Glebe History

Thirty Years Ago in the Glebe Report: Vol. 12, No. 11, December 14, 1984 (32 pages)
What’s in a (street) name? The O’Connors
Abbotsford House – really

Abbotsford House – really

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Though it was identified as Abbotsford House in John Leaning’s book, The Story of the Glebe (page 59) and by Library and Archives Canada, the house in the photo in last month’s Glebe Report may not actually be Abbotsford. David Jeanes, an authority on Ottawa’s built heritage, states that the picture in question is actually another stone house, built on Bank Street south of the canal near where the Sunnyside library is now, on property that was later sold to the Precious Blood monastery, now the College of Physicians and Surgeons. The stone house in question was the home of Thomas McKay, who bought the land in 1868 and moved into the house around 1872. “And the McKay stone house, known as Elm Bank, didn’t actually look anything like Abbotsford!”

The photo above, sent by Pat Goyeche, coordinator of community programs at Abbotsford, is said to be the real Abbotsford House, built for Alexander Mutchmor between 1867 and 1872. By 1878 it was the home of Ottawa mayor Charles Mackintosh. The photo dates from post-1888 when it had by then become the Protestant Home for the Aged.


What’s in a (street) name? The O’Connors

By Christa Thomas

Thomas, Christa 3_Whats_in_a_StreetName_OConnors Dec 2014  OConnors “When [Mr. Sparks] divided his farm [Lot C in concession C of Nepean] into town lots, he named one of the principal streets ‘O’Connor Street’ after me.” Thus reminisces Daniel O’Connor, truly one of the city’s pioneers, rather modestly, in his Diary and Other Memoirs, recalling the event that inscribes him into Ottawa – and Glebe – history.

Having lived just around the corner from O’Connor Street for many years, I have often wondered, when crossing and re-crossing it, whether the eponymous Mr. O’Connor was a particularly important man, since he has a fairly long street named after him (does size matter? is there some correlation?). So, I hope you’ll forgive me for investigating a street of which only a section is located in the Glebe, but I was curious to learn about the O’Connors.

Daniel O’Connor came to the area long before Ottawa assumed its role as capital of a confederated Canada. He was among the first to settle in Bytown, in 1827, just after canal building had begun, and was encouraged to do so by Colonel By himself. Daniel’s wife, Margaret, née Power, whom he had married in 1824, also had a hand in the decision, for when the couple arrived, she was “so wearied with travelling and its discomforts,” according to his diary, “that she was quite willing to give the place a trial.” Their arduous journey was undoubtedly made more fatiguing by travelling with their young child (who would die soon after their arrival). What is more, Margaret was pregnant with the couple’s second child, a daughter, Mary Ann, who was the first girl settler born here.

Daniel was born in Tipperary, Ireland in 1796, and already had an adventurous life behind him when he arrived in Bytown. Well educated, he had worked in commerce, but became bored, and in 1819 purchased a commission to serve in South America. Later, he visited Savannah, Baltimore and New Brunswick. Upon immigrating in 1826, Daniel and Margaret scouted out a series of locations, including Kingston and Utica, N.Y., only to land in Ottawa en route to Montreal on what was meant to be their return journey home.

Travelling north from Prescott, they nearly didn’t make it across the Rideau River, because there were “but a few women [at the Billings’ farm], who did not wish to attempt ferrying us across.” Luckily, “a farmer on the other side named Mr. Dow came across in his canoe,” and not only gave them (and what furniture they carried) a lift, but also took them in for the night. (Braddish Billings had married Lamira Dow of Merrickville, and two of her brothers, Abraham and Samuel Dow, were neighbours just across the river.)

The next morning, they walked the three miles to Wellington Street “through the woods to the place where the outlet of the canal was to be located,” taking turns carrying their child. (No wonder Margaret was travel weary!)

These inauspicious beginnings notwithstanding, Daniel O’Connor quickly realized that the canal would make Ottawa “an important point for trade and commerce.” Thus began the rise of the O’Connors in the city. Daniel became not only an important businessman but also one of the first justices of the peace and a judge of the court of requests appointed by the government, as well as treasurer of Carleton County (formerly Dalhousie District), Chairman of the Grammar Board and Chairman of the Board of Health.

After Mary Ann, there were six more children. Of these, Daniel Jr. was a well-known lawyer, long-time partner of Judge Robert Lyon, and Conservative solicitor for the Dominion Government. His son, Henry Willis-O’Connor, joined the Governor General’s Foot Guards in 1906. He served during the First World War, and from 1915 to 1920 was aide de camp to Sir Arthur Currie (first Canadian commander of the unified Canadian corps of the CEF). He also served, at the rank of colonel, as ADC to five successive governors general until his retirement in 1946, taking the span of his family’s eminence and shaping influence in the city to well beyond a century.

During that time, O’Connor Street in the Glebe was sometimes in the news – in 1899, for instance, city aldermen heatedly discussed blocking O’Connor through the Glebe in consequence of proposed CPR tracks along Isabella – and its appearance changed. In the 1890s, Patterson’s Creek was shortened to end near it, and in 1907, the O’Connor Street bridge was added.

To me, the street’s appearance in its Glebe section best captures the O’Connor family’s distinction.

Glebe resident Christa Thomas blogs about Canada’s women of Confederation at


Thirty Years Ago in the Glebe Report: Vol. 12, No. 11, December 14, 1984 (32 pages)

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The complexion of the Glebe’s business strip along Bank Street has recently undergone a change that could herald a metamorphosis for the entire community. Zig Zag Fabrics (at 792 Bank, corner of Third, where Il Negozio Nicastro is today), a Glebe landmark for 24 years, had just been replaced by a Becker’s milk store. This was seen as marking a shift from businesses operated by independent retailers to outlets owned or rented by chains and large developers.

Some business people saw the Becker’s store as a symbol of the destruction of the friendly community spirit that had contributed to the success of the shopping area. They feared that a chain store might attract loiterers and crime. However, they realized that the status quo could not be maintained because rents had increased to a level that only chain stores and restaurants could afford.


Feedback from a Glebe Community Association survey by Brooke Briggs indicated that traffic and limited parking were threats to local economic viability. Customers had often told merchants “I didn’t stop here last time because I couldn’t find a place to park.” Alderman Smith was quoted as saying, “To reduce traffic in the area we must change the public’s perception that there is parking to be found in the Glebe.” He felt that enforcing a ban on front-yard parking by fining both residents and parkers would be an important deterrent.


Grade 12 art students from Glebe Collegiate armed themselves with brushes and paint in an effort to give the windows at Ottawa postal station ‘E’, on Fourth Avenue, a bit of holiday cheer. Photo: Penny Whitmore
Grade 12 art students from Glebe Collegiate armed themselves with brushes and paint in an effort to give the windows at Ottawa postal station ‘E’, on Fourth Avenue, a bit of holiday cheer. Photo: Penny Whitmore

It was still too early to judge if the new Grade 9 Gifted Programme established at Glebe Collegiate in September was bearing results. Mrs. Lindsay, the programme coordinator, said that educational research suggested gifted students required a programme that was qualitatively differentiated from those of other students in order that they may best realize their potential.

NOTE: All back issues of the Glebe Report to June 1973 can be viewed on the Glebe Report website at under the ARCHIVES menu. This retrospective is filed bi-monthly by Ian McKercher of the Glebe Historical Society. The society welcomes the donation or loan (for copying) of any item documenting Glebe history (photographs, maps, surveys, news articles, posters, programs, memorabilia, etc.). Contact Ian at 613-235-4863 or


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