At the turn of the century, Old Ottawa East was virtually unrecognizable. Not yet amalgamated with the City of Ottawa, it was a small town that was booming with trade, industry, and agriculture. Much of the land was divided into estates owned by the business-owning families whose names are captured in many street names in the area: Clegg, Brown, Slattery, Ballantyne, Paterson, and Lees.
Betty Hill (nee Brown) grew up in The Pines (demolished in the 1970s to make way for the Cuban embassy at the corner of Main and Riverdale). Betty and her daughter Susan shared photographs with Capital History researchers Meredith Comba and Rebecca Sykes. Among these was the Wildwood Snowshoe Club photograph you can see on our installation. Betty shared the names of the women in the club: Jessie Lees, Victoria Lees, Lizzie Lees, and Jessie Freeland.
Another photograph captures the camera club at Billings Bridge. Betty tells many stories about these interactions with other well-known families in the area and we hope to share these with you in the near future.
As Betty recalls, Old Ottawa East was also a place of hard work. The Brown family had a boat building and repair shop on the canal, and other families had orchards, farms, and other businesses that employed many people. Robert Lee’s well-known county attorney’s home, Wildwood, had a lush orchard, while the Slattery family had a house that was a spot for sightseers to stop and also a large cattle abattoir.
In the 1940s and 1950s, the estates were divided into smaller lots and the new community inherited the pre-existing playful spirit of the area and continued the community-building tradition in full force throughout the 1950s. Events like the Frost Ball which only came to an end at the turn of the millennium.
This story was researched and developed by Meredith Comba 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). She would like to thank Lorne and Melinda Abugov, Elizabeth (Betty) Hills and Susan Hills for their help. The text for this website was prepared with the assistance of Alexandra Petrie.
We are especially grateful to Elizabeth (Betty) Hills and Susan Hills for sharing their photographs with us and allowing us to use them in this story. Thanks to Megan Michie and Linda Cheslock of the City of Ottawa and Marie-Soleil Bergeron of Ottawa 2017 for their assistance, and to councilor David Chernushenko for his support.
Capital History kiosks’ stories were funded by the Ottawa 2017’s Arts, Culture and Heritage Program (stewarded by AOE Arts Council, Ottawa Arts Council and Council of Heritage Organizations in Ottawa).