Taking stock of our built heritage

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The City of Ottawa is launching a Heritage Inventory Project that makes use of a customized app called ArcGIS Collector to collect heritage data on neighbourhood buildings. Glebe Report readers are invited to get in touch with the authors to share information about the Glebe.
Photo: Courtesy of the City of Ottawa

by David Maloney and Ashley Kotarba

The City of Ottawa is undertaking a major project identifying buildings, structures and other built resources of cultural heritage value. The Heritage Inventory Project is a city-wide project involving the surveying and evaluation of a vast array of Ottawa’s built resources, from the modest workers’ houses of Lowertown, to the fine homes in Clemow Estate, to the century-old barns of Kinburn and even the numerous bridges that span our city’s many waterways.

The goal of the Heritage Inventory Project is to create certainty around Ottawa’s heritage resources. A rigorous update to the City’s Heritage Register will be beneficial for property owners, developers, heritage advocates, elected officials, planning staff, community groups and all concerned residents. The methodology of the project includes photographing, describing architectural characteristics and evaluating thousands of built resources throughout the city.

The evaluation component of the Heritage Inventory Project involves individual analysis to determine whether a resource is of heritage value from both a design and context perspective. The resource must meet both the design test and be reflective of a particular aspect of the neighbourhood’s heritage attributes to be deemed “contributing” and subsequently recommended for addition to the Heritage Register.

A “Neighbourhood Heritage Statement” will be prepared for each area of the city prior to the individual property and resource evaluations. The statements will include a description of the neighbourhood, a discussion of the area’s heritage values, and a point-form list of specific physical attributes of the area that express its unique cultural heritage. Each statement will also include a list of properties currently designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act or through the equivalent federal designations.

The Heritage Inventory Project relies on a customized app called ArcGIS Collector. Much of the research collected through this app will eventually be made available to the public likely through existing online tools such as GeoOttawa. We have also aligned the neighbourhood boundaries used for this project so they are consistent with the Ottawa Neighbourhood Study boundaries thus allowing for architectural and heritage data to be compared and analyzed on a neighbourhood scale.

For this project to be a success, we need input from the Glebe Report’s readers, as well as all Ottawa residents who have something to share. We encourage anyone with specific knowledge about their house, their place of work, the gazebo in the local park, etc. to connect with us and tell us what they know. We have a vast array of resources to draw from, but tapping into the collective memories and knowledge of residents is invaluable.

If you know who built your house, or the architect who designed your cousin’s apartment building, or who used to operate in a storefront on Bank Street during the Great Depression, please let us know. If you know the house that your mother or father or grandparents first inhabited shortly after arriving in Canada, please let us know. If you grew up on the same street as that kid who went on to achieve international fame, please let us know!

Get in contact with us if there is a building that has great significance for your cultural or religious community. If you know that furniture was once manufactured in what is now the kitchen of your friend’s loft apartment, we would love to hear about it. Did you study algebra and the ABCs in what is now someone’s living room? Your stories are wanted.

David Maloney and Ashley Kotarba, built heritage researchers for the City of Ottawa, can be reached at david.maloney@ottawa.ca and ashley.kotarba@ottawa.ca.

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