Refurbished Brantwood Gates to Rise Again as Part of Main Street Project

The century-old Brantwood Gates at Main Street and Beckwith Road were reduced to piles of stone this summer. But they will  rise again. Photo by Jim Bronskill

The century-old Brantwood Gates at Main Street and Beckwith Road were reduced to piles of stone this summer. But they will rise again. Photo by Jim Bronskill.

By Jim Bronskill

They towered silently over the hustle-and-bustle of Main Street for more than a century.

But almost overnight the Brantwood Place Gates disappeared. Workers systematically reduced them to piles of stone that they carted off.

The gates, long in need of repair, will rise again however at the intersection of Main Street and Beckwith Road. Their rebuilding is part of the extensive neighbourhood renewal project.

The four pillars, with their distinctive field stones, were built in 1912. They were a grand entranceway to developer Robert Sibbitt’s planned Brantwood Place subdivision.

It would be decades though, before Sibbitt’s promise of a community for “the discriminating” and “fastidious” attracted many homebuyers and the area blossomed.

The condition of the gates has long been a cause for worry.

In 1947, the City of Ottawa concluded they were a danger and a hindrance to snow removal. One July day that year, workers began demolishing the pillars — lopping the top off of one.

A public outcry from local residents, including a petition with some 400 signatures, saved the landmarks.

The gates were formally designated a war memorial in 1949. Thirty years later, they were granted heritage status under Ontario law.

A 1982 report cited a need for repairs costing about $5,000 as well as frequent inspections. An architectural firm’s detailed 2011 assessment called for a complete refurbishment.

In recent years, cracks in the crumbling concrete bases of the monuments were becoming increasingly visible.

The Main Street renewal project provided an opportunity to undertake the necessary repairs.  

The dismantling of the gates in June, “went very well and as planned,” said Andy Smith, manager of design and construction for the city’s east unit.

The restored gates, expected to be complete by November, will match the style and appearance of the original ones, Smith said.

The plan is to reuse components, including the large granite balls from atop the pillars, as well as many of the stones that made up the pillars and the bronze war memorial plaques.

The structures will be anchored with new foundations and bases. They will have flashing or membrane for water protection, along with freshly made concrete pillar caps.

“The most significant challenge of the Brantwood Place Gates reconstruction will be to recreate the monuments to reflect the heritage character and appearance while working with a mix of new and historic materials,” Smith said.

The gates will be set back from Main Street up to 1.5 metres from their previous positions. This will free up space for a widened sidewalk and should improve sightlines for vehicles turning onto Main from Beckwith.

The monuments will be surrounded by paving stones of the kind already in place along much of the new-look Main Street.

In summer 1947, when the gates were almost torn down without notice, Ottawa Citizen columnist Austin F. Cross wrote that the people of Ottawa East (as it was then called) were “plenty mad” over the sudden affront.

He summed up the feelings of residents who saw the Brantwood Gates as a cherished focal point of the community — a sentiment many share today.

“Although we have our landmarks we have only one that really means anything to us and that’s the gates.”

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Filed in: Features, FP, Main Street Renewal Tags: ,

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