Posted by: OSHP
Title: 175 Belmont Avenue
Address: 175 Belmont Avenue (Lot 17, north side of Belmont Avenue)
The house located at 175 Belmont Avenue in Ottawa, Ontario was constructed in 1898 by Elizabeth Evans, a widow with several children the oldest of which, Grace Evans, was a co-owner. It is a large 2 ½ story brick-veneered frame house with a side hall plan, front-facing gable, and pitched roof. It functioned as a rental property for the Evans family until Grace Evans’s death in 1965. The house is typical of middle class homes at the turn of the twentieth century. 1 At the time of its construction, a sister duplex was built for Elizabeth Evans at 183 Belmont which also functioned as a rental property providing income for the Evans family.
Cassius Ray bought part of lot K, township of Nepean from Jane Fairbairn in order to create the “Oakland Heights” subdivision. The subdivision took place the same year.
Ottawa-Carleton Ontario Land registry office, plan 116
Cassius Ray sold lots 16 and 17, plan 166 to Elizabeth Evans (and co-owner lot 17 to her daughter Grace Evans)
Ottawa-Carleton Land Registry Office, Lot 17 Plan 116, Roll No. 4AR49.
175 Belmont built. The Evans family was living there.
The City of Ottawa Directory, 1899. Ottawa: Might Directories Ltd. (1899). pp. 520.
Elizabeth Evans remarried to James (Sidney?) Webb, and moved to Russell, Ontario. 175 Belmont Avenue was seemingly vacant.
1901 census returns for the Province of Ontario. Census Returns for the 1901 Canadian Census. Library and Archives Canada, District no. 112 (Russell), Subdistrict No. E-4, Page 7, Household 53.
Sidney Webb listed as living at 185 Belmont.
The Ottawa City Directory 1910. Ottawa: Might Directories Ltd. (1910). pp. 49.
The Evans/Webbs no longer lived on Belmont Street.
The Ottawa City Directory 1919. Ottawa: Might Directories Ltd. (1919). pp. 50.
Grace Smiley (neé. Evans) died leaving the property to Robert Winthrop Esquire.
Ottawa-Carleton Land Registry Office. Lot 17, plan 116. Roll 4AR49. Grant 498575.
Lot 17 on the North Side of Belmont Ave was among the first to be developed in the neighbourhood of Old Ottawa South. Originally part of the farm of William Fairbairn, it was bought in 1891 by the Ottawa coal importer Cassius C. Ray.2 Ray subdivided the lots between Bank Street, Riverdale, and Cameron to form a village which he called “Oakland Heights.”3
Bruce Elliott explains in his book The City Beyond that Ray’s subdivision was for the most part tied to the expansion of the streetcar line down Bank Street which was announced in 1891, and the expectation that the property south of Bank street bridge would rapidly become valuable.4 Unfortunately, as Professor Elliott describes, the subdivision developed slowly. By 1901 the residents of “Oakland Heights” were mainly living in a handful of houses collected along the north side of Belmont Avenue.5
Although the subdivision was created in 1891, Ray made no sales on Belmont Avenue until 1896, and he continued to sell properties well into the twentieth century.6 Lot 17 North Belmont was not purchased until 1898 when it was developed by Elizabeth Evans and her daughter Grace.7
Although Elizabeth Evans herself was originally from England, she married into the Evans family of Billings Bridge who owned a blacksmiths shop on Bank Street at the end of the nineteenth century.8 This marriage probably gave Evans the means to support herself even after her husband`s death in 1898. After buying her first property at 175 Belmont Avenue in July 1898 (her husband had died in May), she bought the property next door (116 Belmont) in November of the same year for the purposes of building a duplex.9
It is certain that Evans intended the duplex to be a rental property providing her with income, and perhaps independence. Although she remarried as early as 1901, both properties remained in Evans and her daughter’s names rather than becoming integrated into their husbands’ estates.10
By 1901 both properties were likely rented out. Evans had remarried to James (or Sidney) Webb and had moved to Russell, Ontario, making her home on Belmont superfluous. James Webb seems to have been a relatively well-off individual, suggesting that Elizabeth was of similar social status.11 Indeed, even after Elizabeth’s second marriage, she continued to use her property as leverage to make loans to a series of individuals. As early as 1899 Elizabeth Evans was granting mortgages, some of which were for quite substantial sums.12 These loans, along with rental income, must have provided Elizabeth with significant personal income and security after her husband’s death. Evans herself was seemingly quite business savvy. Within months of her husband’s death she had bought the two properties on Belmont. Within three years, she had remarried (to a man 10 years her junior, and one who employed a male servant). Evidently, she attempted to ensure future security for herself and her family by every means available.
