For over a hundred years, the Central Canada Exhibition took place annually in Lansdowne Park. As it was located in Canada’s capital, it quickly became an important attraction and a vital aspect of Ottawa’s cultural life. Canadian and global notables often attended; Canadian Thomas Ahearn, who invented what was likely the first electric oven (though he receives little credit for this fact outside of Canada) demonstrated his device at the fair in 1892, for example. The first electric lightbulb in Canada made an appearance as well; the Red Devil, one of the first airplanes in Canada, was flown overhead in 1911 (the organizers attempted to get John A.D. McCurdy and his significantly more famous Silver Dart to make an appearance, but he was busy at the time). The Exhibition was often host to a large number of visitors; 20,000 people attended an 1889 show which saw Professor Baptist Peynaud leap off a 150-foot high tower into a safety net, for example; the population of Ottawa at the time was 44,000.
The annual crowds also often meant large sums of money being channelled into the exhibition; the Aberdeen Pavilion, which stands today as a reminder of the glories of Lansdowne’s past, cost $75,000 at the time of its construction. In more recent years, the massive renovation project just completed in Lansdowne (which forced the CCE out of the Park) cost over $290 million. The renovation was not without controversy; the Exhibition had been expected to return when construction began in 2009, and therefore the sudden announcement that it would not raised a few eyebrows. “We killed the SuperEx”, stated Ron Corbett in the Ottawa Sun, not without some bitterness. the sudden demise of an Ottawa institution (which, to be fair, few had patronized in its final years) came as a shock to many; those who had not attended for years were suddenly lost in nostalgia. The Central Canada Exhibition was, in many ways, a relic by the time of its death; all institutions must come to an end eventually, and the CCE was but one casualty of this fact.
Another important part of Lansdowne’s history is hockey. In the early twentieth century, in fact, Ottawa’s Stanley Cup dominating team played from Aberdeen Pavilion. To find out more, read part three of this series.
1 Deachman, Bruce. “Elephants, pandas and pigs, oh my! An illustrated history of Lansdowne Park.” Ottawa Citizen. July 31, 2014.
2 Bramen, Lisa. “Cooking Through the Ages: A Timeline of Oven Inventions.” Smithsonian Magazine. Last modified November 2011.
3 Deachman, Bruce. “Elephants, pandas and pigs, oh my! An illustrated history of Lansdowne Park.” Ottawa Citizen. July 31, 2014.
4 Leaning, John. The Story of the Glebe from 1800 to 2000. Ottawa: The Glebe Historical Society, n.d.
5 Deachman, Bruce. “Elephants, pandas and pigs, oh my! An illustrated history of Lansdowne Park.” Ottawa Citizen. July 31, 2014.
6 Ottawa Lansdowne Park. “Lansdowne Park Redevelopment Project & Costs.” Last modified 2012.
7 Corbett, Ron. “SuperEx demise just not fair.” Ottawa Sun. August 5, 2015.
Ahearn Image Source: Topley Series F, Libary and Archives Canada, accession number 1936-270, Item 88555, R639-141-1-E. (http://collectionscanada.gc.ca/pam_archives/index.php?fuseaction=genitem.displayItem&rec_nbr=3212679)
Feature Image Source: Topley Series SE, Library and Archives Canada, accession number 1936-270, Item 974, R639-148-4-E. (http://collectionscanada.gc.ca/pam_archives/index.php?fuseaction=genitem.displayItem&lang=eng&rec_nbr=3318754)