On September 7, approximately 65 amateur historians gathered outside the tall white walls of the Saint-François-d’Assise church on Wellington for a walking tour of Hintonburg arranged by Heritage Ottawa.
The tour groups were treated to a warm day with a cool breeze, crowned with blue skies. Leading the two groups were Linda Hoad and Paulette Dozois.
“The boundaries of Hintonburg seem to be an ever changing thing,” says Dozois. “The village of Hintonburg that existed from 1893 to 1907 went from where the O-Train is now to Western Avenue, which is now Allan Park Drive.”
Hintonburg as it is today is stuffed with red brick buildings, old stone walls, and more recent artistic additions – like the marble statues of hybrid fire hydrants on the corners of each block.
“They’re something of a mystery to a lot of people,” says Hoad. “They were installed as part of the city’s ‘1% for Art’ program.”
At the corner of Wellington and Parkdale is a bell pepper fused with a fire hydrant, a calling card to the Parkdale Market. Although some of the business that these hybridized statues were inspired by are gone, the history remains.
Hoad, a long time resident of Hintonburg, once worked as a librarian at the National Library, and as a historian at the Fortress of Louisbourg. She brings a wealth of knowledge to the Wellington Street walkabout and its iconic landmarks.
The Elmdale Tavern, for example, was originally built in 1909 as a general store. Converted from a local watering hole to an oyster house last year, it has poured quarts for Prime Ministers and generations of blue-collar workers alike. The old storefront is still there, as is the Ladies and Escorts sign at the side of the building – harkening back to a time when men and women sat separately at bars.
“I love these tours,” says Hintonburg’s Denzil Feinberg. “I make a point of coming on them. Sometimes you forget. [These tours] can help you remember.”
Although Wellington itself plays host to a number of historical landmarks, the tour guides point out there is much more to the neighbourhood than just the main strip. The buildings on the side streets have their own little stories as well. One of them is the Hintonburg Fire Hall.
“The fire hall was a two- storey brick building with a wooden cornice along the front and both sides,” says Hoad. “The hose tower… was 60 feet tall. The first 30 feet in brick and the last 30 in wood clad in iron.”
By 1923, the building had fallen into such disrepair that a Fire Survey committee reported that it was, “in a rickety, dilapidated condition… and that a rough shock would probably knock it down,” says Hoad.
Today, the tower is gone. The only architectural reminder of its place in history is a slight curve on the North side of the building.
Many of the other buildings on the tour have been repurposed a dozen times, from residences, to commercial space, and back again.
“One of the themes of these tours is [adaptive reuse],” says Hoad. “In Hintonburg it’s been happening since almost the very beginning… there are several buildings which have gone through two, three, four, and five different uses.”
Heritage Ottawa is hosting walking tours of some of Ottawa’s other prominent neighbourhoods in the coming weeks.
For more information go to heritageottawa.org/sunday-walking-tours.
A special anniversary for Saint-François-d’Assise Parish
Hintonburg’s Saint-François-d’Assise will be 125 years old in 2015, and the parish is hosting a yearlong celebration to commemorate the event.
The church was first built in 1890. Between 1913-1915 it was rebuilt into its current form, according to the Parish’s website. The church’s five bells, built in France in 1924 and shipped to Canada, still ring to this day.
One of the church’s best-known features is its forest of statues. There are pieces from St. Anthony, Sacred Heart, Our Lady Piety, and Saint-Pascal-Baylon.
The 125th anniversary celebrations mark the founding of the parish and the return of Capuchins monks to Canada, as well as the 100th anniversary of the building of the present church at the corner of Wellington Street and Fairmont Avenue. There are a variety of events designed to showcase the history of the church as well as its founders. The festivities begin October 3 and continue until October 2015.
The official opening of the 125th anniversary museum will take place on Saturday October 4 at 2:30 p.m. There will be photos and information about the history of the church, the Capuchin’s former monastery on Wellington Street, and information about the various religious communities who have supported the parish since 1891.
On Sunday October 5, there will be a special liturgy of the Consecration of the church of Saint-François d’Assise presided by His Grace, Archbishop Terrence Prendergast. It begins at 10:30 a.m. and will be followed by a banquet in the church hall. Tickets are $20 (adults) and $10 (11 years and younger) and are available from the parish office.
For more information go to stfrancoisdassise.on.ca or call 613-728-1983.
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