Maps

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.

Down Survey of Ireland 1656-58

Via Deborah Large Fox, I’ve just discovered The Down Survey of Ireland 1656-58, a searchable, online mapping database with digitized images of all surviving Down survey maps from 1656 to 1658. From the project’s website (at Trinity College Dublin):

Taken in the years 1656-1658, the Down Survey of Ireland is the first ever detailed land survey on a national scale anywhere in the world. The survey sought to measure all the land to be forfeited by the Catholic Irish in order to facilitate its redistribution to Merchant Adventurers and English soldiers. Copies of these maps have survived in dozens of libraries and archives throughout Ireland and Britain, as well as in the National Library of France. This Project has brought together for the first time in over 300 years all the surviving maps, digitised them and made them available as a public online resource.

Wow! This is a fantastic website, offering (free of charge!) an amazing resource.

Red are brick, blue are stone: Goad’s Insurance Plan of Ottawa

Goad’s Insurance Plan of Ottawa, Sheet No. 421

My paternal grandmother Mary Catherine Lahey was probably born at 308 Gloucester Street in Ottawa. Or, if she was not actually born at 308 Gloucester, certainly she lived at this address from her infancy into the second decade of her life.

Inset from Sheet 42, Goad’s Insurance Plan of Ottawa

And as Goad’s Insurance Plan of the City of Ottawa makes clear (click thumbnail preview, left, to see larger image), she grew up almost in the backyard of St. Patrick’s (then a church, now a basilica), at the corner of Kent and Nepean Streets.

Now, in this particular instance, I didn’t need a map to tell me that my grandmother had lived near St. Pat’s: having grown up in Ottawa, and having attended Mass at St. Patrick’s many times as a kid,2 I already knew that Gloucester between Kent and Lyon was very close to the corner of Kent and Nepean. But the fire insurance map provides a striking visual representation of the proximity of her wooden frame house at 308 Gloucester to the stone church at 281 Nepean.

  1. Insurance plan of the city of Ottawa, Canada, and adjoining suburbs and lumber districts, January 1888, revised January 1901 (Chas. E. Goad: Toronto; Montreal: 1901).
  2. St. Patrick’s was not our parish, but my father liked to take us there from time to time when we were kids.

Immense Forests (Upper Canada, 1838)

BAnQ (Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec) has an excellent online collection of maps of Québec, with some other regions covered as well. 

Here, for example, is James Wyld’s A Map of the Province of Upper Canada (London: 1838). I especially like the detail which indicates the various points of portage, which warns that “This River [the Ottawa River] has a great many Rapids,” and which describes the vast tract of land that would later become Renfrew County as, simply (and no doubt accurately), “Immense Forests.” See inset below (and click on thumbnail to view larger image):

map_uppercanada_1838.jpg