Q: Hi, I was wondering to whom was the Somerset Square Park dedicated to when it was first built. Our councillor wants to dedicate it to Mr. Little, but if it is already, would that not cause a situation.
A: Great question Arthur! The naming issue has been resolved (you can read about that here) but I had to turn your question over to our resident historian, Dave Allston. He’s doubtful that it was ever named anything and hasn’t come across anything that would suggest this little corner had a name before it was called Somerset Square Park.
He did share some other information that might be of interest.
There was originally a house built on it this property, between 1888-1889, by a mill culler named Delamere Howard. It was a small, wood-frame house, 1.5 storeys with six rooms. It had the address of 960 Wellington Street and sided along Spadina, fronting on to Richmond/Wellington. It was primarily rented to tenants over the years, and was even briefly used for a commercial office, notably by Mrs. Clara Currell, a millinery. (In other words, the hat-making business.) Clara was the wife of Daniel G. Currell, who was a real estate agent. The couple lived in the old brick farmhouse on Churchill at Currell. After he died, Clara subdivided the property and created Currell Avenue.
Between 1921 and 1922, the house was torn down, and the triangle of property was left vacant for a long time. Dave believes that the property was been tied to the Mason planning mill which existed in the block just behind to the east; bordered by Spadina and Bayswater, north of Somerset. That mill closed down and was demolished between 1921 and 1922 as well.
The owner of the property sold the entire piece of property (this is Somerset Square plus the block behind it) for $8,250 to the City of Ottawa in the summer of 1920, prompting the closures/demolition a year or so later.
The Hintonburg Howitzer was located on the square after the demolition. (You can read more about that history mystery right here: http://newswest.org/easyread/archives/3944 ) but was gone by WII.
Dave has some photos of the property at various points over the 20s-60s, and it always is empty. There were a lot of trees early on but by the 50s it was completely empty.
In July of 1988, as part of the Ontario Neighbourhoods Improvement Plan, Somerset Square was given a $255K budget to convert it into a pedestrian plaza, with “a community billboard, benches, trash containers, landscaping, a pedestrian pathway and a lighted water fountain.” The work would have been done that fall, which created the square as it is now. Prior to 1988, Dave doesn’t know what state the area was in, doesn’t really even know when it actually acquired the name ‘Somerset Square.’ He can’t find a single use on it prior to 1988.
If you there’s a KT reader out there who has photos of Somerset Square – especially pre-1920 – we’d love to see them!
Thanks for your question Arthur!
The Midcentury Modernist just made a blog post that mentions this. He writes, in regards to lumber yards in Rochesterville: “By January 1901 the piling grounds were vacant. It was here that Frederick Todd, the landscape architect who prepared the first city beautification plan for the Ottawa Improvement Commission in 1903, proposed a public park to be called ‘Somerset Square’. The OIC did not act on this recommendation and the City of Ottawa assumed control over the Preston Street frontage of the land, while the Government of Canada took the balance once J.R. Booth’s South Yard had closed. At this point a lot on Somerset Street was set aside for a future school but this was eventually built on Breezehill as Devonshire Public.”
See here: http://urbsite.blogspot.ca/2016/04/plouffe-parkss-big-tops.html
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