Description of Historic Place
Part of the thriving downtown core of the City of Ottawa, the Byward Market was formally established during the late 1820s and early 1830s when Colonel By developed “Bytown” as his base for constructing the Rideau Canal. Since that time, the Market has served as a hub for Ottawa's vital commercial and cultural activities. With a rich, vernacular landscape, the Market offers a variety of architectural styles in residential, commercial and mixed-use forms, reflecting the vital and continuous evolution of economic, social and cultural activity within the city core. The boundaries extend from St. Patrick Street on the North to the south side of George Street on the South, and from MacKenzie Avenue on the West to the east side of Dalhousie Street on the East.
The Byward market was designated by the City of Ottawa (By-law 60-91) under Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act.
The Byward Market is one of Ottawa's two original settlement areas. It was established as Lower Town early in the nineteenth century by Colonel By as the commercial non-military sector of Bytown, a public quarter to complement the official military area of Upper Town. Although the Market was first organized along a George/ Sussex/ St. Patrick Street axis with the market building on George Street, its orientation changed in the 1860s with the construction of a new market building on William Street, and has remained constant since that time.
The Byward Market Heritage District is a rich, vernacular landscape. While it does not have a homogenous building stock characteristic of a single period, it bears witness in its architecture to the vital and continuous evolution of economic, social and cultural activity within the city core. From the mid-nineteenth century come many of the earliest surviving residential, commercial and mixed-use properties in the city. Within the district are a number of examples from this period which have survived relatively intact.
The Later nineteenth century witnessed a further diversifying of architectural styles. While the side gable form continued, some commercial blocks began to display Queen Anne characteristics, such as decorative woodwork in the cornices and often had projecting wood balconies. On the other hand, the Second Empire style, with its distinctive mansard roof form, was also popular during the second half of the nineteenth century. By the turn of the century, flat roofed, Italianate residential and commercial buildings were appearing throughout the district. The flat-roofed form, like the side gable and mansard roof forms, was suited to a dense urban environment, and allowed horizontal continuity along the street front.
Development continued in the period between the Wars, with examples of Art Deco and Modernist design, mostly in brick with detailing in stone. Many of these later façade treatments are re-workings of earlier buildings. This pattern of relatively continuous streetscapes of vernacular mixed use buildings interrupted by more formal institutional structures reflects a European tradition of urban design carried over into the new world. It is partly the surviving evidence of this tradition that gives the Market district such strong historical connotations.
Economically, the Market has been characterized by its location as a pivot, take-off point and base for Ottawa's vital commercial activities. In combination with facilities on other portions of Lower Town, the Market has also served as the cradle of social services in the city. In contrast to Upper Town, activity in the Market has been linked with more informal, non-political activities in the city. It forms the unique and vital individual core of Ottawa in counterpoise to Upper Town which, of necessity, has become devoted to more formal, national concerns.
The central location of the Market has made it particularly attractive as a settlement area for new immigrants. In conjunction with established Canadian population groups, they have played a significant role in building the area, renewing and maintaining it, constantly husbanding its spatial and locational assets to secure its vitality. At various periods, the Market has served as the seat of Irish Canadian, French Canadian and Jewish culture in Ottawa. It has housed special schools, meeting areas, religious and cultural facilities in addition to business and residential accommodation for these populations, and each of them has made a particularly strong contribution to the history and character of the area.
Source: Byward Market Heritage Conservation District Study (1990).
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the district include its:
- relatively continuous streetscapes featuring a variety of vernacular mixed used buildings
- street layout and configuration dating from the 1860s, centralized around the Market building
- variety of architectural styles which date from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries reflecting the continuous evolution of the area.
- mid nineteenth century gable form buildings, some of the earliest surviving residential and commercial buildings in the city.
- Second Empire style commercial and residential buildings with their distinctive mansard roofs
- flat roofed Italianate residential and commercial buildings from the turn of the century, featuring decorative brick veneer and elaborate cornices
- early examples of Art Deco and Modernist design
- prominent institutional buildings within a primarily vernacular setting
- development and importance as economic hub of historic Bytown, and later Ottawa, acting as a pivot and base for the city's and region's commercial activities
- variety of urban functions and institutions present in the area
- multicultural makeup reflecting the area's role as a home for numerous new immigrants and multicultural communities