The fate of two institutions, which formed a core element for generations of families in Old Ottawa South, may be coming together. Not the two institutions themselves, but their remnants.
Recent activity at St. Margaret Mary’s Church on Fairbairn at Sunnyside caught my attention on June 24, 2020. Land Surveyors from Annis O’Sullivan Vollbekk Ltd. were on site as I passed by with my dog.
One of the persons working there told me they were surveying to determine the height of the tallest point of the church structure and to measure how it compares with the height of the surrounding buildings in the area. If ever there were words and phrases that would make me think a developer was on the move, these would be good candidates. The church closed its doors in June 2019.
Several weeks prior to that coincidental meet up I had been asking the Catholic Archdiocese of Ottawa about the status of the church and associated residence. The spokesperson at the Diocese, on behalf of the Manager of Real Property, told me that they had not decided on whether to sell or transfer the church to another part of the Ottawa Catholic community.
These discussions reminded me that the large artistic stone artefacts from St. Margaret Mary Elementary School, formerly at 88 Bellwood, are still on the church property, in the garden on the south side of the building. The stones were rescued from the school’s demolition in December 2004.
Community residents, politicians, and businesses fought for many years the decision of the Ottawa Catholic School Board to close the school; ultimately the land was sold to Charlesfort Developments, the school demolished, and the Moorcroft townhouses built.
There had been discussion with the City of Ottawa to memorialize the school which had meant so much to so many parents, grandparents, children, and neighbours. Oddly, that never happened, but these salvaged stones were to be tangible elements of that tribute.
Now it looks as if something may be coming to Fairbairn at Sunnyside, although it's hard to determine exactly what.
Meanwhile the artefacts from St. Margaret Mary's School need protection until we can find a proper place for them (if anyone has ideas for an interim resting spot, please let me know). A most appropriate place would be the "Bellwood Parkette” at 100 Bellwood Ave. The landscaped area in front of the condos has been designed in such a way that an ordinary resident, not knowing the history of the site, would not recognize the spot as an official city park, even though it is. A commemoration to St. Margaret Mary's School on that very site could bridge this knowledge gap in our local history and help keep the memory of our former neighbourhood institution alive.