Local History

Carleton Tavern history

Rosemary and John Moran in front of the Carleton Tavern

Rosemary and John Moran in front of the Carleton Tavern

I was very interested to read Dave Allston’s 80 years of history at the Carleton Tavern (Kitchissippi Times). The Moran family that he references is none other than my own:

The Morans immediately converted the house back into a grocery store. Thomas Moran and his family resided upstairs, while a series of shopkeepers operated the grocery store on the main floor. In 1922, the family constructed a house next door at 229 Armstrong (now the site of Holland’s Cake and Shake), into which–in 1927– the Moran’s moved their grocery store. 223 then became the location of other types of businesses, including fruit dealers and butchers. In 1930, Thomas Moran decided to open a confectionery of his own on the main floor of 223. However it was his next move which would prove to be most significant.

In 1935, after five years of operating the confectionery, 75-year-old Thomas Moran extensively renovated the house at 223 Armstrong, and opened that fall as the Carleton Hotel…

…On February 26 1941, Moran sold the Carleton Hotel to Harold Starr and Harry Viau, for the sale price of $10,500.

Thomas Moran was the brother of my great-grandfather Alexander Michael Moran. It was Thomas and his wife Bridget Mary McDermott who first opened and operated the tavern (then called the Carleton Hotel). Family lore has it that they sold the tavern and its license because they didn’t think there was a future in liquor sales!

My father spent his early childhood living next door to the Carleton Tavern, at 231 Armstrong Street. He and his family lived upstairs, while his grandparents, Alexander Michael Moran and Anna (Annie) Maria Benton, ran a small grocery store downstairs. That’s my dad (just his leg) and his sister Rosemary in the above photo. My dad always told me that the man in the background was Harold Starr, who purchased the tavern in 1941.

My dad was a true Ottawa native born and bred. And he was also the product of an earlier Catholic parish-neighbourhood system, around which RC familial and communal life was once organized. He knew the city like the back of his hand; and he seemed to know, or know of, or know something about, almost every Irish Catholic family in the region, and quite a few French-Canadian Catholic families too. We (my sisters and I) had only to mention a classmate (we attended the “separate,” Roman Catholic schools), and our father would have a memory or an anecdote about his or her father or grandmother or second cousin or something. I now sincerely regret that I didn’t conduct formal oral history interviews with my father when I had the chance, he was such a rich source of Ottawa local history and folklore. But you know how it is: you keep meaning to do it, and then it’s too late. (Note to family history researchers: Do those oral interviews that you keep meaning to do. Do them NOW).

Anyway, my father used to love to take us on Sunday afternoon drives around Ottawa and the Ottawa Valley. We didn’t always know where we were headed, and neither, I’m sure, did he. “Where are we going, Dad?” we’d ask. “It’s a mystery,” he’d reply. We’d end up in Carp, or Arnprior, or maybe, for a more urban experience, in Sandy Hill. Always there were great stories, along with a treat (ice cream, perhaps, or maybe some fries from a chip wagon). I learned a lot on those Sunday drives, though of course I didn’t realize it at the time. We called them “Johnny’s Mystery Tours.”

My dad especially loved to take us to Armstrong Street and the Parkdale Market. He would point out the house where he had lived as a child, and then relay a tale of boyhood mischief that made his past seem like such a realm of unbelievable childhood danger and freedom! How I thrilled, in my safe and boring suburban middle-class enclave, to the notion of living upstairs from a grocery and next door to a tavern. This was an Ottawa that is rarely, if ever, captured by most Canadians’ idea of Ottawa as a city of dull-but-efficient bureaucrats, a starched-underwear town, the city that fun forgot.

This was an Ottawa of decidedly rougher edges, and of a good deal more local colour. A city of working-class pride, of pick-up hockey games, of Friday night fish fries, of ethnic rivalries between the Irish and the French (the Anglo Protestants apparently didn’t even enter the lists), of mothers gossiping over laundry lines, of my father learning how to curse from the dairymen down the street and then having his mouth washed out with soap. At 231 Armstrong Street.

Scrapbook page HERE.

“A unique musical culture:” the Ottawa Valley

I’m a jolly good fellow,

Patt Gregg is my name,

I came from the Chapeau,

that village of fame.

For singing and dancing

and all kinds of fun,

the boys from the Chapeau

cannot be outdone.

Chapeau Boys

From the logging shanties and the dance halls of the Ottawa Valley: “a unique musical culture.”

Ottawa Passé & Présent/Ottawa Past & Present

Ottawa Passé & Présent/Ottawa Past & Present is a remarkable website: an interactive blog which juxtaposes photographs from Ottawa’s past with photographs from the Ottawa of today.

Here, for example, is 96 to 102 Wellington Street, in 1938 and in 2014. Use your mouse to move the slider to the right to reveal the photograph from 1938; move the slider to the left to reveal the 2014 photo. The beauty of brick and stone masonry, with arched windows and doors to soften and humanize the building’s lines, versus the cold utilitarianism of completely regular rectangles of glass.

And here is the Ottawa Public Library at the corner of Metcalfe St. and Laurier Ave., circa 1900 (I believe this Carnegie library opened in 1906) and in 2013. Again, use your mouse to move the slider from left to right, and from right to left, to reveal how a beautiful neo-classical building was replaced by, in siteowner Alexandre Laquerre’s terms, “another one more along the lines of brutalism.” It is to weep.

