From the Future a Gift of the Past

Wooden sidewalks, Mrs. Harvey’s cows and how to mount bikes seemingly too big for their riders. These are elements of Old Ottawa East’s rich history in the early 1900s. They are also memorable stories told by local archivist David McGee of Lost Ottawa at Domicile’s Corners on Main presentation centre May 11. Residents were treated to a rich pictorial history and an exchange of stories with neighbours as part of a speaker series dedicated to life in Old Ottawa East. OOE resident and area historian, Rick Wallace of Concord Street also provided local colour about life well before Highway 417 was built. Photo by Meredith Newberry

Wooden sidewalks, Mrs. Harvey’s cows and how to mount bikes seemingly too big for their riders. These are elements of Old Ottawa East’s rich history in the early 1900s. They are also memorable stories told by local archivist David McGee of Lost Ottawa at Domicile’s Corners on Main presentation centre May 11. Residents were treated to a rich pictorial history and an exchange of stories with neighbours as part of a speaker series dedicated to life in Old Ottawa East. OOE resident and area historian, Rick Wallace of Concord Street also provided local colour about life well before Highway 417 was built. Photo by Meredith Newberry

By Joe Paraskevas

Some Old Ottawa East residents got a history lesson recently.

How they got it was almost as interesting as what they learned.

The residents went to hear a presentation by David McGee, a representative of Lost Ottawa, a Facebook site dedicated to collecting historic photographs of the National Capital Region.

The event took place at the presentation centre of Domicile Developments Inc., an Ottawa developer building the Corners on Main condominiums north of the century-old Oblates property at Saint Paul University.

In that way, it was an ironic confluence of past and future: a group interested in preserving Ottawa’s heritage appearing at an event organized by a company dedicated to tearing it down.

Domicile’s senior vice-president didn’t see things quite that harshly.

“We love the history of our Ottawa communities, while at the same time we embrace and effect what we hope to be positive change,” said David Chick. “In many ways bringing people back to the city’s core to live resurrects a ‘historical lifestyle.’ New and more residents help bring life to the streets, especially streets that were traditional main streets of the past, providing shops and services easily accessible by foot and bicycle.”

McGee came to the event seeking to add to Lost Ottawa’s supply of photos by asking residents to contribute to his site. He showed photos of OOE’s early days to generate feedback on aspects of the community that held public interest.

“I think the relative isolation of the community is one of the most interesting things,” he said, when asked about OOE’s most enduring characteristics. “(It was) right next door to a burgeoning Ottawa, that had just become the capital, but for the longest time there was hardly anyway to get to it. There was a Pretoria bridge and its predecessor, but Billings Bridge was far away, and from the north you had to cross the no man’s land of the railyards. Those railyards are probably the second most important thing helping to shape the community, followed by the Rideau Canal which was the original barrier between Ottawa and OOE.”

McGee said Lost Ottawa would scan people’s historic photographs of OOE for free in exchange for permission to use them.

Domicile will host more arts and cultural events at its presentation centre, Chick said.

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Filed in: Features, FP, Front Page

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