Adapted from a house profile written by Gill Magnan.
The first settlers to Old Ottawa South arrived in 1814. Lewis Williams and family came from Wales to the wilds of Upper Canada in 1818. Lewis purchased the south half of Lot “K”, Broken Concession”C”, Township of Nepean, approximately 111 acres between what is now Main and Bronson. Another well known pioneer family, headed by Alexander Mutchmor, built a lovely stone homestead, Abbotsford House, some time between 1867/72 on what is now the southwest corner of Holmwood and Bank. Alex was a farmer and entrepreneur and formed many interesting business alliances, one of which was a partnership with his cousin John Garland; Garland, Mutchmor & Co. Financial Agencies and Real Estate.
At that time the southerly limit of Ottawa was marked by a tollgate at McLeod and Bank which defined the division of city and township. Tolls were collected from farmers entering the city to sell their produce at market. Garland, Mutchmor & Co. saw potential for growth south of the canal towards the Rideau River. They purchased 54 acres of the original Lewis lands for $10,300 ($190/acre) and in 1872 laid out 127 lots (that works out to approx. $80/lot). H. O. Woods, Provincial Land Surveyor, drew up a plan of subdivision that was registered on September 18, 1872 as Plan 36. It was referred to as the village of “Rideauville” on the west side of Bank Street south of the canal to Woodbine. Although lots were then available for sale, growth was very slow and really began around 1907 when the City annexed the area. The Ottawa Electric Railway built a tram line all the way down Bank Street to the new Agricultural Exhibition Grounds in 1891. The old swing bridge over the canal that had served well since 1866 was replaced in 1912. The new Bank Street Bridge encouraged the Ottawa Electric Railway to expand its lines southward. People moved further south to open businesses and build homes. In the 1920’s Ottawa South was the newest suburb in Ottawa.
The house known today as 916 Colonel By Drive was for much of its history 916 Echo Drive, and even earlier Canal Road. It is located on part of Lot 14, Plan 36 – roughly the middle third of the lot. Garland & Mutchmor got to work pretty quickly after they registered the subdivision. They sold Lots 10, 12 & 14, that is to say the lots from Aylmer Ave to the Canal Road to a merchant from New Edinburgh, a Mister Josiah Waldren Proctor, for $320. They had made a profit (albeit a small one) already. Better, it turns out than Josiah did sixteen years later. The area in those days was completely wild bush and undeveloped. It looks like Josiah and wife Sarah gave up on their potential investment and let the same lots go for a measly $150. A barrister by the name of Francis F. Lemieux was the purchaser – he must have had had someone waiting in the wings because he flipped the property the same day for $269 thus making a tiny profit. Isaac Cross a clerk with the civil service was now the proud owner of the three lots. He held on to them for five years, moved to Toronto and sold them to Thomas Wright, a plasterer, for $600. Thomas, a bachelor, started to look at the possibility of making a bit of cash out of his investment. He sold the lots off individually; Lot 14 went for $287.50, the other two for $675 in 1901. Thomas and Margaret How were the next owners of all of Lot 14. They held it for two years and sold to an Ottawa Electric Railway conductor, Charles Ward by name, for $675. Charles managed to obtain a private mortgage for $500 to finance his purchase. Charles and Isabella were pretty smart cookies. They cut the property in two and in 1902 sold one piece for $500 and the other for $850. Harry and Mary Ann de Long paid $850 (Harry got a mortgage for $550 @ 6%) for the westerly two thirds, give or take. When Harry died his estate naturally passed to Mary Ann and she, very adroitly, divided the property in two and appeared to have a house constructed on the portion belonging to 916 Colonel By Drive. In May 1909 she sold to Alla and William Beaverbrook Bartram for $1800 and the corner piece to Alla for an additional $800 four months later. William Bartram was the secretary treasurer of Bertram Brothers Ltd., Lumber Dealers with offices at 136 Sparks.
Upon interpretation of available records, one may draw the conclusion that the house at #916 was probably built circa 1908. In 1909 there was a house at #910 owned and occupied by a David Malboeuf, another conductor for the Ottawa Electric Railway and one listed in William Bartram’s name as being on the east side of Roslyn. In that year there were only two houses on the Canal Road between Rosedale and Roslyn; William Bartram’s, David Malboeuf’s and one unfinished one in the Grosvenor/ Rosedale block. The land to the west of Roslyn to Bronson was mostly undeveloped, with a few exceptions, until the mid twenties. The Bartram’s sold to Frieda Keefer in 1917 for $2000. Frieda may have been one of the very well heeled Rockcliffe Keefers. She bought the property along with several others, obtained a mortgage for $6000 @ 6½%, rented them out and a couple of years later sold #916 along with other properties, to Alice Boyd in 1919 for $7500, wife of Thomas J. Boyd, a jeweller at 117 Sparks. Alice died in June 1934. Her estate administered by her daughter Gladys sold the two westerly parts of Lot 14 for $9500 in 1944. Gladys, a music teacher, had an interesting life. In 1919, she, a “spinster”, was living in Malvern, Jamaica. One could speculate that perhaps she was teaching or nursing, however, Jamaica in 1919 must have been an incredible adventure for a young single woman. In 1951 Lyman and Elizabeth Bow bought both parts for $14,000, Robert Symonds bought 916 Colonel By Drive for $25,000 in August 1967. A mere three years later the price had skyrocketed to $40,000 paid by Florence and George Strong.
Gill Magnan is a local historian in Ottawa who specializes in house histories and profiles. Her house history of 916 Colonel By Drive was written for Homes Between The Bridges 2009, the first annual Old Ottawa South Home Tour which will take place on Sunday, May 31, 2009. Further details on this event will be forthcoming early in 2009. All facts and figures cited pertaining to property ownership and purchase price are a matter of the public record available through the provincial Land Registry Office.
Originally published in the January 2009 OSCAR.