Posts Tagged ‘Jane’s Walk’

This past weekend marked another year of guided neighbourhood Jane’s Walks. The walks started in 2007, in Toronto, in homage to the late Jane Jacobs. Of the 600 walks in 85 cities in 19 countries, Ottawa hosted 51 walks and I made it out to two of them.

Wallis House / General Hospital, circa 1920, photo Wikipedia

Sunday morning I headed over to Uptown Rideau: A Mainstreet Interrupted. The walk/talk was led by Chris Bradshaw, a longtime advocate of walkable cities and neighbourhoods and covered the section of Rideau Street between King Edward Avenue and eastward to the Rideau River bridge. It’s not quite a neighbourhood but rather a boundary between Sandy Hill and Lower Town. The street, which is home to the successful ByTowne Cinema lacks a strong BIA and Chris is working to organize the business owners. The street has pharmacies, beauty salons, restaurants, a heritage library and a grocery store but it recently lost its only cafe and is rather bland. Like other streets and neighbourhoods, it has undergone many changes. For instance, trams once ran along Rideau Street and the area housed a transit hub where now there is a strip mall. Wallis House, a heritage building, was an infectious disease hospital and is now a condominium. The street is slated for revitalization and may see public art, benches and wider sidewalks.

Older restored building on Wellington Street in Hintonburg, photo urbantoronto.ca

In the afternoon I headed over to a neighbourhood closer to home to take in the walk/talk Escaping Urban Renewal – Hintonburg past, present and future, hosted by Linda Hoad and Paulette Dozois, co-chairs of the Hintonburg Community Association Heritage and Zoning Committees. Actually, we broke into two groups and I went on the tour led by Linda. I’m not a Downtowner/Uptowner at heart, so to me, Hintonburg is the more appealing neighbourhood. It’s a highly walkable neighbourhood with blue collar roots. Many earlier inhabitants worked at the trainyards and the Experimental Farm. It’s had a seedy history but is now considered a very desirable up and coming neighbourhood.

The walk noted a few older buildings, such as Bethany Hope House and Richmond Lodge, however, many of the lots, particularly north of Wellington are small with little yard space. Apparently, you built onto your house as you could. These are mostly clapboard construction while south of Wellington the houses are brick. The residential redevelopment is quite interesting and features a “boxcar” style of housing. The neighbourhood has a walled park,  complete with a new sundial and hosts outdoor theatre in the summer. The Wellington Street West area is home to many different businesses, including an arts district, and both walks pointed out examples of early work/live architecture – buildings where people ran a commercial establishment on the ground floor and lived above.

Thanks Chris and Linda. Jane’s Walks are a great way to learn about and explore neighbourhoods. Chris mentioned a website where you can check how walkable a neighbourhood is. It can be a bit off, for example, Uptown Rideau scored a 95 and cited a school but the school is a driving school. I like this tool though – my current address ranks a 68 and the place I grew up ranks a 97. How does your neighbourhood rate?

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This past weekend was the annual Jane’s Walk and I checked out two of the walks/talks here in Ottawa.

Saturday I ventured over to the Hidden Bronson: Bicycles, cafés, and violins walk, led by Carl Stieren and Caroline Brown. Bronson is a noisy unappealing street and not what you think of as a liveable, pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood, although, I was pleasantly surprised by the neighbourhood feel of the side streets. As soon as I stepped off the bus I noticed a group of people preparing the soil for a community garden. We started by the True Loaf Bread Company on Gladstone. This “strip” mall is home to a few food businesses including an Ethiopian restaurant which I can’t recall the name of; however, the owner graciously provided us with a free, absolutely delicious, snack to start our walk. I haven’t had Ethiopian food in a while and truly enjoyed it! This is a low rent area and the walk highlighted the small business community economic development initiatives in this area.