Lot 17 Belmont Street covers the entire area of the original subdivided lot forty-five feet deep and one-hundred feet long landscaped and with mature trees. The home itself is two and a half stories, and follows a typical “farmhouse” style with a brick exterior and side hall plan, a steeply pitched roof, and double hung windows.13 To a large extent, it mirrors other turn of the century homes on the street.14 There are, however, several details which the builder employed that separate this home from many other similar homes in Old Ottawa South, and which were almost certainly intended to affirm the middle class status of its owner. For example, the home’s brickwork is of superior quality to other homes on the street including dentilated voussoirs above the windows, and a more complex form with a single story bay window facing the street, as well as finer, more even brickwork.15
Although Elizabeth Evans did not live in the home she built on Lot 117 for very long, I suspect that it was intended to be the family home, while the neighbouring duplex was meant to remain an income property allowing her to live a respectable lifestyle for a middle class woman without being too involved in business.16 The home`s architecture supports this hypothesis. The plan of the home is virtually identical to the other early homes on the street, yet the architectural details, i.e. fine brickwork, voussoirs, ornamented pediment, windows, and single story bay window, were certainly intentionally included to emphasize the higher status of the owners. These details would seem to indicate that 175 Belmont was intended to be the Evans’ primary residence.
Originally there was a wooden section at the proper back of the house which may have been used as a shed or driving shed, as it is labelled “auto” on the 1948 Fire Insurance Plan. Currently this section has been remodelled and added to the main living space of the home. Although the home has changed, its architectural integrity remains very good. The main part of the house is in very good condition with very few changes.
Belmont Avenue functions well as a microcosm of the larger neighbourhood of Old Ottawa South at the turn of the twentieth century. At its very beginning in 1891, based on Cassius Ray’s gamble that the street car line running down Bank Street would make his “village” a lucrative investment, the street and subdivision represented a middle class investment opportunity. Although Ray’s profit was likely not what he expected, Belmont Avenue was quickly developed by a handful of middle class investors who built 2 ½ story brick homes along the north side of the street. Most of these properties seem to have been intended exclusively for rental from the time of their construction.17
Together, the homes built by Elizabeth Evans on lot 117 and 116 North Belmont Avenue in “Oakland Heights” represent the optimism of investors at the turn of the twentieth century. This theme of middle class investment from the city of Ottawa proper, into the suburbs of Old Ottawa South was to a large extent the foundation of the neighbourhood.
This home exhibits significant architectural and social value. Although it is much like many brick homes in Old Ottawa South, its brickwork and detailing mark it as a particularly good example of a common nineteenth-century “gable-front” style worth preserving over similar houses in the neighbourhood. In particular, its size, Gothic ornamentation, and complex brickwork emphasize the values of Old Ottawa South’s middle class at the turn of the century. In addition, its architectural twinning with the duplex “rental property” on lot 116 North Belmont Avenue, marks it as architecturally unique within the neighbourhood.
175 Belmont also reflects an important theme in the early history of Old Ottawa South, and more generally, Ottawa suburbs. For Old Ottawa South, it connects to middle class speculation and investment in the region first through the investment of C.C. Ray, and second through Elizabeth Evans’s development of the two properties as income properties. Although these homes would have been located still very much in a rural environment, both Ray and Evans sought to develop the neighbourhood on the supposition that the property would increase markedly in value as Ottawa expanded. This trend marks an important transition point for Old Ottawa South as it began to urbanize in the early twentieth century largely driven by this type of speculation.
Sources and Recommendations for Further Study
Sources for 175 Belmont are somewhat limited. Much of this research has been based on records from Ottawa’s Land Registry Office and city directories. The Evans family’s presence in city directories is somewhat spotty, however. They appear in the 1899 directory for the city of Ottawa, and then do not reappear until 1910 in which they are listed under Sidney Webb (Elizabeth’s husband) living at 185 Belmont.
These individuals also appear in the 1901 and 1911 census returns for Ontario, though there is discrepancy between the sources for Elizabeth Evans’s second husband’s given name. The census returns list him as a James Webb, while the city directories and land registry records list him as Sidney Webb. It is uncertain whether they are the same person or not.
It may be helpful to contact the owners of the home, or possible Evans descendents in order to obtain further information on the home, and possibly find early photographs. It may also be helpful to consult assessment or collector’s rolls for the Township of Nepean (up to 1907) and the city of Ottawa (though virtually all of the assessment rolls for Old Ottawa South are missing between 1907 and 1920.) There have been architectural changes made to the home. Windows have been replaced, and the wooden section at the rear proper of the home which was originally wooden is now brick veneer or brick. Assessment rolls or discussions with the owners may help to clarify when these changes occurred.
