The majority of tourists who visit Ottawa (and, during a concert, anyone within a kilometre) have had some experience with Lansdowne Park. Lansdowne has been Ottawa’s principal entertainment location since the mid-nineteenth century, and was first established in 1868 when the Ottawa Agricultural Society acquired land on which to hold an annual fair from the Ordnance Department. A common complaint at this time was that the site chosen was too far south, as Lansdowne (which today is more or less in the centre of Ottawa) was well outside the city limits. Nonetheless, the location has proven to be an excellent one; bordering the canal, it is today among the nicest areas in the city.
The Exhibitions which would come to dominate the history of Lansdowne began in 1877 with the Provincial Exhibition; the annual Exhibitions (the Central Canada Exhibitions) didn’t begin until 1888, when the Central Canada Exhibition Association was formed. These exhibitions continued every year (with some interruptions during the Second World War) until 2010, when renovations forced their suspension; in 2015, following the completion of said renovations, it was announced that the Exhibition would not return. This is a fairly impressive lifespan for any Exhibition, and the Aberdeen Pavilion (built in 1898 to house Exhibition events) remains the oldest standing large-scale exhibition building in Canada today. Telephones, electric lightbulbs, cars, and other inventions were demonstrated at the Exhibition over the years; though it declined in popularity towards the end of the twentieth century, it remained an Ottawa institution to the end.
The Exhibition is not the only notable event in Lansdowne’s history, however; both King George VI (in 1939) and Queen Elizabeth (on many occasions) visited Lansdowne, visits which drew large crowds in response. The Liberal Party, Conservative Party, and the New Democratic Party have also each held leadership conventions at the Aberdeen pavilion and the Civic Centre; William Lyon Mackenzie King, Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, and other famous Canadian leaders were nominated within the Park. Many of the early Stanley Cup Games, famous musicians (such as David Bowie, the Rolling Stones, and others), the Dalai Lama, and various other celebrities have been part of the history of Lansdowne Park as well. Lansdowne is truly an Ottawa institution; its most recent renovation only serves to remind of this fact. Thank you all for reading this post, and have a wonderful day.
The Central Canada Exhibition was a key aspect of Lansdowne’s history; to find out more about it, read part 2.
1 Commonwealth Historic Resource Management Limited. Lansdowne Park Heritage Brief. Ottawa: City of Ottawa, 2010. 12.
2 Deachman, Bruce. “Elephants, pandas and pigs, oh my! An illustrated history of Lansdowne Park.” Ottawa Citizen. July 31, 2014.
3 Deachman, Bruce. “Elephants, pandas and pigs, oh my! An illustrated history of Lansdowne Park.” Ottawa Citizen. July 31, 2014.
4 Ontario Heritage Trust. “Lansdowne Park.” Last modified 2016.
5 Deachman, Bruce. “Elephants, pandas and pigs, oh my! An illustrated history of Lansdowne Park.” Ottawa Citizen. July 31, 2014.
6 Deachman, Bruce. “Elephants, pandas and pigs, oh my! An illustrated history of Lansdowne Park.” Ottawa Citizen. July 31, 2014.
7 Deachman, Bruce. “Elephants, pandas and pigs, oh my! An illustrated history of Lansdowne Park.” Ottawa Citizen. July 31, 2014.
Photo Source: National Film Board of Canada, Still Photography Divison, Library and Archives Canada, accession number 1971-271, item K-4519, R1196-14-7-E. (http://collectionscanada.gc.ca/pam_archives/index.php?fuseaction=genitem.displayItem&rec_nbr=4314050&lang=eng)