Sunday I headed downtown for a walk and talk about Ottawa’s Building and Monument Stones, led by Quentin Gall. Quentin is a university lecturer, author, and member of the Ottawa-Gatineau Geoheritage Committee. Large public buildings and monuments seem far removed from the essence of a Jane Jacob’s neighbourhood; nonetheless, this is a highly interesting part of town and the tour was fascinating. From the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill to City Hall, we heard about minerals, fossils, geological periods and the diversity of the sandstone, limestone, granite, etc. that was used in the construction of these amazing buildings, monuments and the canal.

It was an opportunity to learn about and explore more aspects of my new city. I was a little disappointed that the actual walking didn’t cover as much ground as the walks I went on last year in Guelph. The Ottawa walks had higher attendance and more traffic to contend with, although, I don’t know whether this was a planning factor.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        Sunday I went on two more Jane’s Walks. The first was led by Susan Ratcliffe and, based on research conducted by Evelyn Bird, we explored the barns and coach houses in town. The second walk was led by Jim Profit, S.J., where we meandered amongst the beautiful grounds at Ignatius Jesuit Centre.

On Susan’s walk I learned that there are more 100 barns in Guelph! The Farmer’s Market had been a horse barn and an unused tunnel connects it to City Hall. At one of the residences, I heard of the Swiss herbalist who used to make an annual trip to Cuba to treat Fidel Castro. Some of the barns also contained living quarters for the coachmen who guided the horses and buggies. Guelph was also a thriving centre for the manufacture of coaches. As the horse and buggy are no longer the contemporary means of transportation barns have been re-adapted and have new lives. We saw examples of this in the form of an apartment, a house and a business establishment. Barns are also known as rural cathedrals.

On Jim’s walk we heard about Centre’s past – the first settlers, the Mickles, and the former Jesuit novitiate. And its present – the community shared agriculture program (CSA), community garden plots, Loyola House retreats, hermitages, land regeneration and reforestation. It’s called a place of peace and you do feel calm and tranquil as you walk through these wonderful grounds. We made a short stop at the Stations of the Cosmos, a spiral path with stations, which seeks to integrate the science of evolution with spirituality, a project I’d like to comeback and visit another day. We continued on to a peaceful cedar grove, crossed over Marden Creek, walked along a lovely trail and, after crossing Highway 6, we followed the creek, stopped to hear about the land which has been set aside for conservation, walked through the ruins of a former mill, which nature is reclaiming, visited one of the hermitages and strolled past the house where the Jesuit’s live. It’s not what you’d typically associate with a Jane’s Walk, although, nature does have a way of making you feel like part of the earth’s community.

I very much enjoyed both walks. Thank you Susan and Jim.

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Saturday afternoon I headed over to St. Patrick’s Ward to take in a guided walk, led by Barb Mann. It’s one of the many Jane Jacob’s walks that are taking place this weekend in Guelph and in 67 other cities across North America and internationally.

The Ward is Guelph’s oldest community. I’ve been wanting to explore this area and being on a Jane’s Walk made it all the more interesting. Not only did I learn a lot from the guide but a few other longtime residents shared their knowledge and stories as well.

I learned about the Alice Street chatel houses that were used to house the city’s first Black residents, railway workers who could not own property. As well, I heard about the city’s history with organized crime and was introduced to the  “Legends of the Morgeti”, a series of books by local author, Jerry Prager.

We passed by a former industrial use parcel of land, which was sold to Jerry —— (I’ve forgotten the surname) for $1. I believe it was said that he had a church. The land sits vacant, a perfect spot for a mixed-used development. Several re-adapted buildings were pointed out and as we passed by a closed factory our guide mentioned what a wonderful work/live space it could be. I agree on all points. We also passed by the Two Rivers Community Garden and Guelph’s first Habitat For Humanity house. All in all, a very enjoyable and informative walk. Thanks Barb, what a great neighbourhood to call home.

Photos are from both the Jane’s Walk and my own walk getting to the meeting spot.

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