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Tabaret Hall, University of Ottawa

Chief archivist and tour guide

Chief archivist and tour guide

Umbrella in hand, I headed out  this morning to check out a few Doors Open attractions and it turned out to be a beautiful day! My first stop was Tabaret Hall for the University of Ottawa’s Historical Sector Walking Tour. Our guide was the charming chief archivist, Michel Prévost. He’s a wonderful storyteller who obviously loves his job and giving these tours. The tour runs again on Sunday and doesn’t involve as much walking as I had anticipated. Go find out about the first person to receive an MA from the university and what the requirements were, the family with a missing agreement that would give them free tuition, when women became students, and more.

Laurier House

Laurier House

DSCN2114crAfterwards, I walked over to Laurier House. The site was the home of two prime ministers, Sir Wilfred Laurier and William Lyon Mackenzie King. Not surprisingly, the interior is formal. I suspect it`s just my contemporary eye but it doesn`t feel particularly grandiose. My favourite part of the house is the veranda. I love a veranda that extends along the side as well as the front of a house, as this one does.

Munross House, Le Cordon Bleu

Munross House, Le Cordon Bleu

My next stop was Le Cordon Bleu. A world famous cooking school in a beautiful building – this place was crowded! The building, originally known as Munross House, was built in 1877. The architect, James Mather, designed it for his brother John. He was also the architect of Laurier House, which is its mirror-image. The school has a much more contemporary feel making the two buildings seem so different so I was surprised when I read this. Munross House is atop a hill overlooking Strathcona Park and the Rideau River. Quite a lovely setting! It`s Le Cordon Bleu`s 25th anniversary in Ottawa and students and chefs were on hand making this another great Doors Open attraction. I bet it would be nice to take a cooking course here!DSCN2119DSCN2124

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DSCN2037Another lovely summer-like day! I spent a couple hours at Commissioners Park checking out this year’s tulip festival. The festival runs May 3rd-20th.

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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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Photos from the first weekend of Winterlude at Confederation Park. The ice sculptors were busy adding the finishing touches to their work for the noon deadline.

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Early autumn vendor offerings at Ottawa’s Byward Market

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Today I headed over to the Rockcliffe Park neighbourhood. Apparently, it’s Ottawa’s wealthiest neighbourhood and I suppose that explains the absence of public transit!

I started my excursion over at the NCC’s rockeries, after strolling through the residential neighbourhood to reach it, and was pleasantly surprised by the fountain and salvaged Carnegie library columns. I spotted a scooter – I don’t see too many of them in Ottawa – and then noticed its owner picking berries. I like the idea of foraging in public spaces; it goes hand-in-hand with local food and urban agriculture trends.

I followed the rockery path and then made my way along Rockcliffe Parkway, along the Ottawa River bike path, and over to Rideau Hall. At the lookout, I did read there was a public tram to the park at one time.

The overcast sky and a bit of light rain made for a comfortable hike.

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Central Chambers building, Queen Anne Revival style, 1890

June 4th & 5th marked the 10th annual Doors Open Ottawa weekend. Of the 111 participating sites I made it out to about 10. There were a few others I would have liked to visit but late starts, bus schedules, distances, walking and just enjoying the day came into play. Weatherwise it was a perfect weekend.

The Central Chambers building is one of my favourites. It looks more like a contemporary revival rather than a Victorian-era building. It was the first building in Ottawa to have an electric elevator and is thought to be the first in North America with bay windows.

The grounds at Rideau Hall are spectacular. I wonder if the Governor Generals ever have the time or inclination to enjoy this beautiful oasis. As for the residence, the tent room, a former indoor tennis court, is kinda quirky and gay, but, what I most enjoyed were the paintings representing early immigration to Canada.

And just a couple blocks away, Gordon Harrison’s cottage studio was a lovely spot with live music, wine and, of course, quite awesome art works.

The Lester B. Pearson building, home to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, had a great collection of models of Canadian embassies in other parts of the world, as well as staff, literature and video on DFAIT’s roles.

Maplelawn is a beautiful Georgian-style home and garden. The historical building has been re-adapted and currently functions as a restaurant. The walled gardens date back to 1833 and served as a vegetable garden. It holds a lovely collection of perennials and the grounds are maintained by volunteers.

The Enriched Bread Artists and Gladstone Clayworks Coop are housed in another re-adapted building. The 1924 industrial building was the site of the Standard Bread Factory. I had meant to stop in at the nearby Traffic Operations but with thoughts of coffee in my head it slipped my mind.

I had started Sunday at Fairfields, a 19th century Gothic Revival farmhouse. It was home to five generations of the Bell family and also functioned as a tavern and hotel. In addition to farming, various members of the family were active in law and politics. A number of period artifacts were on display in the garden and, even with the interpreter’s clues, I was not able to guess what most of them had been used for.

Keg Manor – Thompson House, Maplelawn

Maplelawn Gardens

Standard Bread, 1924

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