks let off on the street sent sparks onto the roof of 86 Forward. With the nerves of the neighbourhood still frayed, no chance was taken, and the fire department arrived and extinguished the smouldering shingles on the roof.

A bylaw passed in May of 1955 banned the sale of "fireworks or any other dangerous article to any child apparently under the age of 16." Thus the day after the big fire, the police department stated that the store owner who sold the boys the firecrackers would face charges. No details were ever followed up on in the newspaper about the charges.

The last of the Sunday evening fires was finally out at 11 p.m., around which time the police had rounded up the three kids who were responsible for the fire. The boys sat in a kitchen on Forward Avenue recounting the story to police, who told them they would not be charged "I will buy a soft drink next time", promised the oldest of the children. "Nervous Mechanicsville residents hope they keep their promise", wrote the Citizen.


Here is a list (using newspaper accounts) to list the houses and residents most significantly affected by the fire that day:
- 195 Forward: The Tapp warehouse (former icehouse) had within it a 1955-model three-ton dump truck and construction material (lumber, power tools and a lot of equipment).
- 191 Forward (Mr. and Mrs. Emile Ouellette and four children): total loss
- 189 Forward (duplex, Mr. and Mrs. Leo Monette and one child; and Mr and Mrs. Paul Gougeon): entire house seriously damaged
- 185 Forward (Mr. and Mrs. Paul Morisette, 4 children and a roomer): heavy fire damage to roof.
- 183 Forward (duplex, Mr. and Mrs. Teck S. Chiodo and their son; Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Ducharme and two children; and Miss J. Maloney): roof destroyed, water damage heavy
- 179 Forward (Mr. and Mrs. R. Auger, two children; and Mrs. E. Lappe)
- 202 Forward (American News Company)
- 208 Hinchey, at rear of the icehouse (Mr. and Mrs. O. Trottier and three children; Mr. and Mrs. L. Lafontaine and three children; Mr. and Mrs. O. Demers and one child)
- 206 Hinchey (Mrs. M. Laroque)
- 202 Hinchey (Mrs. C. Lacosse and son): shed at rear destroyed and rear wall of home severely damaged
- 198 Hinchey (Mr. and Mrs. Harold Raymond and five children): garage at back and rear wall of home heavily damaged
- 194 Hinchey (Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Mercier and seven children)
- 192 Hinchey (Mr. and Mrs. G. St. Laurent and seven children)
- Many other homes two blocks away or more were damaged via roof fires, touched off by high drifting sparks


The following three photos are from one larger photo looking south up Forward, towards Scott Street. It shows a groups of some of those spectators who had assembled to watch the fire. I split the photo into three segments, which will allow for more close-ups of the people. Recognize anyone? I have to believe most of Mechanicsville was out watching the fire, perhaps someone you know may be in the crowd?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The creation of the Ottawa River (Sir John A MacDonald) Parkway

The new issue of the Kitchissippi Times hits the streets today, and inside it is my column on the creation of the Ottawa River Parkway aka Sir John A MacDonald Parkway. 

The development of the Parkway was not as fast, or as inexpensive as you might think it was. And there was far more involved than just laying some roads. Thousands of people in Kitchissippi were booted off their land when the government expropriated their property. The Parkway was originally planned to be part of a ring road surrounding the City, which of course never came about.

Read the full story and check out a couple extra photos at the Kitchissippi Times:

Aerial shot of the Parkway under construction.
Looking east from Westboro Beach to Tunney's
Pasture, April 1963
(Source: Ottawa Archives CA-8779)

Friday, May 26, 2017

Canadian Pacific 150: What's Your Railway Legacy

Canadian Pacific Rail is running a very interesting writing contest right now, for Canada's 150th Anniversary. Canadians are invited to submit a photo and/or story of the importance of railways to them and their family.

I submitted a little article about my grandfather Ted Sauve, and the importance of CPR to the west end of Ottawa. It was published on the CP site yesterday. Feel free to have a read at: (I did have paragraphs in my submission, but the website I guess put it all into one long text).

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Kitchissippi Museum - at Westfest!

