By Jean-Claude Dubé
Originally published in the July/August 2012 OSCAR.
The stately house at 698 Echo Drive has a very significant history that relates to both the City of Ottawa and the Old Ottawa South neighbourhood. For most of the 20th century, it was associated with the owners of the Story Lumber Company, the Doran Construction Company and the Coulter Pharmacies Company.
In the 19th century, George Hay, a Sparks Street hardware store owner who eventually became the President of the Bank of Ottawa, owned most of the triangular-shaped block on Echo Drive between Riverdale Avenue and Bank Street. Upon his death in 1910, his estate was sub-divided into 23 huge lots by S.E. Farley, Ontario land surveyor. The first lot to be purchased in 1912, the one immediately east of his home at 700 Echo Drive was by John A. Story, a well-known lumber merchant.
John Arthur Story was born in Ottawa and had received his education in Ottawa public schools and graduated from Lisgar Collegiate. He had married Béatrice Richard from Deux Rivières, Ontario (then an Algonquin Park lumber town) and they had four daughters and a son when they moved from 304 Bay Street in Ottawa to their new home at 698 Echo Drive.
John A. Story had entered the lumber industry as a young man. He was described as a lumber clerk at the time of his marriage at St. Joseph’s Church in Sandy Hill when he was 27 and Béatrice was 21. Béatrice, daughter of David Richard and Agnes Mulvihill of Old Chelsea, had been baptized as a Catholic in the mostly French lumber town of Mattawa in Ontario. Theirs was a mixed religious marriage for which a dispensation had been granted by Ottawa’s Catholic Archbishop J.T. Duhamel. The marriage was celebrated by Rev. M.F. Falloon, an Oblate father, who would later become the bishop of London, Ontario.
When his new house at 698 Echo Drive was built, John A. Story was the manager and vice-president of the Fraser Bryson Lumber Company, a stalwart of the lumber industry of the time. In 1920, John A. went into business for himself as the Story Lumber Company with his brother, relatives and in-laws on the board of directors. The business operated as a wholesale lumber enterprise with a branch in Montreal and the office was located at 63 Sparks Street.
The Great Depression of 1929 may have created financial difficulties because John A. Story had to surrender his house as collateral for a loan from the Bank of Nova Scotia in September 1932. He would die from a cerebral hemorrhage eight months later and, consequently, his widow Béatrice, along with three daughters, moved out of 698 Echo Drive to take up residence at 92 Argyle where she lived until her death from a malignancy in 1940 at the age of 60. She was then a parishioner of St. Matthews Anglican Church in the Glebe. The Storys are buried at Beechwood Cemetery.
The Story Lumber Company, a federally chartered company, was dissolved in 1934. The bank loan was paid shortly after Mr. Story’s death and the house was rented to Hugh Doran, of the Doran Construction Co. Hugh Doran, who will be the subject of another article, had just taken over his father’s construction business with his brother Burke in 1929.
The Dorans had rebuilt St. Joseph’s Church which had burnt down in 1930 and they had also renovated the L.N. Poulin Department Store on Sparks Street, now a heritage building at the corner of Sparks and O’Connor where a Zellers store is currently located. Incidentally, the Doran Construction Co. built a number of structures on Bank Street in Old Ottawa South including the Ottawa South Sunnyside Library.
The fourth daughter to John Arthur Story and his wife Béatrice, Doris Frances, married Ottawa South pharmacist Leonard Coulter in 1929. At that time, Len Coulter was living at 278 Sunnyside and had lived at Apt.1, 8 Aylmer Avenue with his widowed mother before that. Originally from Almonte, Len Coulter graduated from the Ontario College of Pharmacy in 1922 and had just opened his store at Bank and Sunnyside when the Great Depression fell upon the modern world. As with his father-in-law, John A. Story, Len Coulter’s financial situation was at risk and very uncertain.
Doris and Len moved to 30 Windsor Avenue for two years, then to 6 Galt Avenue for another two years. In 1934, the Coulters were living at 136 Fentiman and remained there until 1945 when they moved into Doris’s former home at 698 Echo Drive. She had become the owner of her father’s house after the death of her mother in 1940 and financial negotiations with her three sisters Helen Story, Lillian Story, and Marjorie Sharp. At that time, Doris and her husband took a mortgage on the house. We do not know the fate of Doris’s brother, David. There is no mention of him since his childhood. Marjorie had married John Edward Sharp and Lillian later married Alexandre Chevrier.
Len Coulter, pharmacist and owner of the Coulter’s Pharmacy at the southwest corner of Bank and Sunnyside, as well as two other Coulter pharmacies uptown and in the Glebe, led a very active social, political, business and professional life. More will be said of Leonard Coulter in a subsequent follow-up article on the story of the Story house at 698 Echo Drive.