Description of Historic Place
The Wilbrod Street Heritage Conservation District contains a few blocks within Sandy Hill East, west of the Rideau River and south of Lowertown in Ottawa. In the mid 1800s, this area known as Sandy Hill developed as a desirable residential area with a strong presence of politicians, diplomats and academics. As a prominent neighbourhood, many of the homes are large in scale and elegant in design, representing such architectural styles as Second Empire and Queen Anne Revival, the majority dating from before 1920.
Wilbrod Street Heritage Conservation District was formally recognized by the City of Ottawa in 1982 (By-law 307-82).
Wilbrod Street's heritage value is derived from its historical associations with the development and growth of Ottawa, its rich architectural expressions and the connections these buildings have with prominent historical figures.
Sandy Hill developed on a portion of land granted to Quebec City notary, Louis Besserer in 1828. Besserer's property was situated on the southeast quadrant of the axis formed by the Rideau Canal and Rideau St., just behind Waller St. The Wilbrod Street District is located in the eastern section of Besserer's original estate. From 1840-1880, the area saw little growth until the choice for Ottawa as the capital of Canada in 1857 by Queen Victoria. Besserer then took steps to ensure his land would develop as a desirable residential area. As the government of Canada relocated to Ottawa, a number of influential, affluent residents such as politicians, lumber barons, diplomats and other civil servants were attracted to the area, and residential development accelerated in the late 1860s and early 1870s.
From 1880-1920, the area was redeveloped as part of the rapid change and intensification in the core area of Ottawa as the city's population quadrupled. Development essentially took place in two main phases, the first covering the original Besserer estate, with lots oriented north-south. The south-east sector of Sandy Hill (within this district) was part of a special reserve and was part of the last area of the community to be developed. Gradually Sandy Hill developed into the most prominent neighbourhood in the city. Such notable inhabitants of the Wilbrod Street Heritage Conservation District over the years include Sir John A. MacDonald; Sir Wilfrid Laurier; William Lyon Mackenzie King and Lester B. Pearson. Much of the present built form survives from this period.
The heritage residential quality of the area has been highlighted by active community involvement in zoning and protecting the larger Sandy Hill residential zone. The population has remained relatively transient, with a high degree of rental units in subdivided properties. In the past few decades, many historical residences disappeared either through neglect or were lost to the pressures of redevelopment. However, many of the largest residences in Sandy Hill were saved with the influx of foreign diplomatic interest in the area. Today, many of the residences in this heritage district continue to serve as consulates or embassies.
The Wilbrod Street buildings, which truly define the architectural character of the area, were constructed during a brief period ranging from 1870 to the 1920s. During the earliest stages of this period of development, surveyors were careful to keep lots large enough to accommodate “villa residences,” appropriate at the time for the wealthy single families that were first to inhabit the area. The most prominent architectural styles of the district are Second Empire and Queen Anne Revival, and to a lesser degree, Edwardian Classical, Italianate and English Tudor Revival.
The characteristic buildings of the neighbourhood were, in most cases, constructed during the definitive era of their respective style's popularity, and generally represent good to excellent examples of the architectural style selected for their design. These large villa style homes which define the Wilbrod Street District are reflective of the wealthy families that relocated to Sandy Hill in the latter half of the nineteenth century. These families' awareness of current styles and tastes reflects a greater desire to express their personal wealth and prestige through the architecture of their grand homes.
Source: Wilbrod Street Heritage Conservation District By-law files, City of Ottawa
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Wilbrod Street Heritage Conservation District include its:
- original street and lot layout from the 1842 survey
- relatively intact residential streetscape of primarily large villa style properties
- large villa park lots surrounding the larger buildings
- excellent examples of the Second Empire style, with mansard roofs, iron casting and ornate detailing
- excellent examples of the Queen Anne Revival, with verandas, towers and asymmetrical designs
- consistent use of rich, exterior materials, including brick veneers and stone.
- connection with and reflection of the growth explosion in the City of Ottawa in the late nineteenth century.
- residential buildings associated with a number of prominent historical figures which contributed to the history of Canada, including former Prime Ministers