I am happy to announce that the Kitchissippi Museum will be participating in Westfest this year! I will be setting up a sizable booth at Laroche Park on Saturday June 3rd to share a ton of old photos, maps, and artifacts from the history of our area. I invite you to come out and say hi, share stories, or just browse through the things I'll be bringing. I'll likely be set up by 10:30, and will stay until late afternoon. Of course, this is weather permitting. If it's raining Saturday, I'll aim to set up Sunday instead.

I'll post back a little closer to the event date with some highlight items I'll be bringing. I have a few new things I'd love to share. 

Really looking forward to it! Westfest is an awesome event, I'm proud to have been a participant for several years on Richmond Road, and am excited to set up in Laroche Park this year. 

For more info on Westfest, check out

Hope to see you on Saturday June 3rd!

Family photo in Laroche Park, 1940s
(Source: Nicole Vachon Bergeron)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Kitchissippi Museum interview in the Ottawa Citizen today on the floods of 1928

The Ottawa Citizen today dedicated a big chunk of the "Observer" section to recapping the flooding which has been causing issue for the region over the last few weeks. As part of that series, an article was published today (Saturday May 13) on page D3 titled "This Isn't the first big flood to hit Ottawa- Gatineau". The article includes a copy of one of the photos I posted here earlier this week of the flooding in Woodroffe-Westboro, and also includes some details in to the flooding of 1928. Oddly I could not locate the article on the Citizen website (perhaps they do a slow-release of articles throughout the weekend), but it was available on PressReader.

You can view the article in the Citizen newspaper itself, or at PressReader at:


Friday, May 12, 2017

Westboro's first ever business - and the building still exists!

This week's Kitchissippi Times includes my column on a neat story that I have always been meaning to write about and share. The article is the result of my research to find what was the first ever business, the first ever retail store, to exist in the Westboro area. 25+ years before Westboro even became "Westboro", when the first sparks of a new community were beginning to form, a small store was opened in the front of the home of one of the early pioneers. Along with being the story of the first business, this is also the story of Jane Birch and the Birch family who settled in Westboro in the 1830s; and also of her husband Pierre Paysant, who escaped war and imprisonment in France in the 1870s to somehow find his way to rural Nepean Township.

Making this story even more impressive - Jane Birch's place, the home where she opened the store in 1873 still exists today. It's a nondescript little house you likely have walked by or driven by a hundred times or more, and have likely never noticed. This article will now give you a reason to really stop and think - about what has happened to its surroundings over the last 144 years.

I hope this article also gives some consideration to heritage protection. The house hits on all the points of a checklist - first retail store, the early settler Birch family, 144 years of age, tied to Westboro's first era, unique architectural highlights... and on.

Read all about 379 Churchill Avenue at:

379 Churchill in 1952
(Source: City of Ottawa Archives, CA-25505)

379 Churchill in 2016
(Source: Google Streetview)

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The west end floods... of 1928

Flooding is causing issues all along the Ottawa River shoreline this week. The media has reported on anecdotal history of other flooding from the past, and perhaps no year was worse in recorded history than 1928. That year severe flooding affected the communities alongside the River, which were then predominantly cottage communities. Woodroffe, Westboro, Westboro Beach, Island Park Drive, Riverside Park (aka Champlain Park) were all affected by the floods.

Here are three incredible photos taken from the air, showing how bad it was. (To enlarge any photo, simply click on it to open a larger viewing window)

First photo is taken looking east from above the old neighbourhood at Woodroffe (largely expropriated for the Parkway in the 50s). Westboro is beyond in the distance, and you can see almost to where Westboro Beach begins:

This shot is taken just slightly to the east of Westboro Beach, again looking east towards downtown. These are the houses of the Westboro Beach community in behind, the north extension of Churchill Avenue to the water. Champlain Bridge in the background, which was then only a few months old (the first link to Bate Island was opened in September of 1927).