The Ottawa City Directory 1895-96. Ottawa: Might’s Directories Ltd. (1896.)
The Ottawa City Directory 1896-97. Ottawa: Might’s Directories Ltd. (1897.)
The Ottawa City Directory 1897-98. Ottawa: Might’s Directories Ltd. (1898.)
The Ottawa City Directory 1899. Ottawa: Might’s Directories Ltd. (1899.)
The Ottawa City Directory 1900. Ottawa: Might’s Directories Ltd. (1900.)
The Ottawa City Directory 1901. Ottawa: Might’s Directories Ltd. (1901.)
Census Returns for the 1901 Canadian Census, Library and Archives Canada. District 112 (Russell), subdistrict E-4 (Gloucester), p. 7. Microfilm T-6495.
Census Returns for the 1911 Canada Census, Library and Archives Canada, District 61 (Carleton), subdistrict 40 (Ottawa South) p. 27.
Curren, Cynthia. “Private Women, Public Needs: Middle-Class Widows in Victorian England.” Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies, Vol. 25, No. 2, (Summer 1993), pp. 217-236.
Elliott, Bruce. The City Beyond. Nepean, Ontario: The City of Nepean, Nepean, Ontario, (1991).
Kalman, Harold. A History of Canadian Architecture Vol. 2. Toronto: Oxford University Press, (1994).
Land Registry Records
. Ottawa-Carleton Land Registry, plan 116, Lot 17, Roll 4AR49.
1 Harold Kalman suggests that this style of house is the most prevalent style of home to be built in Canada before the first world war. He emphasized ironically that the house is “so common that it does not have a name in general usage.” He notes, however, that sometimes the term “Queen Anne” or “gable-front” are used. See Harold Kalman, A History of Canadian Architecture Vol. 2. (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1994) pp. 616.
2 Bruce Elliott The City Beyond. Nepean, Ontario: The City of Nepean, Nepean, Ontario, 1991. Pp. 176-178.
3 Ibid., 176-178
5 Ibid., 176-178.
6 Ottawa-Carleton Land Registry Office records, Lot 17, Plan 116, Roll 4AR49.
7 The Ottawa-Carleton Land Registry Office records, Lot 17, Plan 116, Roll 4AR49 indicate that Elizabeth Evans purchased the property in this year. Similarly, The Ottawa City Directory 1898. Ottawa: Might Directories Ltd. (1898), pp. 500 confirms that Evans was living at this address by the end of 1899. This suggests that the property was developed almost immediately after it was purchased.
8 The Ottawa City Directory 1899. Ottawa: Might Directories Ltd. (1899). pp. 447.
9 City of Ottawa Ontario Land Registry Office Records, Lot 16 Plan no. 116, Roll 4AR49.
10 No records in the Ottawa Land Registry Office suggest otherwise. All legal transactions remained in Evans and her daughter’s names.
11 The 1901 census indicates that Webb employed a servant, indicating that he (and likely she also) was a firmly middle class individual. Census Returns for the 1901 Canadian Census, Library and Archives Canada. District 112 (Russell), subdistrict E-4 (Gloucester), page 7. Microfilm T-6495.
12 The Land Registry Office records indicate that Evans loaned $1500 to individuals of varying origins. i.e. a widow, a single woman neighbour, and several Pinheys of the well-known March township family. Ottawa-Carleton Land Registry, plan 116, Lot 17, Roll 4AR49.
13 Harold Kalman suggests that this style of house is the most prevalent style of home to be built in Canada before the first world war. He notes ironically that the house is “so common that it does not have a name in general usage.” He notes, however, that sometimes the term “Queen Anne” or “gable-front” are used. Harold Kalman, A History of Canadian Architecture Vol. 2. (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1994) pp. 616.
14 See figure three for an example of another home on the street constructed circa 1900.
15 For window details see figure 1, for bay window detail see figure 2, cf. With figure 3 as an example of a less ornate form of this home.
16 Cynthia Curren has convincingly outlined that few “professions” were open to women that allowed them to retain respectability within the gender-divided culture of the late nineteenth century. The role of landlady was one which was open to women, since it preserved ideals of domesticity. Cynthia Curren “Private Women, Public Needs: Middle-Class Widows in Victorian England.” Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies, Vol. 25, No. 2, (Summer 1993), pp. 217-236.
17 The 1901 City of Ottawa directory lists only three home owners living on the street (George Pelton, William Switzer and William Fairbairn). The seven other residents were renting their homes. City of Ottawa Directory 1901. Ottawa: Might Directories Ltd. (1901). Pp. 50. These residents were compared with owners listed at the Ottawa-Carleton Land Registry Office, Lots 13-20, Plan 116, Roll 4AR49.