Posted by: Kathy Krywicki
A regular feature for many years in the Saturday Ottawa Citizen newspaper was a feature entitled “Old Time Stuff” – Stories of Earlier Days around Ottawa – Strange Things that Happened Long Ago Recalled for Evening Citizen Readers by Earl G. Wilson. From April 6, 1935 , celebrating the 12th anniversary of O.T.S. at that time, here are recollections of Ottawa South as recounted by T.H. Brewer.
Eastern Half Ottawa South As It Was Thirty Years Ago
Recalled by Ex-Alderman Brewer Who Has Resided There Since 1905. Was Known as Rideauville and Included in the Township of Nepean. Land Below Riverdale Avenue Three Feet Lower Than Now. Ray’s Hill Was Rendezvous For Tobogganers. Brook Crossed Bank Street Near Cameron.
If you live, have lived, or even visited in that section of Ottawa South, east of Bank Street, this little story, related by ex-Alderman T.H. Brewer, the “daddy” of the community, will interest you. Mr. Brewer came to Ottawa from the Old Country in 1905 and has been a resident of Ottawa South since that time.
That district in 1905 and for many years afterwards was known as Rideauville and was in the township of Nepean. Property owners had to pay their taxes at the town hall in Westboro. There was no waterworks or sewage system; most residents had septic tanks on their property and sumps in their houses, although there were still quite a number of outside pumps and wells being used.
Street Level Lower
One of the most interesting things that Mr. Brewer recalls is that when he came to Rideauville thirty years ago the land bounded by Riverdale avenue on the west, the Rideau river on the east, Sunnyside avenue on the north and Fenitman avenue on the south, was about three feet lower than it is today. It was later filled in with gravel and stone and earth – mostly stone. Those who have attempted to dig gardens in their back years during recent years will no doubt the veracity of this statement.
In 1906, when Mr. Brewer purchased his property at the corner of Riverdale and Sunnyside avenues, there was no other houses between Riverdale and the Rideau River on Sunnsyide , Brighton or Fentiman. These three streets were merely country lanes with berry bushes and trees covering the intervening spaces. The lower end of Sunnyside avenue was a marshy swamp and where Brighton Beach is now Harry Fentiman, who owned most of the land in that section, grew water cress, which he sold to people in the city.
At that time Mr. Fentiman’s home was at the corner of Fentiman and Riverdale avenues. His house stood in the very centre of what is now the roadway, but in later years it was moved down near the river. Mr. Fentiman had a large greenhouse on what is now the southeast corner of Fenitman and Riverdale.
All the land between Rivedale avenue and Bank street was originally owned by Peter Fairbairn but about 1890 this section was purchases by C.C. Ray, coal merchant, who sub-divided it into lots. When Mr. Brewer came here in 1905 Sunnsyide avenue has not been opened through between Bank and Riverdale and there was no church at the corner of Fairbairn, as there is today. It was a steep hill running from Echo Drive down to Belmont Avene, known as Ray’s Hill, and was the winter rendezvous for toboganners from all parts of Ottawa.
After Rideauville became part of the city about 1912 [annexation of Ottawa South was in 1907] the street was cut through the hill. Mr Brewer says that when he first came to Ottawa South there was a brook running down from Bronson avenue, crossing Bank street near Cameron and emptying into the Rideau river at the foot of Fentiman avenue.