Here is more of a close-up of the Champlain Bridge, and you can see the water throughout the Champlain Park community at top right. The bridge access ramp actually goes underwater and disappears, the water is so high! (Note this was the original access ramp/approach; within a year or two, a new approach was built coming more straight off the bridge, rather than the nearly-90 degree angle it went at in 1928).  The original access ramp is now actually the parking/lookout area immediately to the east of the Bridge!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Mechanicsville 1958

I've loved this photo ever since I came across it deep in the files of the city archives. It's a photo of 138 Forward Avenue in the summer of 1958:

138 Forward Avenue, June 9, 1958
(Source: Ottawa Archives, CA-24668)

The photo really speaks for itself. It's a snapshot in time from the classic years of Mechanicsville, when it truly was a working class neighbourhood. I checked, and June 9th, 1958 was a Monday. The newspaper said it hit a high of 62 degrees, which is about 17 Celsius. So a cool day for June. Monday morning clearly must have been wash day, with the double line stretching over the backyard of the house. Two young girls play down the alley, behind the late 40s Dodge. The exterior of the house is still in its almost primitive state, without any exterior finishing. Wood and some kind of peeling cloth-like material is all that protects the house from elements. The original house has been added on to, at least twice. The latest addition being some kind of hastily-constructed shed, with an old door used for a side wall. There is garbage next to the alleyway, and seemingly no grass or greenery to be found. It's just an incredible photo of Mechanicsville during it's most brutal and honest period.

A little research shows the house (which still stands today) was part of the same family for nearly 80 years. It was built in 1902 by Jean Marie Marcotte. He paid $135 for the lot (which is actually a double lot, as far as Mechanicsville goes) and borrowed $250 in order to construct a house that same summer. Marcotte spent his life employed as a moulder, working in foundries. Tough work, but necessary to support his family of six daughters and three sons. After Marcotte died in 1937, his daughter Marguerite along with her husband acquired it. Ten years later, in 1947, it was sold to another of Jean Marcotte's daughters, Laurette and her husband Omer Lalande. The house seems to have always been full: at any given time the families were quite large; in the 1940s there appears to have been two separate apartments added to the house (perhaps that rustic addition on the back) that had various tenants in it; and even in the mid-1950s, record books show that Omer and Laurette shared the house with three of their daughters and their husbands and their families. Again, more evidence of the true blue collar nature of the neighbourhood at the time. Adding to the storyline is that the only newspaper article I could find about the house was from 1954, when two 22-year old men were arrested for assaulting Omer Lalande in a brawl in his kitchen at 138 Forward, leaving Omer in the hospital with a severe cut to his head. The kicker - one of the two men was his son-in-law who shared the house with him.

A great old Mechanicsville home with so many stories to tell, and a photo from 1958 that was simply worth a blog post of its own.

138 Forward Avenue today, hardly recognizable from
the photo from 59 years ago
(Source: Google Streetview)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Petit Bill's Bistro's 10th Anniversary & their vintage West Wellington building!

I read last week that Petit Bill's Bistro recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of their opening on Wellington Street west, at the corner of Smirle. An impressive anniversary for any restaurant for sure, and for me it was a realization of how fast 10 years has gone by. It still seems like not that long ago that Juniper's was in there, or before that even, John's Quick Lunch when I was a kid. I've always liked the little 2-storey building which has housed a variety of different establishments during even my lifetime, let alone it's 90 total years of existence. This building has popped up in my research a few times over the years, and with Petit Bill's anniversary, I felt the timing was right for a profile of this venerable Wellington Village structure. I also recently tracked down an exciting, rare old photo of the building, which sealed the deal!

Early days of the property

The history of the property dates all the way back to the Smirle family, believe it or not. In 1885, Archibald Smirle was in the midst of a major life change. He had fairly recently received a significant appointment as Public School Inspector for Carleton County, but had also just lost his young wife, the former Harriet Holmes Cowley, during childbirth in December 1884 at age 39. A long-time resident in the City of Ottawa, Smirle was perhaps looking for a fresh start, and the proximity to his in-laws (the Cowleys) on Richmond Road was likely appealing. He purchased a block of land in the "McLeansville" subdivision of the former Stewart farm, and build a pretty stone house fronting Richmond Road. (Much more on Smirles and that stone house can be found in a previous article I wrote at:

In 1893, just prior to the Stewarts selling their entire farm to the land syndicate Ottawa Land Association, Smirle acquired "lot 7" on Richmond Road (which would of course later be renamed Wellington to as far as Western Avenue), as well as two more lots in behind fronting Grange and Smirle, for $300, giving him a parcel of land 200 feet wide and 216 feet deep off Richmond.

