Ottawa, Canada - Encyclopedia

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OTTAWA, a city of Carleton county, province of Ontario, and the capital of the Dominion of Canada, on the right bank of the Ottawa river, rot m. W. of Montreal and 217 m. N.E. of Toronto. The main tower of the parliament building is in 45° 25' 28" N., and 75° 42' 03" W.

The city stands for the most part on a cluster of hills, 60 to 155 ft. above the river. It is on the main line of the Canadian Pacific railway, which affords direct communication with Montreal by two routes, the North Shore and the Short Line, one on either side of the Ottawa river. Branches of the same railway lead to Brockville, on the St Lawrence river, passing through the town of Smith's Falls where connexion is made with the direct line from Montreal to Toronto; to Prescott, also on the St Lawrence; northward through the Gatineau valley to Maniwaki, in the heart of a famous sporting country, and westward to Waltham, on the north side of the Ottawa. The Grand Trunk offers a third route to Montreal, and another line of the same railway leads to Parry Sound, on Georgian Bay. The Ottawa and New York (New York Central) runs to Cornwall, on the St Lawrence, thence to New York. Electric railways afford communication with all parts of the city and extend eastward to Rockliffe Park and the rifle ranges, westward to Britannia on Lake Deschenes, and through the neighbouring town of Hull to Aylmer and Victoria Park. During the summer months steamers ply down the Ottawa to Montreal, and by way of the Rideau canal and lakes to Kingston on the St Lawrence. A road bridge, partially destroyed in the great fire of 1900, connects Ottawa with Hull; a railway bridge spans the river above the Chaudiere Falls; and the Royal Alexandra Bridge, below the falls, carries both steam and electric railway tracks, as well as roadways for vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The site of the city is exceedingly picturesque. For 3 m. it follows the high southern bank of the Ottawa, from the Chaudiere Falls, whose mist-crowned cauldron is clearly visible from the summit of Parliament Hill, to and beyond the Rideau Falls, so named by early French explorers because of their curtain-like appearance. The Rideau, a southern tributary of the Ottawa, once formed the eastern boundary of the city, which, however, is now absorbing a string of suburbs that lie along its eastern banks. The Rideau Canal cuts the city in two, the western portion being known as Upper Town and the eastern as Lower Town. Roughly speaking the canal divides the two sections of the population, the English occupying Upper Town and the French Lower Town, though Sandy Hill, a fashionable residential district east of the canal, is mainly occupied by the English. Opposite and a little below the mouth of the Rideau, the Gatineau flows into the Ottawa from the north. Above the Chaudiere Falls the river is broken by the Deschenes Rapids, and beyond these again it expands into Lake Deschenes, a favourite summer resort for the people of the city. To the north lie the Laurentian Hills, broken by the picturesque Gatineau Valley.

The crowning architectural feature of the city is the splendid group of Gothic buildings on the summit of Parliament Hill, whose limestone bluffs rise 1 so ft. sheer from the river. The three blocks of these buildings form sides of a great quadrangle, the fourth side remaining open. The main front of the central or Parliament building is 470 ft. long and 40 ft. high, the Victoria Tower (180 ft. high) rising over the principal entrance. Behind and connected with the Parliament building is an admirably proportioned polygonal hall, 90 ft. in diameter, in which the library of parliament is housed. The corner stone of the main building was laid by the then prince of Wales in 1860. The buildings forming the eastern and western sides of the quadrangle are devoted to departments of the Dominion government. To the south, but outside the grounds of Parliament; Hill, stands the Langevin Block, a massive structure in brown sandstone, also used for departmental purposes. The increasing needs of the government have made necessary the erection of several other buildings and an effort has been made to bring as many of these as possible into a harmonious group. The Archives building and the Royal Mint stand on the commanding eminence of Nepean Point, to the eastward of Parliament Hill, the Rideau Canal lying between. Two large departmental buildings occupy ground south of the Archives building and facing Parliament Hill, one containing the Supreme Court as well as the Federal Department of Justice. At the foot of Metcalfe Street, south of Parliament Hill, stands the Victoria Museum, with the department of mines, with the splendid collections of the Geological and Natural History Museum, the departmental library, and the National Art Gallery. The Dominion Observatory stands outside the city, in the grounds of the Central Experimental Farm. Plans were approved in 1909 by the government for a union railway station east of the canal, and immediately south of Rideau Street, and a large hotel (Grand Trunk. Railway), the Chateau Laurier, at the southern end of Major's Hill Park. Other prominent buildings are the city hall, post office, Carnegie library, normal and model schools, government printing bureau, county court house, the Basilica or Roman Catholic cathedral, and Christ Church cathedral (Church of England), the Roman Catholic university of Ottawa and the collegiate institute.

The city charities include four large general hospitals, two of which are under Protestant auspices; one is controlled by Roman Catholics; the fourth is devoted to contagious diseases. Ottawa is the seat of the Church of England bishop of Ottawa, and of the Roman Catholic archbishop of Ottawa. Several of the philanthropic and educational orders of the latter church are established here, in nunneries, convents or monasteries. As elsewhere in Ontario, the educational system is divided into public schools (undenominational), and separate schools (Roman Catholic), the latter supported by Roman Catholic taxpayers, the former by all other members, of the community. The collegiate institute is common to both, and is used as a preparatory school for the universities.

Ottawa has been a great seat of the lumber trade, and the manufacture of lumber still forms an important part of the industrial life of the city, but the magnificent waterpowers of the Chaudiere and Rideau Falls are now utilized for matchworks, flour-mills, foundries, carbide factories and many other flourishing industries, as well as for the development of electric light and power, for the lighting of the city and the running of the electric railways.

