Vintage: Ottawa – Capital City of Canada (late 19th Century)

Vintage: Ottawa – Capital City of Canada (late 19th Century)


Starting in the 1850s, large sawmills began to be erected by entrepreneurs known as lumber barons, and these became some of the largest mills in the world. Rail lines erected in 1854 connected Ottawa to areas south and to the transcontinental rail network via Hull and Lachute, Quebec in 1886. The original Parliament buildings which included the Centre, East and West Blocks were constructed between 1859 and 1866 in the Gothic Revival style. At the time, this was the largest North American construction project ever attempted and Public Works Canada and its architects were not initially well prepared. The Library of Parliament and Parliament Hill landscaping would not be completed until 1876. By 1885 Ottawa was the only city in Canada whose downtown street lights were powered entirely by electricity. In 1889 the Government developed and distributed 60 ‘water leases’ (still currently in use) to mainly local industrialists which gave them permission to generate electricity and operate hydroelectric generators at Chaudière Falls. Public transportation began in 1870 with a horsecar system, overtaken in the 1890s by a vast electric streetcar system that lasted until 1959. The Hull–Ottawa fire of 1900 destroyed two thirds of Hull, including 40 per cent of its residential buildings and most of its largest employers along the waterfront. The fire also spread across the Ottawa River and destroyed about one fifth of Ottawa from the Lebreton Flats south to Booth Street and down to Dow’s Lake.

Elgin St. from Wellington with the City Hall on the left background, ca. 1890s

Elgin St. from Wellington with the City Hall on the left background, ca. 1890s

New Edinburgh flood, ca. 1890s

New Edinburgh flood, ca. 1890s

Parliament Hill, ca. 1890s

Parliament Hill, ca. 1890s

Rideau St., 1876

Rideau St., 1876

Russell House Hotel, 1898

Russell House Hotel, 1898

Entrance to the Rideau Canal, ca. 1890s

Entrance to the Rideau Canal, ca. 1890s

Sailing canoes on the Ottawa River, 1889

Sailing canoes on the Ottawa River, 1889

Skiing in Rockcliffe Park, 1895

Skiing in Rockcliffe Park, 1895

Skiing in Rockcliffe Park, ca. 1890s

Skiing in Rockcliffe Park, ca. 1890s

Snowstorm on Sparks St. ca. late 1890s

Snowstorm on Sparks St. ca. late 1890s

Sussex St. and George St., ca. 1890s

Sussex St. and George St., ca. 1890s

The Grand Hotel on Sussex Dr. at Rideau St., ca. 1890s

The Grand Hotel on Sussex Dr. at Rideau St., ca. 1890s

The main building of the Central Canada Exhibition, ca. 1890s

The main building of the Central Canada Exhibition, ca. 1890s

Timber Slide at Chaudiere Falls, 1890

Timber Slide at Chaudiere Falls, 1890

Construction of the Alexandra Bridge, 1898-1900

Construction of the Alexandra Bridge, 1898-1900

Horse drawn cab stand in front of the East Block, 1897

Horse drawn cab stand in front of the East Block, 1897

Horse drawn passenger car, 1877

Horse drawn passenger car, 1877

Horses dragged the trolleys on the tracks, 1871

Horses dragged the trolleys on the tracks, 1871

Looking east on Sparks St. at Bank St., ca. 1890s

Looking east on Sparks St. at Bank St., ca. 1890s

Metcalfe corner of Sparks, 1895

Metcalfe corner of Sparks, 1895

via Ross Dunn


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