Archibald died in 1897, and his young daughters sold the property in 1904 to a 44-year old British Spinster, Miss Mary French for $2,300. French remained in the home until her death in September of 1920. After she died, her executors sold the whole property (so the eastern 3/4 of the block of Wellington between Grange and Smirle, all the way back to what is now 118 Smirle) to Mrs. Isabelle S. Wallace (wife of Alfred Wallace), in July of 1922 for $5,500.

At some point in time in the mid-1920s, Isabelle Wallace made a family deal to sell the property to her brother, James Henry Russell. I say family deal because the sale was never registered in the land registry records. All transactions remained under Isabelle until she sold in 1944. However, the owner in civic records by the late 1920s was J.H. Russell, and it was he who would make this block of land come alive.

James Henry Russell in 1927 was a 57-year old recently retired tailor. He was born in 1869 in Kars, and had moved to Ottawa in his twenties. He worked for many years for the Ottawa tailoring firm Burwash and MacDonald. He was married, with one child, a teen-aged daughter. He lived on First Avenue in the Glebe, and in his retirement had become actively involved in real estate.

Around 1926, he constructed the brick duplex at 118-120 Smirle Avenue, and in August of 1927, took out a building permit to build another duplex next door, which is now 122 Smirle Avenue. It seems unlikely Russell himself was involved in the physical house building work, but he certainly was responsible for overseeing the construction.

It was his action on Halloween day in 1927 that is most notable, at least for the purposes of this story. On that date, the last building permit in the city of Ottawa for the month of October of 1927 was issued to J.H. Russell, in the amount of $6,000 for the construction of a "brick veneer store and apartment." This was the future Petit Bill's building.

Ottawa Journal - November 7, 1927

The construction of the Petit Bill's building

Here is the first tidbit which may surprise you: to the naked eye, the building which now houses Petit Bill's and Kulu Trading looks like just one big building. But it's an illusion! The building was actually constructed at two separate times! The eastern portion of the building siding on Smirle Avenue was built by Russell using the building permit issued in October 1927, but the western half of the building came later. Minor changes to the exterior features make the building appear to be one building, but interestingly, that is not the case. More on this below.

Russell (through his sister) took out a mortgage for $4,000 on November 7, 1927 towards the construction of the building, and construction would have occurred throughout the winter of 1927-28.

Aerial view of Wellington Street, May 5, 1928.
East is at the left. Visible are Smirle and Grange running
towards the bottom, and Julian and Warren running towards
the top. The new store at the northwest corner of Smirle can
be seen, as well as the old stone house, with a sizable gap
between them. Quite a few trees west of the stone house.

Upon completion of the building by the spring of 1928, tenants were found to occupy the space, which was originally given the civic address 1307 Wellington Street (the addresses on Wellington would later all be renumbered in 1946). The upstairs apartment (1309 Wellington) was rented to Edward J. Burroughs and his wife Hawthorne (so says the record books), while the store was rented to Mr. Joseph Nathaniel Harmer. Harmer was a druggist, who had been operating his shop across the street in what is now the Won Ton House building, since 1923. In fact, Harmer was the Postmaster for what was known as the Elmdale neighbourhood, with the first post office for Wellington Village opening in his original store on April 29th, 1927.

Joseph Harmer was born in Thamesville, Ontario in 1885, and had married Emma Nita Bounsall in 1908. The couple had three children within the next 10 years, two sons and a daughter. During WWI, the family moved to Toronto, where Joseph found work as a manager of one of the Louis K. Liggett Co. chain drug stores. However, while in Toronto, 2-year old daughter Eleanor passed away, and a year later the family moved back to Ottawa. It was then that Harmer opened his own shop at Wellington and Warren. I can't say why Harmer moved into the new building across the street in early 1928, but he did. (Note, Harmer was of no relation to Frederick W. Harmer, Clerk for Nepean Township for nearly 40 years (1866-1905), and for whom Harmer Avenue is named. It is only a coincidence that Joseph Harmer opened his store close by).

