Celebrating 150 years at the Bower Farmhouse in Old Ottawa East

Pat Holloway and Valerie Swinton celebrate the 150th anniversary of Bower House in Old Ottawa East. Photo: Maureen Murphy

Pat Holloway and Valerie Swinton celebrate the 150th anniversary of Bower House in Old Ottawa East. Photo: Maureen Murphy

By Dianne Breton

Dianne Breton lives in Old Ottawa East in Bower House.

A special celebration and fundraising event hosted by the One World Grannies, and Roland and Dianne Breton was held on Bower Street in the evening of June 21. The event celebrated Canada’s 150th birthday and the 150-year history of the Bower Farmhouse.

Storytellers made history come alive at Bower House, built in 1867 by John Conrad Bower on the Rideau Canal in Old Ottawa East. The historic Victorian house lived in by three generations of the Bower family, has been the home of the Breton family for 25 years.

Guests were welcomed into the garden by members of the One World Grannies and John Conrad Bower (storyteller Pat Holloway) impeccably dressed for the occasion in top hat and tails. Hors d’oeuvres were served and with guests seated under a very old silver maple tree, four very different historical tales were told in honour of Canada’s sesquicentennial.

Pat Holloway of the Ottawa Storytellers became an assured John C. Bower telling the story of his active and interesting life in mid-nineteenth century Ottawa. Among many historical gems, guests learned that Old Ottawa East was called Archville, that a steam train ploughed into the canal because the drawbridge was up to let a tug pass, and that the Bowers helped homeless citizens after the great Hull-Ottawa fire of 1900. Rumours of the house being haunted were reinforced with the appearance of Sarah (played by Tracey Guptill), the gentle ghost of J.C. Bower’s spinster daughter, who told her life story.

Ottawa Storytellers’ mother and daughter team, Donna Stewart and Ruth Stewart-Verger, brought to life the personalities and fierce determination of Canada’s “Famous Five” who succeeded in having women recognized as “persons” under the BNA Act – thus achieving their goal of making women eligible for appointment to the Senate.

One World Granny Peggy Edwards’ story wrapped up the evening. She took on the persona of her Uncle Jake, to paint a nostalgic picture of growing up in Old Ottawa East, the Glebe and Old Ottawa South in the early 1920’s. Using her Uncle’s memoir of his boyhood adventures with his brother, she delighted the audience with anecdotes such as swimming naked across the Rideau Canal on a summer night to steal creampuffs cooling outside Lamothe’s Bakery, and playing “road apple” hockey in the winter with frozen horse dung for pucks.

Thanks to the generous support of Watson’s Pharmacy & Compounding Centre, all funds raised have been directed to the Stephen Lewis Foundation Grandmothers Campaign. Launched in 2006, the Campaign has raised more than $24 million in response to the AIDs pandemic in Africa that has orphaned 15 million children and left almost 26 million living with the disease. Projects such as this event support the courageous grandmothers of Africa and the vulnerable children in their care.

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Filed in: Community Groups, Culture, FP, Front Page

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