Experience the Past Through the Lens of the Present

Rideau Hall: The Governess General

Lord Aberdeen

While it is true that, on balance, the role of Governor General has made more of an impact on Canadian society than that of their spouse, this has not always been the case. Ishbel Maria Gordon, more commonly known as Lady Aberdeen, came to Rideau Hall with her husband (Lord Aberdeen, or George Hamilton-Gordon) in 1893. The family was not without Canadian connections, having purchased property in British Columbia following a tour of Canada in 1890.[1] Lord Aberdeen was also a rising star within imperial circles of governance, having previously held the post of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland before the sudden fall of Gladstone’s first government.[2] When Gladstone returned to power he offered Lord Aberdeen his choice of post, and Aberdeen chose Canada, which was scheduled to be vacated by the Stanleys (of Stanley Cup fame) in 1893.[3]

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Rideau Hall: General

If asked where the constitutional centre of Canadian government resides, many Canadians might reasonably state that the answer is Parliament Hill. In this, however, they would be incorrect. The true constitutional centre of government in Canada lies (an inconvenient) three kilometres away at Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Governor General of Canada. The official representative of the Queen in Canada, the post of Governor General has been stripped of most official responsibilities but retains the symbolic responsibility of acting as a symbol of unity for a nation that has often been divided.

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Dow’s Lake: Audio Post

Hello everyone! Today’s post will be in a new format: an audio post. For those who want to learn about Dow’s Lake without having to read all three of the first posts, please use the following link:

Please let me know what you think of this format, and have a wonderful day.

Lansdowne Park: The Silver Seven Go for Gold


Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Moses Edey, the architect for the Aberdeen Pavilion.

For a three-year period in the early twentieth century, the Aberdeen Pavilion in Lansdowne was the heart of hockey in Canada. The Ottawa Silver Seven dominated the league during the years 1903, 1904, and 1905 for a number of reasons. For one, the Silver Seven quit the Canadian Amateur Hockey League in 1903 in favour of the new Federal Amateur Hockey League, where their main opponents were the Montreal Wanderers; Ottawa had already been the defenders of the Stanley Cup, and so the Cup followed them into the new league.[1] This split had been brought about by the growing tensions between the fanatically amateur heads of the League and the Silver Seven, who, as author (and former Prime Minister of Canada) Stephen J. Harper writes, were known as “a gang not merely suspected of accepting pay, but employing dirty play as part of a deliberate strategy of winning at all costs.”[2] As non-scandalous as those charges may appear today, at the time it was a greater concern; the split allowed the rapidly declining CAHL to continue with its enforced amateurism (including banning baseball and lacrosse players, both known hotbeds of professionalism, from playing in the league at varying points) while the FAHL could move in a more professional direction.[3] Indeed, the Eastern Canada Amateur Hockey Association (ECAHA), the successor to the FAHL, dropped the word amateur from its name in 1909 after the final amateur teams quit the league.[4]

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Lansdowne Park: A Parade a Day… (All Things Must End)

Thomas Ahearn
Thomas Ahearn.

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.[1][2] 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).[3] 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.[4]

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Lansdowne Stadium: General

The entrance of TD Stadium.

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.[1] 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.

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Notre Dame Basilica: First Among Equals (and Second, and Third…)

The plaque of Guigues’ statue (see above image for statue itself).

Sixteen years as a priest in France may have prepared Monsignor Joseph-Bruno Guigues for the theological issues he faced as the first Bishop of Bytown, but they almost certainly did not prepare him for the physical and organizational challenges he would be required to meet. When he was consecrated in 1848, the Diocese of Ottawa contained 40,000 Catholics.[1] This flock was spread out over much of what is today Eastern Ontario; as mentioned in the previous post, Guigues might be expected to travel 320 kilometres away to Temiscaming and his missionaries might need to reach as far as James Bay.[2] Furthermore, Guigues didn’t even have a formal seat of office for the first five years of his posting, until Notre Dame was completed; to add insult to injury, the hot water heating system was not installed until two years after his death.[3]

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Notre Dame Basilica: General

Most who have visited the Byward Market area of modern Ottawa would be capable of describing Notre Dame Basilica. The oldest standing church in Ottawa, and the seat of the Archdiocese of Ottawa in the Roman Catholic Church, Notre Dame is a landmark. Its twin towers can be seen from across Ottawa, and its roof is instantly recognisable (and occasionally blinding) at a closer distance. But Notre Dame is not just a pleasant addition to Ottawa’s skyline; as with many of the other historic areas in the city, it is home to a long and storied past.

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Dow’s Lake: To Kill a Swamp

Dow’s Great Swamp, as the name implies, was hardly a paradise. Throughout the construction of the canal, “swamp fever” was a routine complaint, likely referring to some form of malaria; many of the workers died from this disease, and both John MacTaggart and Colonel By himself were sick with it at various points.[1] MacTaggart, in fact, had to leave Canada after one particularly bad bout. More importantly, the swamp was nearly totally impassable and certainly could not be used as part of the Canal. By’s solution was draining the swamp through the use of the embankments mentioned in the first post on the subject. The purpose of this post, then, is to explain how this was done; how can a swamp be drained?

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