Joseph and Nita Harmer, circa 1930
(Photo courtesy of Mrs. Joanne Bocking)

Below are two incredible photos which I tracked down through the Harmer family. I cannot thank Mrs. Joanne Bocking enough for digging through the family archive and coming up with the photos below. You may not recognize it at first, but it indeed is the Petit Bill's building, within the first few months, if not the first few weeks after its construction (as always, click on any photo to enlarge it):

Harmer's Drug Store - Spring 1928
(Photo courtesy of Mrs. Joanne Bocking)

The old stone Smirle house which was demolished in the 1960s is seen at left in the photo, and the view down Smirle Avenue at right is really interesting as well - not too much growth there yet. But remember that Smirle Avenue was only about 7-8 years old at the time, and had only a handful of houses built on it. The visible house in the background is what is now 131 Smirle Avenue, then the home of spinster Mrs. Margaret McAdoo. For comparison's sake, here is the building in 2016 below:

May 2016 Google Streetview photo

This view is looking at the corner of the building, taken the same day. I've included a present-day shot from roughly this angle as well. I believe that is an old fire alarm box on the hydro pole.

Harmer's Drug Store - Spring 1928, looking west
(Photo courtesy of Mrs. Joanne Bocking)

May 2016 Google Streetview shot

In August of 1928, Russell took out a new building permit to complete the last of his construction on his block of land, to build a "brick veneer and cinder block, stores (and) apartments, Wellington Street" in the amount of $5,000. This was in essence, the second phase of the Petit Bill's building. Construction began right away, if not even a little before the permit was issued, as the Ottawa City Directory of 1928 includes a listing for the unfinished building, as "Vacant". This fact makes the above photographs all the rarer, as it shows the building during the brief 4-6 month period that it stood alone without its addition. I do not understand why Russell chose to build in two halves, it is odd for sure.

The difference between the first and second 'phase' of the construction can be seen when looking at the building up close. There is a slight coloring difference in the bricks between the two phases, creating a slightly-noticeable line.

Certainly by the fall of 1928, the new building was complete. The final aerial photos of 1928 show the building in a final state:

November 4, 1928 aerial
Same view as the May 1928 photo above, but now the
full building is complete adjacent to the stone house.

The new portion of the building featured two stores on the main floor, and a residence upstairs. The first occupants of the new commercial space were Mrs. Flora Drysdale, who operated a hairdressing establishment in the eastern half (now part of the extension of Petit Bill's), while the western half (now Kulu Trading) was occupied by a butcher shop, William J. Linttell & Sons Ltd. Linttell's held their grand opening on Friday November 9th, 1928.

Ottawa Journal - November 8, 1928

In 1934, Linttell moved to the opposite side of Smirle Avenue, and became the first occupants of what is now the Fresh Air Experience store.

December 19, 1929

For a few years in the early 1930s, it appears part of Harmer's shop was dedicated to the sale of radios, by the Rev Radio Company. Of course televisions were still twenty years away, and radios were beginning to enter their golden period of popularity.

Joseph N. Harmer's Drug Store

Back to Joseph Harmer, he continued to operate his popular and successful drug store at 1307 Wellington Street into the 1940s. His store featured the local post office for Wellington Village (called "Ottawa Sub #19") until April 4th, 1936, when it was moved to George Nichol's drug store closer to Holland Avenue. Harmer later took over the "Ottawa West" post office on March 22nd, 1944, when it moved from 1 Gould Street at the corner of Western (the "Ottawa West" subdivision was the little segment of streets between Western and Island Park Drive, north of Wellington and south of Scott; the post office for Ottawa West had always been located there, and I'm not sure why it was moved out to Wellington and Smirle in 1944. Both Nichol's and Harmer's post office locations would have been operating simultaneously just a few blocks apart.)

Part of a Rexall- Harmer's Drug Store ad from October 1940

Tragedy struck on the morning of November 14th, 1945, when Joseph Nathaniel Harmer took a heart attack while in his store, and died at age 60.

