Ten years in the planning, the restoration and renewal of the clubhouse of the Ottawa Tennis and Lawn Bowling Club (OTLBC) is finally about to happen. With construction being launched at the beginning of September 2021, the first phase of an ambitious restoration plan is now underway. Nine months from now, in April 2022, the first part of a dream will have become reality.
OTLBC, which was founded in 1881, is nationally significant as the second oldest tennis club in Canada, and it was a pioneer in the sport in its day. The Clubhouse on Cameron Avenue opened in 1923 and will soon be celebrating its centenary. Designed by an important local architect, J. A. Ewart, the building is a rare survival from the grand old era of sporting clubs. In 2019, the City of Ottawa awarded heritage designation to the Clubhouse, recognizing it as a cultural and architectural landmark in the city.
Over time, the century-old Clubhouse has deteriorated due to wear and tear and badly needs attention. The club has raised $1 million towards a $1.5 million goal for the first phase of its restoration plan and finally has the confidence to move ahead. Phase I of the current project will essentially stabilize the building and address renewal of a large part of the ground floor. Fund-raising will continue to complete the next two phases of the project. Ultimately, the result will be a winterized building that is open to the public.
However, this project is about more than shoring up the foundations and updating mechanical and electrical systems; it is about strengthening our relationship with the community. OTLBC is proud of the contribution it is making to maintaining the integrity of Old Ottawa South as one of the historic neighbourhoods of the city. As the preserver of five acres of green space, as the steward of a century-old clubhouse and as the manager of a community venue, OTLBC prides itself on being a good neighbour.
OTLBC will always continue to deliver its core mandate and to offer tennis, swimming and clubhouse facilities to its members. With the renewed clubhouse, however, it will also be able to open its doors more widely to its neighbours with programming that addresses physical and mental health as well as culture. New activities might include yoga, stretching workshops, meditation, book launches, lectures and art shows, not to mention an increasing number of corporate events, wedding receptions and anniversary parties.
The journey that has led to the start of construction in 2021 began 10 years ago, when Board Chair Peter Sutcliffe, Executive Director Maria Pierre-Noel and architect Kris Benes put their heads together and came up with a philosophy of restoration that hinged on redeveloping the clubhouse for the benefit of the community. The philosophy they adopted stood on two pillars - first, preserving what was valuable from past, and second, changing the building in ways that would make it more functional and more inclusive in the future.
None of this vision could have been realized without the hard work of a subsequent chair - William Floch - who led the membership in changing the legal and governance model of OTLBC from private club to non-profit organization. That one, fundamental change opened the door to a new relationship with the community. It also made the club eligible for much needed public grants, which Maria Pierre-Noel and Claire Brodie have energetically and successfully pursued. The current chair, Jenny Mitchell, carried the work forward by spearheading an ambitious fund-raising program, which will continue through to Phase II and realization of the dream.
This is a complex project, and it has not been lightly embarked upon. We could never have got to this point without the active support, hard work and buy-in of our current Board of Directors. Many intense discussions have taken place during the planning period. The Executive Committee and board members have painstakingly reviewed the feasibility of the first phase. They are confident that this historic project will be successful, and that it will have a positive impact on both the club and the community.
In so many ways, this project exemplifies community engagement and volunteerism. Current and past members of three different boards of directors have donated countless hours of their time and expertise.
Other members of the community - historians, writers, designers, specialty businesses and more - have been inspired to donate a wide range of in-kind services to help make the dream come true.
To manage and deliver Phase I of the project, OTLBC has retained MP Lundy Construction Inc. We recognize that construction can be disruptive, and, to help mitigate any negative impact, we will proactively communicate with our neighbours during the construction period.
OTLBC thanks the Old Ottawa South community for its support, patience and understanding during construction. When the work is finished, we look forward to welcoming you back, as our neighbours, to “Your Cottage in the City.”
If you have any questions about this century-old architectural landmark in Ottawa or would like to offer your support, please visit www.otlbc.com/donate or contact Maria Pierre-Noel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Janet Uren is a professional writer who lives in Ottawa.
Featured in the October 2021 OSCAR.