Old Ottawa South Community Association

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Marion House

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Marion House
Front (south) facade facing Sunnyside Avenue (Kathy Krywicki, 2010)

131 Sunnyside Avenue

View additional images of building.

The two-story Marion House sits at the northwest corner of Sunnyside and Bristol. It was bordered from the north by a number of market gardens that were part of the original Williams farm before development took over the nearby area along Southern Drive and Avenue Road.

The exterior of the house appears as a two-storey structure with an attic, but the attic in fact is a crawl space. One of the house’s dominant features is the porch that wraps around its west side and half of its front (south) side. The porch is accentuated by a pediment at the east end of its south side, marking the house entrance. One of the house’s two bay windows is located to the east of the entrance, and the second is located along the house’s west façade, overlooking the garden. The house also has two chimneys, one along its west façade, serving the dining room fireplace, and the second emerges from the middle of the house.

The upper storey originally was clad in cedar shakes, but these have been replaced by a synthetic version. The lower storey is sheathed in red brick, and the foundation is built of stone. An old metal survey marker (bench mark and elevation) is set into the front foundation.

Inside, there are four rooms and a bath upstairs, and three rooms and a kitchen downstairs arranged according to a centre-hall plan. The ceilings are nine feet high. The basement is now partly finished. The original back-porch was enlarged, and a separate garage, which leads onto Bristol Avenue, was added, probably in the 1940s. The garage was used to store firewood as the house owners at that time, the Marions, never had a car.

The house has a sizeable garden to the west and smaller green spaces on the other three sides. For many years, there were two giant maples in front of the house, but these died and have been replaced by the smaller Red Knight variety.

The plot on which the house is located was part of a much larger tract that was mapped in 1910 by the surveyor George E. Farley for the joint owners James Gilpin and Octavius Pommerville. The resulting “plan of subdivision” established lots along both sides of Brighton and Sunnyside from Riverdale to near the Rideau River. In March 1912, Gilpin and Pommerville sold two adjacent lots to Charles H. Bland for $1000, on the condition that he build a house worth at least $1500 within six months. The original address of the plot was 25 Sunnyside, but by 1916, it had been renumbered to its present 131 Sunnyside Avenue.

Charles Heber Bland was born in Pembroke (Ontario) in 1886, the only child of James A. Bland and Louise Guppy, both born in England in 1857, and married in Pembroke in 1883. Charles Bland married Ethel Farrow (born in Ottawa in 1888), a few months after he acquired the Sunnyside property in 1912. He and his family were to stay there for 27 years.

Mr. Bland was a graduate of Queen’s University, and began in 1909 to work for the Civil Service Commission, breaking for World War I service overseas with the 20th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery, and returning in 1919. He rose steadily to become a member of the Commission in 1933. Two years later, he became its President, and remained in that position for two 10-year terms, until 1955. Over the course of the 1930s and 1940s, he was able to move the Commission away from its links with party politics in favour of a merit system using competitive examinations.

For his leadership in the postwar expansion of the government, he was awarded the Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George. In 1935, he wrote the chapter on Canada for the often-cited book Civil Service Abroad – Great Britain, Canada, France, Germany. In 1954, he received an honorary doctorate from Queen’s University.

Charles Bland died in 1966 at the age of 80. By then he was living at 828 Echo Drive. He was survived by his second wife, Edith Young, and three sons, Ward of Montreal; Alan G., president of Defence Construction Ltd.; and Larry, who was with the Department of Trade and Commerce.

Charles Bland’s father, James A. Bland, had his own connection with Sunnyside Avenue. From 1914, he lived at 103 Sunnyside (numbered 9 Sunnyside before 1916) with his second wife Ruth A. Clarke, born in Ottawa in 1860, whom he had married in 1911 in Pembroke.

In 1939, the Blands sold the property to Séraphin Marion (1896 – 1983), an Ottawa native who lived there with his family for the next 44 years. Marion was an archivist, professor, writer, and historian, as well as an ardent defender of French Canadian and Franco-Ontarian interests. He earned a doctorate from the Sorbonne in 1923 with a thesis on French Canadian history, and a second doctorate from the University of Montréal in 1933 with a thesis on French Canadian literature. He was Head Translator for the Public Archives of Canada from 1925 to 1955, and during this time he also taught courses on French Canadian literature at the University of Ottawa, the first such courses at the University.

In his work as an archivist, Marion discovered a mine of little-known information on early French-Canadian literature. He presented his research in some 20 studies, including a nine-volume collection entitled Les Lettres canadiennes d’autrefois (1939-58). He became a member of the Royal Society of Canada in 1934, then Honorary Secretary from 1940 to 1952. He was also an active member of the Académie canadienne-français, the Canadian Society for Adult Education, the Société des Dix, and other associations. He lectured all over Canada on the rights of Canada’s French-speaking minorities.

Over the years, he received numerous awards and honours, including the Académie de Lutèce Gold Medal (1933), officer of the Order of Canada (1976), and member of the Papal Order of Saint Gregory the Great (1982). A primary school in Gloucester and a street on the University of Ottawa campus are named in his honour, and the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society of Montréal annually awards the Séraphin-Marion Prize. His wife, Monique Roy (1900 - 1989), was an accomplished pianist and painter. They were married in 1924 and had four children: Gilles, who became a prominent local pediatrician, Colette who became a teacher, Jean-Yves who became a pilot, and Claude who became an electrical engineer.

Cornelius von Baeyer and his wife Edwinna bought the house from the Marions in 1983. He had lived next door, at 133 Sunnyside, with his parents from 1952 to 1958. He and his wife returned to 133 Sunnyside in 1974, and remained there with their two children until moving to 131 Sunnyside in 1983. Edwinna von Baeyer is a writer, editor, and landscape historian who has published extensively on Canadian garden history. Cornelius von Baeyer is a retired federal public servant who specialized in federal official languages policies, and later, in ethics programs. He currently consults and writes on these fields through his private consulting firm.

von Baeyer, Cornelius. “The Marion House, 131 Sunnyside Avenue, Old Ottawa South: The house and its notable families – Bland, Marion, and von Baeyer,” 2009.

(May 2009)

Additional Images

1939 view from the southwest, along Sunnyside Avenue (gift by S. Marion gift to C. von Baeyer)
View from the southwest, along Sunnyside Avenue, 1939 (gift from S. Marion to C. von Baeyer)

survey market on Marion House
Survey marker on foundation of house at 131 Sunnyside Avenue. Photo by Kathy Krywicki.

Last modified on Thursday, 26 January 2023 11:24

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