Posted by: Kathy Krywicki
How Ottawa South Came into Existence – Story of Start of “Wyoming Park”
Old Time Stuff was a regular feature of the Ottawa Citizen for many years. This record of the memories of George Fitzpatrick, then seventy-two years old, told of the early days of one part of Old Ottawa South, known as Wyoming Park. The O.T.S. article is from the Ottawa Citizen Feb 7, 1931.
George Fitzpatrick a Pioneer Tells of Park’s First Days
A Fine Story Dating Back to the Year 1896 – Contour of Land Very Different from That of Present Ottawa South- Story of How the First Sidewalk Built, Worthwhile Tales
This is the story of the start of old Ottawa South, which was originally known as “Wyoming Park”.
Ottawa South as we know it today is everything that lies south of the Rideau Canal, and between the “gully” on the west and Ottawa East on the east. But in the early days of the section of the city just quoted there were two subdivisions known as “Rideauville” and “Wyoming Park”, and a considerable other section which did not carry any particular name.
“Wyoming Park”, the story of which we are able to tell, lay between Sunnyside avenue on the north, Grove street on the south, Bank street on the east and Bronson avenue on the west. “Rideauville” ran from the canal to Sunnyside avenue and from Bank street westward to the Spendlow property near Bronson avenue.
The story of “Wyoming Park” is told today by one of the pioneer settlers, and one of the few of those who are still alive. The settlement of “Wyoming Park” began in the year 1896. It will be seen that 35 years have come and gone on the calendar since the park was opened, and a lot of people go in 35 years.
This story, a very valuable one, is told by Mr. George Fitzpatrick of Seneca street, who was one of the first four persons to locate at the park.
First Settles Had Hard Going for Time
Either late in 1885 or early in 1886 “Wyoming Park” was opened for settlement. The park had originally been part of the old Fairbairn farm, but that portion of the farm, but that portion of the farm which became Wyoming Park had been purchased by a Toronto syndicate.
Those readers of the O.T.S. who know that portion of Ottawa south which now lies between Hopewell avenue and Grove avenue, would find it hard to believe the different there was in the condition of that land in the year 1895, when the first purchasers picked out their lots. There where high places and low places; swamps, and high sand hillocks. The low places, as the years went by, were drained or filled in and the high places were cut down by the big steam shovels of V.V. Rogers Realty Company and the material used to fill in their property to the south.
In the early summer of 1896, George Fitzpatrick, who then lives east of Sappers’ Bridge, read some seductive advertisements which had been published in the city newspapers by Mr. Alexander Mutchmore, the well-known real estate man of 100 Sparks street, who was the local agent of the Toronto syndicate. Mr. Mutchmore offered wonderful values on home sites to intending home builders. Lots in size 50 x 100 feet were offered at prices from $75 to $300, according to location and on easy terms of payment.
Went to See
George Fitzpatrick took a trip out to “Wyoming Park” to see what it was all about. He had never been across the canal prior to that time. He rode on the new street railway as far as the exhibition grounds, and walked the balance of the way. He had no difficulty in locating the place, as near Glen avenue a monster sign board announced to all and sundry that they were looking at “Wyoming Park”, the finest subdivision ever put on the market, etc.
Picked on Seneca
Mr. Fitzpatrick walked all over the place, and finally located a spot on the south side of Seneca street which he liked, and which offered great possibilities for a bargain. He purchases four of the 50 foot lots.
Camped at First
Mr. Fitzpatrick was not quite ready to build. So he decided to camp under his own vine and fig tree, as it were.
On his property were a number of fine maple trees. At the edge of these he pitched several tents for his family and proceeded to enjoy all the comforts of family life.
Had Good Time
And from all accounts they had a pretty good time. Not far from the Fitzpatrick lots a number of people had also pitched tents on rented land. Among the tenters where the family of the late Detective Dicks, and the families of several sergeants and men of the police force. It will be seen that Mr. Fitzpatrick had ample protection in the night hours.
A Social Club
This little colony formed themselves into an impromptu social club. In the early evening the children had sports and when the sun went down the elders made a bonfire, sang and told stories. On every dry night there was a bonfire, as the scrap wood was plentiful.
Mr. Fitzpatrick camped in the summers of 1896 and 1897. In the summer of 1898 he built his home as shown in the picture herewith. The house still stands in the form shown in the picture, and Mr. Fitzpatrick resided in it for 35 years.
When George Fitzpatrick build his home in 1898 there were already four homes in existence. These were owned by:
– Dr. John Leggo, dentist, of 25 Sparks street and father of Dr. W.A. Leggo, the present dentist.
– The late Joseph Rogers, then of the government printing bureau.
– Richard Fallis, also of the government printing bureau.
– W.J. Craig, contractor, now residing at 308 Sunnyside avenue.
The houses erected by these gentlemen were all on Seneca Street.
The place erected by Dr. Leggo was put up as a summer home only. It still stands, but has been greatly enlarged and is now a winter home. It is now in other hands.
A couple of years later another little colony of homes was started on Sunnyside avenue west of Seneca. Among those who build there was the late Jack Paynter, his brother-in-law, Chas. A. Abbott, now of Toronto, and John Lancaster.
Signs of Progress
Mr. Fitzpatrick tells now the first residents used to walk over every fine evening, take note of the progress of the building operations, and talk of the time now here when the whole of “Wyoming Park” would be filled with houses.
And now let Mr. Fitzpatrick tell what the park was like when he moved out his goods and chattels in 1898.
Park in 1898
At that time there was virtually only one street “open” in the park. That was old Park avenue, now Hopewell avenue, and that was only open part of the way. To go its whole length one had to skirt the frog ponds and travel over the fields and that was not easy as the fields were very uneven in contour.
Grove avenue could be traversed as far as Leonard. But at that point progress was stopped by height land which was heavily wooded. Neither Leonard nor Glen avenue was open.
Mr. Fitzpatrick tells that to get to his location with his furniture he had to literally cut a path through the maple bush for a couple of hundred feet.
On Grove street there was a gravel road as far as Leonard street. Sunnyside avenue was partly opened, but was in very bad condition.
Need of Sidewalks
The little colony on Seneca street had not long been living there before they saw the necessity for a sidewalk from Bank street to Seneca, on Park avenue. In wet weather or in the spring Park avenue (Hopewell) was always flooded.
The late Joe Rogers and George Fitzpatrick undertook to build the walk. They collected some money and also secured a grant from the township. With this money they bought cedars and 2” x 10” plank and set to work. The job was started on Labor Day and was not finished before a lot of snow was on the ground. A two plank walk was constructed, elevated on six-inch cedars.
As soon as the job got started others turned in and helped. The work could only be done at night and most of the work was done by the light of lanterns.
Strange (yet not strange) to say, just as soon as the sidewalk was completed on Park avenue, new people began to build there, and Wyoming Park was on its way to prosperity.