Story kiosk location
- Corner of Bank Street and Somerset
- 1896 – The year that Crosby Carruthers department store was built.
What happened here?
- First a department store, then a hotel, Somerset House has also been home to a jazz club and British pub.
You are standing in front of one of Ottawa's last heritage department store buildings!
The building at the corner of Somerset Street and Bank Street was constructed in 1896 in a commercial Queen Anne style for J. Frank Crosby and James A. Carruthers. As the advertisement you are looking at suggests, they specialized in “dry goods” and were the modern pre-curser to a department store, selling wholesale fabric, ties, hats, shirts etc. In 1902, an apartment building was added at the rear, called Somerset Apartments.
In the 1930s, the building was purchased by C.W. Mitchell, one of the founders of The Ottawa Free Press. Ownership passed to his son Edgar and the building became the Ritz Hotel, which featured a dining salon and dance hall.
In the 1970s its basement became a jazz lounge called C.W.’s which featured not only jazz but Celtic punk. The lounge later became the Duke of Somerset, a haven for British soccer and rugby fans, and the upstairs became the Lockmaster Tavern.
In 1991, the mural you see above was added at the back of the building, painted by American artist Robert Dafford.
Somerset House, July 13 2016
Source: Ottawa Citizen, September 13, 2018
The building stayed in the Mitchell family for 68 years before being sold to Tony Shahrasebi’s TKS Holdings in 2004. Although a partial collapse in October 2007 led to the building being slated for demolition, it was saved and is currently being renovated.
This story was researched and developed by Emily Keyes as part of the CapitalHistory.ca project of the Carleton Centre for Public History in association with the Workers’ History Museum. Her work was funded through a Mitacs Development Grant made possible by the generosity of Know History.
The story was revised by Jen Halsall and Kira Smith as a contribution to the Workers’ History Museum’s Capital History Kiosk’s project for Ottawa 2017.