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Ottawa’s Alphabet Village

This blog dated September 13, 2010, entitled "Ottawa's Alphabet Village" by Dwight Williams, contains an excellent historical overview of what is now Eastway Gardens. A must-read if you're interested in informative tidbits about our neighbourhood's past!

It might not always be easy on the eyes, but in fact there is a gritty kind of character to the area, and it even has an Ottawa landmark, the well-known White Horse restaurant at Belfast and Tremblay.
Dwight Williams
Where do you find this district? Well, just to the east of the train station, branching off of Tremblay Road, are two sets of side-streets. Uniquely for Ottawa, they are alphabetized.

There is Avenue K and Avenue L, then the interruption of Belfast Road, followed by Avenues N through U.

The omissions will be explained as we go along.

This kind of nomenclature is not unique among Canadian cities. Saskatoon has had such street names since the 1880s. Ottawa’s “alphabet village” came along some two decades later, or so we’re told by the maps we have from those days.

In the beginning, though,the neighbourhood wasn’t even part of Ottawa. That came later. And it has been known by at least three names over the past century.

Basement bunker [on Avenue R] made as Cold War test

Doug Hempstead, Ottawa Sun.com, Saturday, April 21, 2012, 1:48 PM
John and Wil Briggs didn’t know the government built the bomb shelter in their basement. The retired couple have called 1351 Avenue R home since 1968.

She a Newfoundlander and he from Fredericton, they rented the place and filled the block-wall shelter in the corner of the basement with boxes of stuff so meaningless they haven’t been unpacked to this very day.

Did you know? A national museum was once a bakery warehouse employing many residents of Eastway Gardens . . .

The Canada Science and Technology Museum (CSTM) at 1867 St Laurent Blvd. has quite a history. The cramped building you know today used to be the warehouse for the Morrison Lamothe bakery. It was a temporary solution in 1967, and still is, on paper.

Prior to its metamorphosis into the current national museum, the Morrison Lamothe warehouse employed many residents of Eastway Gardens. Morrison Lamothe was founded in 1933 as a bakery in Ottawa by Cecil Morrison and Richard Lamothe.

"Secretary of State Judy LaMarsh appointed David Baird director of the new Science and Technology branch of the National Museum in October 1966. Dr Baird was not … left to reflect on the project for very long. Just a few months after his appointment, departmental officials found a building that they thought could be made into a temporary home for a museum: a warehouse built on St Laurent Boulevard for the local bakery Morrison Lamothe was no longer needed by the company. It had about 11 000 square metres of floor space and sat on approximately twelve hectares of land.

According to Grete Hale, daughter of G. Cecil Morrison and niece of Dick Lamothe, the Morrison Lamothe bakery had fallen on hard times and the company had to sell their brand new building to remain solvent. (Iris Wilson, Profile, “Grete Hale: Her Life and Times as a Contributor Extraordinaire,” Fifty-Five Plus Magazine 18, no. 7 (May/June 2007), 16.)

The building became available at an opportune time. It was Canada’s centennial year, and the federal government was keen to add to its list of celebratory projects. In addition, with the proposal for a new National Museum building at Confederation Park cancelled, the Department of the Secretary of State was no doubt anxious to demonstrate that it had not entirely abandoned its commitment to the institution. These factors, along with active lobbying by the Museum’s support and associate committees and the need to find more storage space for the growing collections of all branches of the Museum, contributed to Steele’s decision to offer Dr Baird the Morrison Lamothe building as a home for a new National Museum of Science and Technology. The only condition he attached to the deal was that the displays be open to the public by 1967."

(Source: Building a National Museum of Science and Technology, Chapter 2)

(Photo courtesy off Ottawa Business Journal)