The people of Ottawa possess a number of public parks, both within and outside the city, partly the result of their own foresight, and partly due to the labours of the Government Improvement Commission. Parliament Hill itself constitutes a park of no mean proportions, one of the noted features of which is the beautiful Lover's Walk, cut out of the side of the cliff half way between the river and the summit. The grounds above contain v statues of Queen Victoria, as well as of Sir John Macdonald, Alexander Mackenzie, Sir George Cartier and other Canadian political leaders. On the eastern side of the canal is Major's Hill Park, maintained by the government. Below Sandy Hill, on the banks of the Rideau, lies Strathcona Park, an admirable piece of landscape gardening constructed out of what was once an unsightly swamp. Crossing the bridges above the Rideau Falls, and passing the heavily wooded grounds of Rideau Hall, the official residence of the governor-general, we come to Rockliffe Park, beyond which lies the government rifle ranges. Rockliffe Park is the easternmost point of an ambitious scheme of landscape gardening planned by the Improvement Commission. From here a driveway extends to Rideau Hall; thence it crosses the Rideau river to a noble thoroughfare cut through the heart of Lower Town, and known as King Edward Avenue. Crossing the canal by the Laurier bridge, the driveway turns south and follows the west bank of the canal for 4 m. to the Central Experimental Farm, an extensive tract of land upon which experiments in model farming are carried out by government specialists, for the benefit of Canadian farmers. From the Experimental Farm the driveway will be carried around the western side of the city to the banks of the Ottawa, connecting by light bridges with a group of islands above the Chaudiere Falls which are to be converted into a park reserve.

Ottawa is governed by a mayor, elected by the city at large; a board of control consisting of four members, similarly elected and a board of 16 aldermen, 2 elected by each of the 8 wards. The city returns 2 members to the Dominion House of Commons and two to the provincial legislature.

The population, of which one-third is French-speaking, the remainder English (with the exception of a small German element), has increased rapidly since the incorporation of the city in 1854. It was 59,928 in 1901; 6 7,57 2 in 1906; and in 1907, including the suburbs and the neighbouring town of Hull, over ioo,000.

The earliest description of the site of Ottawa is that of Samuel de Champlain, in his Voyages. In June 1613, on his way up the river, he came to a tributary on the south side, " at the mouth of which is a marvellous fall. For it descends a height of twenty or twenty-five fathoms with such impetuosity that it makes an arch nearly four hundred paces broad. The savages take pleasure in passing under it, not wetting themselves, except from the spray that is thrown off." This was the Rideau Falls, but a good deal of allowance must be made for exaggeration in Champlain's account. Continuing up the river, " we passed," he says, " a fall, a league from there, which is half a league broad and has a descent of six or seven fathoms. There are many little islands. The water falls in one place with such force upon a rock that it has hollowed out in course of time a large and deep basin, in which the water has a circular motion and forms large eddies in the middle, so that the savages call it Asticou, which signifies boiler. This cataract produces such a noise in ,this basin that it is heard for more than two leagues." The present name, Chaudiere, is the French equivalent of the old Indian name. For two hundred years and more after Champlain's first visit the Chaudiere portage was the main thoroughfare from Montreal to the great western fur country; but it was not until 1800 that any permanent settlement was made in the vicinity. In that year Philemon Wright, of Woburn, Massachusetts, built a home for himself at the foot of the portage, on the Quebec side of the river, where the city of Hull now stands; but for some time the precipitous cliffs on the south side seem to have discouraged settlement there. Finally about 1820 one Nicholas Sparks moved over the river and cleared a farm in what is now the heart of Ottawa. Seven years later Colonel John By, R.E., was sent out to build a canal from a point below the Chaudiere Falls to Kingston on Lake Ontario. The canal, completed at a cost of $2,500,000, has never been of any great commercial importance; has never been called upon to fulfil its primary object, as a military work to enable gun-boats and military supplies to reach the lakes from Montreal without being exposed to attack along the St Lawrence frontier. The building of the canal created a fair sized settlement at its Ottawa end, which came to be known as Bytown. As the lumber trade developed Bytown rapidly increased in wealth and importance. In 1854 it was incorporated as a city, the name being changed to Ottawa; and four years later Queen Victoria selected Ottawa as the capital of Canada. Ottawa was admirably situated for a capital from a political and military point of view; but there is reason to believe that the deciding factor was the pressure exerted by the four other rival claimants, Montreal, Quebec, Toronto and Kingston, any three of which would have fiercely resented the selection of the fourth. The first session of parliament in the new capital was opened in 1865.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. - J. D. Edgar, Canada and its Capital (Toronto, 1898); A. S. Bradley, Canada in the Twentieth Century (London, 1903), pp. 130 -140; F. Gertrude Kenny, " Some account of Bytown," Transactions, vol. i., Women's Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa; Mrs H. J. Friel, " The Rideau Canal and the Founder of Bytown," ibid.; M. Jamieson, " A glimpse of our city fifty years ago," ibid.; J. M. Oxley, " The Capital of Canada," New England Magazine, N.S., 22, 315-323; Godfrey T. Vigne, Six Months in America (London, 1832), pp. 191-198; Andrew Wilson, History of Old Bytown (Ottawa, 1876); Chas. Pope, Incidents connected with Ottawa (Ottawa, 1868); Wm. P. Lett, Recollections of Bytown (Ottawa, 1874); Wm. S. Hunter, Ottawa Scenery (Ottawa, 18 55); Joseph Tasse, Vallee de l'Outaouais (Montreal, 1873). (L. J. B.)

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