Celebrating the history of the Aberdeen Pavilion

The Aberdeen Pavilion dates back to 1898, when it was built to host the Central Canada Agricultural Exhibition.  
Photo: City of Ottawa

By Jim Watson

Yes, the old Ottawa Ex is being revived for one day this summer!

After decades of being nothing more than a parking lot surrounded by crumbling infrastructure, we revitalized Lansdowne Park and made it a real people place with new sports teams, retail, restaurants – not to mention a tremendous amount of greenspace, trees, gardens and even an apple orchard.

Lansdowne is a jewel in Ottawa’s crown – and it’s in no small part because of the wonderful heritage buildings we have preserved on that site and once again made available to the public. Both the Aberdeen Pavilion and the Horticulture Building have become very popular venues.

The Aberdeen Pavilion is a one-of-a-kind structure that dates back to 1898, when it was built to welcome the Central Canada Agricultural Exhibition. In the following years, it served as a meeting point for soldiers heading to combat in the Boer War and the First World War. It also had an ice pad where the original Ottawa Senators won the Stanley Cup in 1904.

That building has seen it all, and it remains the only unsupported building of its kind in North America.

Unfortunately, after decades of neglect in the second half of the 20th century, the Aberdeen Pavilion was abandoned and taken over by thousands of pigeons before being condemned for demolition.

On July 2, 1992, Council voted to reverse that decision and to invest the funds required to save the building and to restore it to its former glory. I was pleased to work with councillors Peter Hume and Joan O’Neill to put together a package to save and restore the pavilion.

I am proud that we’ve worked with the Central Canada Exhibition Association and a number of key partners to mark the 30th anniversary of that important day on July 2 this summer.

For the occasion, we will host an old-fashioned exhibition at Lansdowne that will undoubtedly bring back some good memories for many residents who enjoyed the Ex – and probably create some new ones for those who weren’t around at the time.

This one-day event promises to be a great time for guests of all ages, with a number of attractions that will be available free of charge.

These include an Ottawa Archives exhibit on the Ex, live entertainment in English and French throughout the day, buskers, local fair booths and food vendors, a classic automobile demo, a farmers’ market, a petting zoo and a TD Place “fun zone” that involves locker room visits with local athletes and mascots.

I hope to see many of you out on July 2 to celebrate the history of Lansdowne Park and the Aberdeen Pavilion from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., beginning with a Freedom of the City ceremony at 9:30 a.m. featuring various dignitaries.

Please visit www.Ottawa.ca/AberdeenHeritageFair for more details ahead of this fun exhibition!

Jim Watson is mayor of Ottawa.

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