|Air Photo Study
The Old Town Hall
|It has been a baby clinic, dance hall, school, kindergarten, Carnegie
Library, head office of a water company, Baptist Mission, election headquarters,
police commission, recreation department, home of a theatre group and a
jail. It has been used by practicing brass bands, local community groups,
comedians and politicians; left vacant; caught fire and had its name changed;
and above all else, it has endured.
It is of course, the Ottawa East Village Town Hall.
|Whenever anyone speaks of the history of the community, the first thing mentioned is the old town hall at Main and Hawthorne. Notwithstanding the 'Stone Gates' or the Scholasticate, it is this building that, more than anything else, reminds the community of both the past and present. Having stood now in three successive centuries, it is a reminder of what once was, and as such, demands to be preserved.
|As chronicled in the history chapters, Ottawa East Village
came into being in December of 1888 as a result of some fancy footwork by
community leaders such as Robert Lees, Archibald Stewart and James Ballantyne
as they fended off the covetous city. For the first seven years of existence
Ballantyne was the Reeve of the village and by 1894 he felt that the village
was financially sound enough to build a town hall. He commissioned his nephew
Henry F. Ballantyne, a recent architecture graduate, to draft the plans
for a building that would make a statement about the community. James wanted
all to know that the village was thriving and planned to be around for a
Up to that point council had met in the local school or in the parlours
of members. It was time for more space. The decision was to purchase land
just across the street from Ballantynes home at 54 Main St. Owned by the
estate of Robert Lees (who had died in 1893), the village purchased Lot
C, Plan 150 from W. A. D. Lees on August 6, 1894 for $450 (LRO - Inst.
#132). In September of the following year, council purchased the south
half of Lot B from the Lees family for $225 (LRO - Inst. #317). This lot
was to later become Montgomery Park.
|The building was erected in 1895. Sadly the village records
for those years have been lost to time so no information is available regarding
the cost or the contractors used in the construction. However, from the
labeled photographs taken by Ballantyne himself, it is clear local carpenters
and stone masons were used. The land around the building was fenced and
used to store wood, equipment and road material such as crushed stone and
sand. Around 1902 records indicate that a shed was built to store fire equipment
Until the end of 1907, when the village was annexed by the city, the
building served as a focal point for community business. Administered
by Walter S. Barry, the village clerk, it was the place to go to register
births, marriages or deaths, submit petitions for drainage work or seek
a permit for a pool hall. As the photographs show, it was the headquarters
for village elections, plebiscites and a gathering point for village discussion.
It must have also been a very cold building as the record shows the clerk
being paid 25 cents to light the fire before every meeting.
|In January of 1908 the building became the property of the
City of Ottawa. From 1908 to 1920 it had various uses including a Baptist
Mission and a kindergarten and then it was leased to the Roman Catholic
School Board for French instruction. Various reports indicate other uses
but no sources are given for these claims. One of the more persistent stories
is the renaming of the building as the "Rosedale Community Hall".
It is even reported to have been left vacant from 1920 to 1930 but that
is not accurate. Whatever the name or the real story, we do know that eventually
it was taken over by the city recreation and parks department.
In the early 1950's a playground named Montgomery Park was built on the
land adjacent to the building. It consisted of a wading pool, swings and
a miniature village of concrete streets with stop signs, a small gazebo-like
building with a raised platform (a stage?) and about 6 small brightly
painted "houses", each about 5' x 3' x 4' high. The idea was
to provide a little safe community where children could ride their tricycles
and play house. It soon became a security nightmare, especially at night,
when local teenagers utilized the wee houses to do the things that teenagers
do. Within a few short years the "village" was razed.
|The building did catch fire on December 2, 1975 and was closed
for several months. The city designated the property as heritage on April
31, 1982 and renovated the structure in 1988. It was officially reopened
on with a special ceremony on September 11, 1988.
Now known as the Ottawa East Community Center, the grand old building continues to serve as the community's center as it was originally intended to do in 1895. Now under threat (2004) by the proposed expansion of the Queensway located just a few meters to the north, it has become an icon for those who protest the further destruction of Ottawa East "for the public good"!
There is more about this venerable building in an article written by
Nancy Mitchell in the 1995 Summer Edition of the Mainstreeter
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