By Shaun Markey –
Anne Hamilton woke up one morning in the summer of 1991 and thought: “I think I’ll buy a house today.” Having rented a small one-bedroom apartment in the Glebe, she figured the time had come to buy a home of her own. She even had an image in her mind of the kind of house she was after. “What I saw in my mind was a little cottage with trees, a dog and a cat.”
Later that day Anne bought a copy of the Ottawa Citizen and scanned the real estate section. An ad for a modest, cottage-like home on a generous 66 x 100-foot lot, surrounded by tall trees at 552 Edison Ave. in Westboro attracted her attention. Anne was no stranger to Westboro, as her parents had moved from Toronto to a home on Wesley Avenue where she and her three siblings lived for several years.
Before long, Anne was on the phone to the real estate agent who promptly advised her there’s no basement and no washer or dryer.
“She obviously didn’t think that I’d be interested without those, and it obviously didn’t deter me. And I did take my clothes to the laundromat for the first 22 years I lived here.”
Anne also recalled the agent suggested she peek in the windows to make sure she was interested before scheduling a visit.
Approaching the house through the gate in a picket fence, Anne was immediately impressed with the little blue and white wooden house. It reminded her of her grandparent’s summer farmhouse near Ilderton, Ontario. It was at that moment Anne decided this was the home for her. It was the only house she looked at.
Despite comments from her lawyer, who told her she could buy a brand new house in Barrhaven for the same amount of money (approximately $135,000), and a caution from the real estate agent not to pour money into the place, Anne was undeterred. “I was looking for a home, not an investment,” she says.
She talked to a friend who had some renovation experience, who said the building could be renovated without too much hassle. Another friend said that they liked the feel of the house. “Besides,” Anne points out, “it was bigger than my one bedroom apartment.”
On July 1, 1991, her offer to purchase was accepted. Once the deal had closed, Anne spent the first two weeks stripping layers of wallpaper from the different rooms. The carpet was also removed, including some blue shag version in the bathroom. As far as she can tell, the house may have originally been a small two-room cottage. It has had, by her estimate, at least two additions over the years.
Larger projects followed the cosmetic changes. Over the years she has also remodeled the bathroom and kitchen, created a cozy den and had hardwood flooring installed.
Work was also done to improve the basement and create enough space for the furnace. The renovations unearthed an old newspaper, The (Ottawa) Evening Journal from 1908, which was likely used for insulation. (Back then, the paper cost 1 cent!) The presence of the old newspaper suggests Anne’s home was originally built around the turn of the 20th century.
Today, the generous yards that surround the house are perfect for her dog, Katie, who loves visitors and never seems to tire from chasing and returning a red plastic ball.
While Anne has lived happily in her home for 26 years now, she and her property are not immune to the redevelopment trend that has become so prevalent in Westboro.
The bungalow immediately beside her home was razed about five years ago and a builder erected two very large single homes. As a result, the loss of morning sun in her bedroom prompted Anne to have a bay window installed in the adjacent living room, which lets more light into the home.
Across the street are two modern, single-family homes and to the north, across Princeton Avenue, sixteen single family homes will soon be built on a large property that was once part of the Sisters of Jean D’Arc convent grounds.
Despite all of the development activity around her, Anne has no problem with the concept of infill. “I just wish,” she says, “that they’d build more community friendly houses.”
As for the future, Anne has no intention of moving. “There is no offer that would attract me,”
she says, flatly.
In the meantime, she will continue to enjoy her life in Westboro. She retired about two years ago. One of the aspects of living in Westboro she enjoys the most is the close proximity of shops and retail outlets. She is proud of the fact that she did all of her Christmas shopping last year on foot in the shops along Richmond Road.
Anne also likes the quirkiness of Westboro. The older homes reflect the aspirations of people who wanted to build their dream homes, their starter homes or, in her case, a little blue and white cottage with a white picket fence at 552 Edison Avenue.
The KT “Who lives here” series takes a closer look at some unique homes and the people who live there. Which Kitchissippi-area homes are you most curious about? It could be an old home, a new one, a big one, or a small one. Email a street address and a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do the rest. To read other stories in this series, click here.