Did you know that in the past Lansdowne Park was much more than a sports venue and exhibition space? During both the First and Second World Wars, Lansdowne Park was transformed into a training ground and barracks as seen here in these photographs from Library and Archives Canada and the Canadian War Museum.
After the Second World War, the City of Ottawa decided to lease Lansdowne to the Central Canada Exhibition Association forcing the Canadian Army to vacate the site. Yet during the spring and summer of 1946, as the transition was being planned, Ottawa was facing a major housing crisis, with many returning veterans and their families living in dreadful conditions.
Fed up with the lack of action, on September 24th, 1946, the Veterans’ Housing League, led by Franklin “Frank” Hanratty, broke into several former barracks locations around the city, including Lansdowne, and began moving people into the abandoned barracks. Families who had been living in chicken coops and self-made shelters at the dump found better homes in the former barracks. Hanratty was arrested, but public pressure forced officials to accept that there was a serious shortage of decent housing affecting those who had worked so hard for victory and the families were allowed to stay, and electricity and running water were re-connected. For some, Lansdowne would be home for almost two years: the last three families left the barracks in June 1948.
This story was researched and developed by Kelly Ferguson and as a contribution to the Workers’ History Museum’s Capital History Kiosk’s project for Ottawa 2017. It formed part of her coursework for Professor David Dean’s graduate seminar on museums, national identity, and public memory (Department of History, Carleton University).
Thanks to the City of Ottawa Archives, Library and Archives Canada, and the Canadian War Museum for their assistance with archival materials. We would also like to thank Megan Michie and Linda Cheslock of the City of Ottawa and Marie-Soleil Bergeron of Ottawa 2017 for their assistance, and to Councillor David Chernushenko and Andrew Peck and Dana Thibault of the Glebe BIA for their support.
This entry for capitalhistory.ca and its related installation at Bank and Holmwood was made possible by Ottawa 2017, CIBC and the three Arts, Culture and Heritage Program Stewarding Partners AOE Arts Council, Ottawa Arts Council and Council of Heritage Organizations of Ottawa.