Q: Just wondering if you guys know what the property adjacent to the Carlingwood library is? It has been vacant for years and is surrounded by a thick black iron fence. I have always wondered what it was.
– Roslyn Richardson
A: Thanks for your question Roslyn! I have noticed this grassy lot as well and have often wondered about it. In the summer it is a quiet oasis for ducks and pigeons, and in the winter it’s used for Christmas tree sales. So why is it fenced off this way?
I first asked the staff at the Carlingwood library if they knew anything about it since it backs on to their parking lot. They were able to confirm that the lot belongs to Carlingwood Mall. I reached out to the mall to see if they had anything to say but never received a reply. I also contacted local historian Dave Allston (check out his site at housestory.co) to see what else he could dig up about it.
Allston confirmed that this little stretch of fenced-off grass is owned by Carlingwood Mall and has always been a part of the property.
Ground was first broken on Carlingwood Mall in November of 1954 and it opened a year later. Prior to that, the area was farmland, owned by the Honeywell family.
The library lot was a separate parcel of land that was broken off in 1948 and sold to Hugh Cecil Laing. Laing built a house there, then five years later sold it to Hammett Pinhey Hill (no doubt a direct relative of the famous Pinhey family), who then sold it in November of 1961 to the Ottawa Public Library. The library had been operating a branch inside Carlingwood Mall since 1956. The lease inside Carlingwood ran all the way until 1966, so although they bought the house and lot in 1961, construction on the new library didn’t begin until the fall of 1965. The house that was there was either demolished or moved.
The vacant lot in question was bought as part of the larger lot on which Carlingwood Mall now stands. An aerial photo from 1958 clearly shows the iron fence, surrounding what looks to be four small structures near the parking lot.
These are likely sheds or work coverings, such as a hydro box or generators. (This was well before the parking garage was built in the 1980s.) By the mid-1970s, these four smaller structures were replaced with a larger structure that Allston describes as having “a very odd shape and look to it.” He believes it may have been a hydro substation for Carlingwood Mall. It remained in place until around 2000 or 2001, at which point it was demolished. The lot was left vacant but the iron fence remains.
Allston also spoke with a friend whose mother has been a long-time librarian at the Carlingwood branch.
“She indicated at some point it had been an auto collision centre, but I don’t think that’s true,” says Allston. “It would have had to have been there very briefly, and I still don’t see how it would have fit within the boundary of the iron fence, nor can I imagine Carlingwood using their land like this.”
Little-known fact: Saville Row used to end at Lockhart Avenue. Although the road continued, it actually had a different name. The small stretch between Woodroffe and Lockhart used to be called Lorne Avenue. Allston doesn’t know when that changed but it’s shown on early maps of the area.
Thanks for your question, Roslyn. And a big thanks to Dave Allston for helping us find the answer!
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