Ottawa Journal
November 15, 1945

Sadly, very little biographical information on Harmer remains today. News accounts on him are sparse, his granddaughter who I spoke with never met him; he died a few years before she was born. His granddaughter Johanne did state that her Mom stated that Joseph was "the sweetest kindest man in the world", and that her Mom adored him. He was a devout Anglican, and was heavily involved in St. Matthias Church. When he passed away, a memorial cross was erected in his memory in the Church, which stood until the closure of the Church.

The base of the memorial cross for Joseph N. Harmer, which
stood inside St. Matthias Church on Parkdale Avenue
since 1945 until all Church artifacts were removed during
the closure of the church last year. Mrs. Joanne Bocking
now displays the cross in the living room of her home,
in honour of her grandfather.

Joseph and Nita Harmer and their two sons, Donald (at left)
and Joseph Jr. (at right), with their wives. Circa early-1940s.
(Photo courtesy of Mrs. Joanne Bocking)

Joseph's family continued to operate the drug store for a few months, before the business was soon sold to Norman D. McMillan. McMillan kept the drug store open until 1963, and over time also purchased the store property and the old stone house next door, which had become a mixed commercial and apartment house. During that same year of 1963, McMillan was ordered by the Housing Standards Board to demolish the stone house. It was deemed to be in poor condition, and likely dangerously so. The Housing Standards Board, via the Urban Renewal Project, had set out to enforce owners of decrepit buildings to either repair them to a certain standard, or force their demolition. Thus sadly, the historic Smirle home was torn down within a few years.

May 23, 1953 ad for McMillan's store

The list of businesses and usages over the building's history

This building has housed a number of businesses over the years. Here is as complete a list as my records show, with dates/years approximate depending on sources available:

1293 Wellington (current Petit Bill's Bistro, next to Smirle)
1928-1946: Harmer's Drug Store
1947-1963: McMillan's Drug Store
1966-1969: Parkway Beauty Salon
1970-1973: Golden Beauty Salon
1974-1975: Karam's Quick Lunch
1976-1989: John's Quick Lunch
1990: The Wellington Station (125-seat jazz nightclub)
1991-1992: Touch of India Restaurant
1993-1994: Taj Palace
1996: La Cucina Ristorante
1996-2006: Juniper Kitchen & Wine Bar
2007-Present: Petit Bill's Bistro

1295 Wellington (the apartments above Petit Bill's Bistro)
Two apartment units until at least 1963. Records do not seem to indicate anyone living there from 1963 to 1987, but they could be incomplete. By 1988 was listed as a single apartment, as I believe it continues to be. The tenants residing here the longest were Mrs. Flora McClelland her family (1941-1955) and Oswald and Annie Hughes (1939-1951).

1297 Wellington (current Petit Bill's Bistro - the 'extension' part next to Kulu's)
1929: Mrs. Flora Drysdale (hairdresser)
1930-1937: Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company Ltd. (A&P)
1940: Emile J. Spencer (novelties)
1941: Ellis Lunch Bar (confectionery)
1943-1946: residential apartment
1948-1950: Mayfair Grill (restaurant)
1951-1957: Eddie's Wonder Bar (restaurant)
1958-1960: Jimmy's Lunch (restaurant)
1961-1990s: combined with 1299 next door to west
1990s-present: time frame is uncertain but at some point, it was renovated, and added as extension to 1307 Wellington next door to the east, as it is now

1299 Wellington (current Kulu's Trading)
1929-1933: William J. Linttell & Sons (butchers)
1939-1942: Frederick Simmonds (baker)
1943-1948: residential apartment
1949-1957: Meyers-Dale & Co (floor sanding) & Dale Construction Co. Ltd (building contractors)
1959: Thomas Shipman Ltd. (real estate)
1960: West End Appliances Repair Depot
1961-1962: King Koin Laundrette (coin-operated laundry)
1962: Parker's Cleaners & Dyers
1966-1972: Kelly-Moore Ltd. (real estate and general insurance)
1973-1979: Titley Inc. (real estate)
1981-1991: combined with 1301 next door to west (St. Vincent de Paul). (I can't 100% confirm this, but the addressing and city directory info seem to indicate this. I vaguely remember St. Vincent de Paul extending to the east from it's old location at 1301 - where Blueprint Home is now located)
1992-2011: Rideau Tailors & Cleaners
2011-present: Kulu Trading

Other tidbits and photos from the history of the building

On January 17th, 1940, two-year-old Jean Lecuyer, who was residing in the upstairs apartment, died at home when one of the beans she had been playing with became caught in her windpipe.