As I mentioned in my post on the “Lost Ottawa” Facebook group, I find it rather depressing to view the photographs of older Ottawa buildings that were demolished in the name of “progress” and “development:” in my opinion, the wanton destruction of heritage buildings to make way for soulless concrete blocks and generic condo towers is an ongoing scandal in Ottawa’s urban planning. Needless to say, I can only agree with Ottawa Past & Present’s tagline: “We believe this city could be better.”

Ottawa Passé & Présent/Ottawa Past & Present is the work of Alexandre Laquerre, an engineer who has lived in Ottawa since 2006, and whose interest in architectural heritage was first inspired by his dismay over the destructive effects of the Dufferin superhighway (l’autoroute Dufferin-Montmorency) on the downtown core of his native Quebec City. The website is clearly a labour of love; and also, I think, a gift to the Ottawa public.

“Lost Ottawa” Facebook group

If you’re on Facebook and you’re interested in Ottawa local history, you should definitely subscribe to “Lost Ottawa,” which bills itself as “a Facebook research community devoted to images of Ottawa and the Outouais up to the year 2000.”

I have to say that, much as I enjoy seeing “Lost Ottawa” images turn up in my Facebook feed, I sometimes find it rather depressing. In the 1960s and 1970s, Ottawa lost so many of its beautiful older (19th- to early 20th-century) buildings to “progress,” and “development,” and ugly, utilitarian, Stalinist-style architecture.

Okay, “Stalinist-style” is admittedly a tad hyperbolic, but still. It is sad to see what Ottawa has lost of its built environment, through lack of respect for/attention to the principles of sane and sound historic preservation. No, we cannot save every building, and some older buildings are probably not worth saving. But this does not mean that we should tear down any old building whatsoever, in order to make way for the construction of yet another condo complex. And yes, times change, and the original purposes of older buildings become obsolete. But from this concession to the imperatives of change, it absolutely does not follow that older buildings are, by definition, useless obstacles to the realization of contemporary needs and goals. Many older buildings can and should be refurbished to meet new purposes, instead of bulldozed into the ground to make way for soulless concrete blocks.

Anyone with a Facebook account can join “Lost Ottawa” by clicking “Like” on its front page.

Ottawa Valley Slang

Growing up in Ottawa, and with an Ottawa Valley Irish background, I used to say bucko all the time (for boy, my boy, boyoguy, dumb**se), but with very little sense whatsoever that this was a corruption of the Irish búachaill. Well, now I’m cookin’ wit gas, because I’ve discovered an Ottawa Valley glossary.

(My paternal grandfather, who would not suffer fools gladly, used to say “amadán” in a certain tone, and this was the Irish for “fool”).

An Ottawa Valley glossary.

Safe home – What would you give to hear Mum say that once more?

O, what wouldn’t I give to hear my Mum say “safe home” once more?

 

Our Roots/Nos Racines: Canadian local histories

Our Roots/Nos Racines is an online collection of Canadian local histories in both English and French. Well worth searching if you are looking for ancestors in Canada. I have certainly found a few good leads in a couple of local Ottawa-area histories that I’ve discovered at this site.

A word of caution on local histories: while local histories can be extremely valuable (they can help to establish or confirm the whereabouts of an individual or a family, for example), their information can be a bit loose and vague. Wherever possible, you should verify the information by consulting church records, vital records, census records, and so on.

But on the other hand: the vague and possibly inaccurate information that you find in a local history can offer valuable clues, which can point you in the direction of more reliable sources to pursue.

For example:

When I first found a reference to the marriage of Pat Killeen and Bridgit Gallaghan in Garfield Thomas Ogilvie’s Once Upon a Country Lane: A Tribute to The Gaelic Spirit of Old West Huntley, Carleton County, Ontario, Canada (which I discovered at Our Roots/Nos Racines), I didn’t even know that the surname Gallaghan (Galligan) belonged in my family tree. I was searching for Killeen; and Galligan/Gallaghan hadn’t yet crossed my radar screen. And while the approximate marriage date (circa 1846) given in Ogilvie’s local history was off by about 13 years (Patrick Killeen and Bridget Galligan were married on 28 February 1859, as I was later to discover), that reference to a Bridgit Gallaghan opened up a whole new line of inquiry, and led me to the discovery of another branch of my family tree.

Marriage of Patrick Killeen and Bridget Galligan.

Marriage of Patrick Killeen and Bridget Galligan. Fitzroy Harbour Mission, 28 February 1859. Ontario, Canada, Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747-1967 at ancestry.ca.

Btw, Appendix H (“Irish Proverbs, Folklore, Maxims and Humour”) of Ogilvie’s Once Upon a Country Lane includes a maxim that my dad (a father of four daughters, but no sons) sometimes used to cite: “Your son’s your son ’til he takes a wife; your daughter’s your daughter all of your life.” However, I’m pretty sure my dad used to render it as: “A son is a son ’til he takes him a wife; but a daughter’s your daughter all the days of your life.”

 

Aside

A local chant, as told to me by my mother:

Perth! Perth! Get off the earth!

and let the green grass grow.

Smiths Falls! Smiths Falls! Get off the walls!

and let the pictures hang.

Perth = Perth, Lanark Co., Ontario. Smiths Falls is also in Lanark Co., Ontario.