Posted by: John Calvert
Ask anyone who lives in Old Ottawa South and they are sure to say we live in the best darn neighborhood in Ottawa. Our unique homes, shops, school, community and recreation facilities, and natural features, all make our community a very attractive place to live. But, if you could travel back in time 100 years, what would you see? A charming, quiet rural community of farms, dirt roads, and a few shops and homes. Incredible changes have taken pace within a very short time. How did all these changes come about? What traces of the “old” Ottawa South can still be seen today?
To answers these kinds of questions a new interest group formed late this fall called the Ottawa South History Project (OSHP). The objective of this group is to research, documents, and present to the community historical information about Old Ottawa South, in various forms and formats. This idea is not new; in years gone by other local historians such as Rae MacDonald (OSCAR column Clapboard and Bricks), David Millett (OSCAR columnist), David Bouse (Essential Guide to OOS 1999 – Our Heritage), and others have taken their turn at presenting information on the history of our community. But in the last couple of years – to the best of our knowledge – no one has been actively presenting historical research to the community. The time is ripe for a renewal of this activity.
You may have already seen some of the early fruits of this group’s activities. In the last issue of the OSCAR, Leo Doyle wrote an excellent article describing events around the annexation of Ottawa South in to the City of Ottawa, which became official one hundred years ago on December 16, 1907. Then almost to the day, on the 100th anniversary of this date, the Ottawa South History Project premiered a slide show of historical photographs to the community at the Firehall during the OSCA Sleigh Ride event. Shortly afterwards, in response to the group’s suggestion, the Ottawa Citizen picked up the 100th anniversary story in a full page article with photos (see the December 17, 2007 issues, p.C3). Also the CBC Radio One program All in a Day did an interview segment on the same topic. Finally, we asked the City of Ottawa to formally recognize this significant 100th anniversary and Councillor Clive Doucet has arranged for an official proclamation from the city council to mark the date, which should be forthcoming in January.
Members of the Ottawa South History Project are actively investigating a multitude of research leads at the Library and Archives of Canada, the City of Ottawa Archives, the Ottawa Room of the Ottawa Public Library, the Land Registry Offices of the Province of Ontario, the Billings Estate National Historic Site, the Bytown Museum and the Nepean Museum, not to mention canvassing the neighbourhood residents and businesses for historical material and reminiscences. We are also collaborating with Heritage Ottawa.
The Ottawa South History Project has only been active for a couple of months, but we have already accumulated a library of over 150 photographs and maps from the above-mentioned sources, with many more items of interest that still require scanning from originals held by these various archives. Of course there is a cost to obtain scanned copies of these materials so we have to be selective. In 2008 we will likely approach the Ottawa South Community Association and the City of Ottawa Heritage Funding Program for funds to assist in obtaining these scanned copies of historical materials.
In keeping with the times, the Ottawa South History Project plans to present its findings not only in the OSCAR, but also online on a website, with photo galleries, and wiki-style reader contributions to allow for anyone in the community to add to our collective historical memory.
Other ideas on the near and far horizon include: presentations to students of Hopewell Avenue Public School; an Old Ottawa South theme as part of the Barley Mow trivia nights; a map of businesses on Bank Street through the ages; historical photos in context on display in local businesses; producing a CD-ROM along the lines of what Rick Wallace compiled for our sister community, A History of Ottawa East.
Learning about our local history and sharing that information with other members of the community gives us a stronger sense of belonging to a place. Perhaps you too have a new or novel idea for sharing our history and presenting it to the community. Would you like to lend a hand to make some of this happened? Let us know what your think! For more information about the Ottawa South History Project, please contact John M. Calvert by email at HistoryProject@OldOttawaSouth.ca.
Originally published in the January 2008 OSCAR.