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)

3 comments:

  1. I love your blog, it is so interesting! Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I was raised in that house when I was a little guy. (Bond's)I think I was 3.5 years old.
    It's amazing how much I do remember.
    My uncle Bob and George use to chop cars with an axe back in those days in back of the house.
    The back part of the house collapsed, The cross's use to live there also.
    Thanks for the awesome memories

    ReplyDelete
  3. I was raised in that house when I was a little guy. (Bond's)I think I was 3.5 years old.
    It's amazing how much I do remember.
    My uncle Bob and George use to chop cars with an axe back in those days in back of the house.
    The back part of the house collapsed, The cross's use to live there also.
    Thanks for the awesome memories

    ReplyDelete