Like in many homes in Ottawa and throughout Canada, the call to war took young men from their families during the 1940s. The residents of 1293-1299 Wellington were no different. G. W. Ellis, a young soldier who lived in the upstairs apartment, appeared in the newspaper upon graduation from the No. 9 Bombing and Gunnery School in Mont Joli, Quebec.

Ottawa Journal, June 19, 1944

Three other soldiers in WWII lived upstairs at a time during the 1940s as well. Pte G. McLelland, son of Flora McClelland (the longest resident of the upstairs apartment), had been overseas for five years, and returned home in April of 1945 after fighting in the Battle of Germany. Meanwhile, Pte. V. J. Lebeau returned home in September of 1945, while his brother Rene returned home a month later. In April of 1946, Rene's war bride and child arrived in Canada. The Lebeaus resided in the upstairs apartment upon their return.

It is interesting to note that during WWII and just after, there was a major housing shortage in Ottawa. All available space was encouraged to be used for housing. As a result two of the storefronts were converted into residences for several years in the mid-late 1940s! (This would encompass the Kulu Trading portion and the western extension of Petit Bill's).

Here is an ad for Meyers-Dale & Co, "floor covering specialists" who occupied the Kulu space in the 1950s:
April 21, 1954

In 1959, the owner of Jimmy's Lunch and a neighbour were attacked by two youths late at night in the restaurant:

November 24, 1959

Here are two photos showing the exterior of the Petit Bill's building in the early 1960s:

Smirle stone house, with the future Kulu Trading
shop in view at right, then a laundromat. 1960.
(Source: Ottawa Archives CA-20755)

The former McMillan's Drug Store and King Koin Laundrette,
both vacant in February, 1965
(Source: Ottawa Archives CA-24761)

This is my attempt to combine the two photos (taken five years apart and in different seasons) to try to show a streetscape view of the block from that era:

Photoshop mashup of the two photos to try to give a good idea
of what the Wellington Street block looked like in the early
1960s, before the stone house was demolished.

Real estate agents occupied the west half of the building from approximately 1966 to 1979.

June 13, 1973

John's Quick Lunch opened on Wellington Street in the future Petit Bill's Bistro in early 1976, taking over for what was "Karam's Quick Lunch". This was one of, if not the first restaurant review for John's:

February 6, 1976

Here are two views of John's Quick Lunch in the 1980s:

John's Quick Lunch, circa mid-1980s
(Source: John's Quick Lunch)

Interior of John's Quick Lunch, mid-1980s
(Source: John's Quick Lunch)

John's moved further west up Wellington to its current home in 1989, and was replaced at 1293 Wellington by a jazz nightclub, and later a series of short-lived restaurants.

Junipers opened just after labour day in 1996, operated by chefs Michael Sobcov (formerly of the Maple Lawn Cafe and Domus Cafe) and Richard Nigro (also of Domus). The restaurant moved to 245 Richmond Road around Christmas 2006, where they remained until closing in November of 2014.

Petit Bill's was opened by Randy Fitzpatrick, Sharon Garvey and Terry Fitzpatrick in April of 2007. The restaurant was named for "Little Bill" Fitzpatrick, father of the three owners. Sadly, "Little Bill" passed away a little over a year later.

April 2009 view of Petit Bill's and Rideau Tailors.
Note the original red sign, and no patio yet!
(Source; Google Streetview)

Petit Bill's has been a great success story for the neighbourhood and is well appreciated not only for it's great food and eclectic menu, but also for its friendly owners and staff, who go out of their way to make this great old building a little extra special. They accomplish this in little ways, such as their annual Christmas window display, water bowls for dogs walking by, small treats for kids, or just a cheerful hello to anyone happening by, perusing the menu, or perhaps looking up at the building and reminiscing about a particular memory they might have from this building's interesting 90 years of history!

Painting by Barbara Ursel