Story kiosk location
- Corner of Beechwood Avenue and St. Charles Street
- (1941) – The year that the credit union, Caisse Populaire Saint-Charles, opened its doors.
What happened here?
- Caisse Populaire St-Charles offered mortgages and loans to members of this thriving Francophone community.
Looking around you, notice that there are still a few houses clustered around St. Charles Church...
…located across the street, with its dome and cross. There were once dozens of houses that populated these streets, relying on a local credit union to keep them afloat.
In the early days, the caisse gave loans to members for mortgages as well as constructing homes and home repairs. Paquette writes that Curé Barrette “compara la coopérative à une famille où tous les membres travaillent en pleine harmonie pour le plus grand bien de tous” [“compared the credit union to a family where all members work in full harmony for the greater good of all.”] (Léo Paquette, Paroisse Saint-Charles, Vanier, Ontario, 1908-1988. Vanier, Ontario : Entreprises Jeaneville, 1992, p. 79).
Founded in 1941, by 1968, the caisse had a surplus of over 2 million dollars. Sometime after the 1992 publication of Paquette’s history of the caisse, it was re-named caisse Populaire Vision and continued to operate at the corner of Beechwood and Champlain Avenues at 99 Beechwood Ave. In January of 2013, the caisse merged with the Caisse populaire Rideau to form the Caisse populaire Rideau-Vision and is now located at 147 Rideau St. and 520 Montreal Rd.
Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes founded their own caisse in the same time period as Saint-Charles and also merged with another caisse to form Caisse populaire Trillium, located in Orleans. The Saint-Charles Caisse populaire spurred the creation of caisses in Vanier and thus contributed to the tradition of cooperative community economic ventures in both Vanier and the larger Ottawa area.
Beechwood Market in Summer. Photo courtesy of Chris Penton.
Although there is no longer a caisse populaire next to Saint-Charles, the Beechwood Market has carried on some of the Saint-Charles community spirit of the caisse. The market has become focal point for families, seniors and millennials and the former Saint-Charles Church is an important backdrop. While the market does not operate as an official co-operative, the vendors work together on products, promotion and atmosphere.
This story was researched and developed by Sara Hollett as a contribution to the Workers’ History Museum’s Capital History Kiosk’s project for Ottawa 2017. It formed part of her course work for Professor David Dean’s graduate seminar on museums, national identity, and public memory (Department of History, Carleton University). Sara would like to thank Vanier Museopark, particularly curator Janik Aubin and head of research Yannick Labossière, and Chris Penton, manager of the Beechwood Market, for their assistance.