Glebe Streets

What’s in a (street) name? Early Ottawa and the Glebe
The parking debate
Thirty Years Ago in the Glebe Report

What’s in a (street) name? Early Ottawa and the Glebe

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles by Christa Zeller Thomas, Glebe resident, historian and lecturer at uOttawa, focusing on Ottawa residents who gave their names to streets and landmarks in the Glebe. The articles are intended to offer a glimpse of those men and women whose names and influences have extended into our daily lives, and give us a sense of the context of their times.

By Christa Thomas

The new street in the Glebe. Photo Christa Thomas
The new street in the Glebe. Photo Christa Thomas
The Glebe recently gained a new street – Princess Patricia Way – extending from Bank Street through Lansdowne Park to the Aberdeen Pavilion. The ceremony to unveil the street sign was part of the 100th anniversary celebrations of the Princess Patricias, which brought members of the famed regiment to the city last month. Named after the regiment’s first colonel-in-chief, and daughter of the Duke of Connaught, Canada’s Governor General at the outbreak of the First World War, the new street name honours a woman tied to the history of Ottawa and the Glebe. As I was watching the unveiling of the street sign by Mayor Jim Watson and former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson (who serves as the regiment’s current colonel-in-chief), it occurred to me that there are other streets and landmarks in the Glebe that are also named after historical figures. Who were the early Ottawa residents who gave their names to parts of our neighbourhood?

Before plunging into those stories, I decided to remind myself of what the city, and our corner of it, was like in its early days. What was it like, for those whose names are memorialized in our community, to live in the city? How did it look, smell and feel?

The muddy corner of Sussex and Rideau streets, looking north, ca. 1875. Photo: Library and Archives Canada
The muddy corner of Sussex and Rideau streets, looking north, ca. 1875. Photo: Library and Archives Canada
Ottawa as Canada’s capital didn’t get going until 1865 (two years before Confederation), when the government moved here and began occupying the newly built Parliament. Before then, first Montreal (until 1849) and then, alternating every five years, Toronto and Quebec City served as capitals of the province of Canada (consisting of Canada West, now Ontario, and Canada East, now Quebec). Quebec City, in particular, was a whirlwind of social excitement, perhaps the liveliest city on the continent, with dashing regiments stationed at the garrison; it also boasted architectural grandeur. By comparison, Ottawa was, in the opinion of one early visitor, a “subarctic lumber village transformed by royal mandate into a political cockpit.” As civil servants and ministers started to arrive, their reaction to what they found was one of shocked distaste.

With a population of about 16,000, Ottawa was no longer a “village,” and construction of the impressive Parliament was also coming along (although the buildings were still surrounded by scattered heaps of debris), but aside from Parliament Hill, the city itself was “very desolate,” in the words of Governor General Lord Dufferin, looking “raw,” “wild and unfinished.” It certainly was a comedown from the jolly, elegant surroundings of Quebec City.

A forest of wooden shanties shared space with ill-assorted, newly erected houses and muddy roads without sidewalks. There were no sewage, gas or municipal water systems (the latter meaning, among other things, that fire was a constant threat). Instead, water barrels were delivered to residents by horse and wagon, and “stinking piles of ‘night soil’ accrued behind houses all winter, to be hauled away in April, and dumped on the river ice.” The smells emitted by the primitive wooden drains were overpowering, inside and outside. On one occasion, in 1868, Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald himself was driven out of the study in his house on Daly Street by the stench of stale water and human excrement. To make matters worse, Ottawa then was not only dirty, ugly and smelly, but also rough – it had a continent-wide reputation for the rivers of booze that flowed in it – and noisy: sawmills screeched and whined without relief all day. No wonder the wives of official Ottawa suffered from recurrent migraines.

Given the appearance and state of development of Ottawa as a whole in the period of Confederation and thereafter, it is not surprising that the Glebe at that time was a rural area. It would remain so until 1889 when it was annexed by the city as a suburb. The Rideau Canal already existed; it had been built between 1826 and 1832. There was a small creek (rather than two ponds) at Brown’s Inlet, and Bank Street was already in place. There was also a tavern, “The Turf,” and a horse-trotting park. Patterson Creek extended all the way to Lyon, and there were agricultural fair grounds where Lansdowne is now. Mutchmor House was on the west side of Bank at Fifth.
Stay tuned for more in future issues.

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


The parking debate
By Brian Mitchell

On October 2, the Planning Committee of City Council approved the zoning variances requested by Canderel for their redevelopment of 852 Bank Street (“McKale’s”). The developer is proposing to build a two-storey building that will fill the space from Bank to Monk alongside Fifth Avenue. Although no tenants are yet confirmed, they are building with four types of businesses in mind: two small retailers (e.g. clothing store and perhaps a deli) that would face Bank Street, a restaurant with a patio that would use the second floor facing Bank and Fifth (with the second floor patio along Fifth Avenue but just half-way toward Monk from Bank), and a bakery with a dine-in area at the back of the building (entrance on Fifth).
Although zoning would normally require that on-site parking be provided for this type of development, City Council has approved the developer’s request to develop the site without any on-site parking. Is this a good decision or a bad one? Two members of the Glebe Community Association’s Traffic Committee square off to present both sides of the debate. The GCA welcomes your views as well. Send your comments to:

By David Baird

Let’s separate the overall importance of ensuring access to parking in the Glebe, and the very specific reasons why Canderel should not be allowed to proceed with “zero parking” for its proposed development at Fifth Avenue and Bank Street.

