Description of Historic Place
The Centretown Heritage Conservation District is a primarily residential area, with some commercial corridors, within downtown Ottawa. Centretown consists of many blocks in the centre of Ottawa, south of Parliament Hill, to the north of the Queensway corridor and to the west of the Rideau Canal. Since its development, Centretown has served as a residential community serving the government activities of Uppertown and has been home to many of the civil servants and government ministers of Parliament Hill. The buildings comprised in the district were mainly constructed between the 1880s and the 1930s and the original low to medium residential scale is relatively intact throughout the area.
The District was designated under Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act by the City of Ottawa in 1997 (By-law 269-97).
The Centretown Heritage Conservation District has close associations with the governmental character of Uppertown to the north and developed as a desirable neighbourhood for the transient population of government workers and ministers. Centretown still contains a large variety of relatively intact historic streetscapes, reflecting the diverse nature of development that occurred in the area in order to serve the varied population. Throughout its development, the area reflected national politics and priorities of the time.
The majority of buildings within the Centretown Heritage Conservation District date from the 1890-1914 period. This was a period of mature design and craftsmanship in the Ottawa area, related to the new prosperity of the expanding national capital and the availability of excellent building materials such as smooth face brick of Rideau red clay, a good selection of sandstones and limestones, a full range of milled architectural wood products, and decorative components in terra cotta, wrought iron and pressed metal.
The dominant character of Centretown remains heritage residential. While most buildings retain their residential use, many others have been converted for use as professional offices, or small retail or commercial establishments. The most common residential building type is the hip-roofed single family home, with a projecting gabled bay on an asymmetrical façade. Flat roofed, medium density apartment buildings also play a strong role in defining the character of the District. Also, a few commercial corridors, most notably Bank street, run through the area while still reflecting the low scale and architectural character of the rest of the district.
Centretown's landscape is unified by historical circumstance. Both Stewarton and the By Estate opened for development in the mid 1870s and developed under consistent pressures. Together they constituted the entire area within the boundaries of Centretown. The idea of a separate residential neighbourhood close to downtown was relatively rare, although the concept became increasingly popular in Canadian cities as the nineteenth century drew to a close. Along with residential Uppertown, Centretown has provided walk-to-work accommodation for Parliament Hill and nearby government offices. As part of the residential quarter of official Ottawa, Centretown was a sensitive mirror of national politics.
Centretown is the surviving residential community and informal meeting ground associated with Parliament Hill. Its residents have had an immense impact upon the development of Canada as a nation. While Canada's official business was conducted around Parliament Hill, its Members of Parliament and civil service lived and met in the area immediately south. Centretown is ripe with evidence of behind-the-scenes politics, of the dedication, talent and character that have formed Canada.
Source: Centretown Heritage Conservation District Study, Winter 1996-1997, City of Ottawa.
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Centretown Heritage Conservation District include:
- the heritage residential character of the district, featuring low to medium scale development
- the original grid block layout and plan
- relatively intact residential streetscapes
- predominant use of Rideau red clay decorative brick veneer with trim details in stone, wood and pressed metal
- its varied building types and styles due to the diverse populations of the area
- its single family homes executed in a vernacular Queen Anne style, with substantial wood verandas and elaborate trim, varying in size
- its low rise apartment buildings with similar detailing to single family dwellings but featuring horizontal layering and flat roofs
- its commercial corridor on Bank Street, consisting of low-rise commercial and mixed use buildings set close to the street.
- its development during a significant period in the growth of Ottawa as the government centre of Canada.
- its connection with Uppertown and the governmental activities which occur there.
- its associations with many people and institutions of national prominence who have played an important role in shaping Canada.
- its historical role as a meeting place for governmental and community groups, clubs and organizations