Posted by: Jean-Claude Dubé
The Hunt House at 149 Hopewell presently owned and very well maintained by John Feihl, musician, is designated under part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act. It is a proud and beautiful example of the many houses built and owned by the multi-talented tradesmen that lived in Wyoming Park at the turn of the 20th century.
Wyoming Park was a subdivision laid out in the late 19th century by developers who purchased part of the Peter Fairbairn farm. The subdivision was bounded by Bank, Bronson, Woodbine and Grove. One of the first to buy a lot was George Fitzpatrick in 1896 whose white wooden house is still standing at 72 Seneca. By 1898, four other houses were built. One for the dentist John Leggo, others for printers Joseph Rogers and Richard Fallis and one for contractor W.J. Craig. By 1901, three dozen families lived in Wyoming Park with houses clustered on Seneca at Sunnyside, Hopewell and Glen and eastward on Hopewell. Commercial buildings still standing at these intersections are a testament to the former village environment. Even the well-kept shed at the back of the Hunt House was an automobile servicing shop. Much promotion was done by the developers about the proximity of Nepean S.S.1, a brick school now known as Hopewell public school.
In the late 19th century, life in Ottawa South was very much living in the country. Bradish Billings arrived in 1812 and started his legacy. He married Lamira Dow of Merrickville in 1813 and she gave birth to Sabra, the first Caucasian child born in Gloucester Township, in 1815. That same year, British soldiers forced a road between the Chaudiere Falls and the Rideau River, thus linking Philemon Wright’s town to Bradish Billings’ farm. Mr. Billings would have ferried across the Rideau River then since a bridge, known as the Farmer’s Bridge, was not built until 1830. This bridge was paid for by subscribers such as Mr. Billings and other farmers who had started to settle on the shores of the Rideau River and inland.
When the Rideau Canal, built between 1826 and 1832, cut the aforementioned forced road, produce from the fertile farms of Gloucester Township was carted to market by turning east onto Riverdale after crossing the (Farmer’s) bridge. Riverdale, which continued to the ridge on the east side of the canal (Echo Drive), was then known as the Gloucester Road (also known as the Old Prescott Road and the Ottawa-Gloucester Road).
The Glebe at that time was very much a backwater and was separated from Ottawa South by the canal. In 1853 the Rideau Canal ceased to be a military canal and was turned over to Canada West for commercial purposes. In 1859, there were 23 houses scattered throughout the Glebe and seven homes in Ottawa South. The initial settling of Old Ottawa South was essentially a migration northward from Billings Bridge and the first houses and a hotel were close to that bridge. Access between the Glebe and Old Ottawa South was achieved only in 1866 when a wooden swing bridge was built over the canal at Bank Street.
The Bank Street road from the canal to Billings Bridge was completed in 1867 by the Ottawa and Gloucester Macadamized Road Company which promptly installed a tollhouse on Bank Street near the exhibition grounds opposite Mutchmor’s Abbotsford House. This company also controlled Riverdale and the roads on both sides of the canal at that time.
At this time, the southern Ottawa city limit was Gladstone Avenue and toll gates on most if not all of the access routes to the nascent city probably did not encourage people to travel far from their homes. In the same year that the Ottawa and Gloucester Road Company was established, the Ottawa and Prescott Railway went bankrupt and no trains ran into Ottawa for two years. In 1871, the railroad which ran trains from Prescott to New Edinburg via Manotick, Billings Bridge and Overbrook, added a branch line to the train station at Le Breton Flats via Dow’s Lake. A small station stood at the Munsie Bridge drawbridge over the canal, the same location where the present-day O-train travels underground between Carleton University and the Experimental farm. The photo of the Munsie Bridge (Ottawa Archives CA 006321) was purportedly taken by Eva Storr Dore who was picking up her father Ira Storr of 14 Aylmer Ave, a high-level civil servant at the Secretary of State Department. Old Ottawa South residents probably had a faster ride to downtown Ottawa that way than by taking a buggy up Bank Street.
The area south of Gladstone down to the canal was annexed by Ottawa in 1889 and Old Ottawa South was annexed in 1907. By that time, Old Ottawa South had a number of separate and distinct neighbourhoods. Rideauville, between the Canal Road (Echo Drive / Colonel By Drive) and Woodbine Place, had a growing number of elegant houses for civil servants, businessmen, builders, some tradesmen and retirees. Brewer’s Park was a swamp and the land closer to Bank Street was not much better. Wyoming Park had clusters of houses at Seneca and Sunnyside, Seneca and Hopewell, and Seneca and Glen. There were a few more houses on Hopewell and Grove Avenue was not yet built on. There were also houses on Cameron, Belmont and Sunnyside closer to Bank. There were businesses, gardens and homes on Bank Street and Riverdale had only gardeners and a blacksmith. Between Bank Street and Riverdale a development known as Oakland Heights was just starting.
Wyoming Park was a very stable community at that time. Mostly tradesmen, the residents owned their own homes and the century-old houses that remain today are a testament to their pride and skills.
 Elliott, Bruce S. The City Beyond. Corporation of the City of Nepean 1991, p. 177, 178.
Elliott, Bruce S. The City Beyond. Corporation of the City of Nepean 1991, p. 122.
Elliott, Bruce S. The City Beyond. Corporation of the City of Nepean 1991, p. 178.