Project Information
After 1907
1901 Snapshot
Air Photo Study
Image Library
The Secret Spot
Hey! Congratulations, you have found the "secret spot". Thanks for the effort.

And what did you win? Well . . . actually nothing . . . except a profound sense of accomplishment and a wee story that few people will read.

A somewhat tired writer who has spent the past two years assembling the history of a community that he learned to love as a child is writing this in April of 2004. In the course of this work I have constantly asked myself what could be written that would personalize my feelings about Ottawa East. In the end I decided to write about my secret spot - the place where I had the most fun as a child.

As a kid in the 1950's I learned to create my own entertainment. Coming from a family that had little in the way of financial resources it was necessary to make use of what was available. And that was Ottawa East. There was a river, a canal, an abandoned gas works, a huge railway yard, a stable for Walker's Bread horses, a slaughterhouse, a forest and some good buddies. The possibilities were endless.


Skating on the canal; feeding horses or watching the blacksmith; stealing wood from the rail yard for rafts; playing football at St. Pat's; watching pigs be decapitated at the slaughterhouse; climbing the gas tank; or running along the tops of slow moving freight cars were just some of the things that made life interesting. Compared to today's penchant for child safety, it was insane - but damn it was fun!

Most of all it was the river that provided an endless amount of enjoyment. Yes, there was Brantwood Beach where I learned to swim but my favourite spot was further downstream, just about the end of Springhurst Avenue. In those days the forest surrounding this spot was much denser and this separated the location from nearby houses and prying eyes. Many a summer's day was spent diving off the rocks, catching frogs, firing BB guns, building rafts and even fishing. The fact that the river was polluted never occurred to us, it was just a fun place to be with no rules.

And now for some serendipity.

In the course of researching this project I have looked at thousands of pictures, documents, maps and other things. Of all these treasures, my favourite is this picture. To me this smiling little girl, sitting on a rail fence in the late summer sun, is the quintessential portrait of early Ottawa East. It was a time of the simple enjoyment of life and she exudes that happiness.

My Secret Spot
By happenstance I managed to conclusively identify the location of this photograph. It was one of a series of photographs taken by James Ballantyne on one of his excursions. Compared to the other photographs taken on that day, it is clear that the location is at the end of the Lees farm, beside the Rideau River, almost exactly where present-day Springhurst Avenue concludes. My favourite secret spot!

So I ask the question. Why is it that my most favourite photograph, taken over a century ago, turns out to be exactly where my favourite spot was located? Was it coincidence? Or was it meant to be?

Please take a moment and answer the question. Send me an email at:

with the subject heading "Secret Spot". I would very much appreciate your thoughts. Of course if you are reading this in some archive, say a hundred years from now, then you may experience some difficulty reaching me electronically. By the time I probably will have departed for the "Far Isles of Langerhan". But I do hope you enjoyed this wee story and the history found on this CD. I was intended as a gift.