It’s not realistic to expect everyone to be able to walk, bike, bus or “Vrtucar” to meet their transportation needs. The Glebe is not an island. Some residents need personal vehicles to drive to other parts of the city for work and play – and some visitors need vehicles to reach the Glebe. These vehicles need a place to park.

With specific reference to Canderel’s McKale’s project, this is a section of the Glebe already under tremendous parking pressure according to the Glebe Local Area Parking Study – and this before Lansdowne’s retailers and residences come online. The existing parking pressure can be attributed to examples such as the City allowing the Glebe Centre to be built without sufficient parking for staff, let alone visitors coming to see the 250 residents. We are about to repeat this mistake.

The community wants good development for the site. But we are being short-sighted if we allow new developments to proceed without at least a reasonable amount of parking. There are recent examples of underground parking provided in similar footprints on Bank Street, including the G Condo and EcoCité. Buying into short-term economic arguments, we make decisions I believe we will regret – like allowing the Mutchmor School renovation to be completed without any underground parking.

We are already proceeding with an unimaginative, stand-alone parking structure at 170 Second Avenue using $10 million in taxpayers’ money and prime land in the heart of the Glebe. If we allow new developments to proceed without required parking, we will end up building another parking garage with taxpayer’s money to meet increasing demands of residents, businesses and visitors.

By Steve Harris

Myth: parking is free

New Glebe developments create demands on parking. Automatically, we want additional spaces. Unfortunately, this tends to increase traffic and degrade the experience of pedestrians and cyclists. Low-cost parking increases traffic congestion and automobile dependence, and subsidizes car trips. These subsidies are largely invisible. Abundant parking feels natural; we may look on it as an entitlement. Free parking increases solo driving by 60 per cent. Parking subsidies in the U.S. in 2002 were larger than the health or defense budgets.

Myth: lack of parking kills retail

Many businesses believe reduced parking results in lost sales. Research shows that this is generally not true. This misconception arises because workers, not shoppers, often use spaces. The percentage of shoppers arriving by car is usually lower than retailers believe. A British survey found that 42 per cent of customers were local, and most walked. Think those results are unique to Europe? Think again. Wellington West retailers were surprised to learn that 52 per cent of their customers did not drive. Also, non-car shoppers spent more money on average. Knowing this, cities are taking innovative approaches to parking.

Myth: the answer is more supply

Drivers expect to have parking available. Yet our streets also serve pedestrians, cyclists and transit. Every new parking spot invites more congestion. Amsterdam, Paris, Zurich and Strasbourg limit parking in new developments. In Paris, 95 per cent of on-street parking is paid. San Francisco has demand-responsive pricing. Madrid’s meters charge more for higher polluting vehicles.

Targeted pricing and limited parking reduces bias against other transportation options and encourages transit use. Many jurisdictions use permits and restrictions creatively to allocate parking fairly. Innovative ideas like car sharing are viable options for many. Smartphone apps simplify booking for bikes, transit, and yes, cars.

Brian Mitchell is chair of the GCA’s Traffic Committee. David Baird and Steve Harris are both dedicated members of the committee.


Thirty Years Ago in the Glebe Report


Crowds line the canal to view the Pope travelling towards downtown Ottawa. Photo: David Schryer
Crowds line the canal to view the Pope travelling towards downtown Ottawa. Photo: David Schryer
On September 18, 1984, Pope John Paul II circumnavigated the Glebe, riding his Popeboat from Dow’s Lake along the Rideau Canal to downtown. All 320 students from Corpus Christi School went to Blessed Sacrament Church to celebrate mass in honour of the visit. The Papal flag was carried in the offertory procession at Mass and afterwards was placed in the school lobby. Every student received a papal medallion as a souvenir of the occasion.


NDP candidate Michael Cassidy’s narrow victory in Ottawa Centre in the September 4, 1984 federal election had been challenged by defeated PC candidate Dan Chilcott. The results of a judicial recount were announced on September 21, confirming Cassidy as the winner by a margin of 54 votes. He was sworn in as MP on September 26.


The building at 600 Bank Street (corner of Rosebery) was constructed in 1924 as the Gospel Tabernacle of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Several years later, the Native People’s Council purchased the premises for use as a recreation centre.

gs On September 9, 1984, the Ottawa Chinese United Church held its first service there. Pastor William K.T. Wan explained that the worship community was first formed 22 years earlier and had met in rented quarters on Lisgar Street. Since the congregation had grown from 30 to 350 members, they needed larger quarters. This led to their purchase of the new site from the Native People’s Council.


Parking meters had just been installed in the parking lot between Second and Third Avenue behind the McKeen-Willis I.G.A. supermarket (currently McKeen Metro Glebe). Previously, parking lot users bought time-period tickets from a machine on the lot. A City of Ottawa spokesperson explained that the change to meters had been made because of the difficulty in maintaining properly functioning ticket machines.

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