Sunday, August 12, 2018

An Evolving Capital

Coming up onto the third floor at the Bytown Museum, the visitor finds these three display cases, each with a different view of the same spot over three different time periods, where the Rideau Canal meets the Ottawa River.

The first depicts the area in 1832, after the completion of the Canal. A basin pool was located about where Confederation Park is now. Settlement was just getting started. What is now Parliament Hill, on the west flank of the Canal, was then Barrack's Hill, home to a military outpost. At the lower right, the square property you see outlined in white is Notre Dame, the only building present in all three models, though the church was still years away from the basilica we know today.

Here we have things in the mid-1850s. Bytown had become established, streets and neighbourhoods were being laid out, and the place was about to be established as the capital of the Canadas.

And here we see it in 1918. Parliament Hill is well established (though in this model, it reflects the fact that Centre Block was being rebuilt after the 1916 fire). The basin pool has shrunk on the Canal, and in the following decades would vanish entirely. Quite a difference in a matter of a century, and there are even more differences today.

Nearby stands this 19th century city mayor's chair.

Queen Victoria designated Ottawa as the colonial capital on New Year's Eve 1857; it was something of a compromise. On the border between Upper and Lower Canada, and far enough away from the American border that any invading troops would certainly get lost in the wilderness (we were, at the time, not on the best of terms with our neighbours, a situation that would persist really until the years after the Civil War). 

A section here is set up with children's activities in mind, including some hands-on material.

Life in Victorian era Ottawa is examined in these display panels and cases.

This is an 1898 oil painting by W.A. Sherwood. Sir Henry Newell Bate is its title and subject. Bate came from Cornwall, England, with his family as a child. He and his brother started up businesses in what was Bytown, prospered, and he was eventually designated the first Chairman of the Ottawa Improvement Commission by the Governor General at the time. It was the forerunner of the National Capital Commission, which administers federal properties in the region. Bate was knighted by King George V in 1910 for his service. 

This painting dates to the 1880s by Annabella McLeod, an artist born in Manitoba who came east and ended up as a school teacher. View Of The Ottawa River Looking Southeast Towards Parliament Hill And The Entrance To The Rideau Canal gives us a view likely from Victoria Island's point of view, or perhaps Richmond Landing. 

More items of the Victorian era are found here.

This view looks back at where I've come from. The woman in the background is looking over the three views of the city.

Here is where I'll pick up tomorrow, with the museum area that deals with the assassination of Thomas D'Arcy McGee.


  1. The three display cases are an excellent visual look at history over the years.

  2. You make history so interesting, William. I loved the visuals of the city over the centuries. What a lovely idea to have an activities center for children which obviously could waken a budding architect, historian or town planner! Thanks for your regular visits to my posts. You hit the nail on the head: I've had a lot of different issues to deal with which I hope will soon all be resolved! Have a great day. Jo

  3. ...wonderful history of a wonderful capital.

  4. very cool, i enjoy the man's beard. we don't see beards like that any more?! love me some history. ( :

  5. The Victorian era is fascinating to me.

  6. @Fun60: the city has certainly changed.

    @Jo: you're welcome.

    @Tom: definitely!

    @Beth: we don't!

    @Marie: me too.

  7. I must pick up on one comment that our relations with our american Neighbor picked up after the civil war. Well, it's declined rapidly since Trumps appearance. This museum covers our history in an interesting fashion with the detailed displays.

  8. Great tour of the museum and exhibits. Enjoy your and new week ahead!

  9. I love seeing timeline comparisons for places so that display really appeals to me. The amount of change here is quite obvious.

  10. The Bytowm Museum is a fascinating place William, so interesting to see how things change over the centuries, I often wonder how things will look 200 years in the future!

  11. I love air views of the changing landscape---sometimes wishing it would never change.

  12. Isn't it amazing how things have changed over the years.

  13. Really interesting museum. It is instructive to see how quickly landscapes change, in the larger scheme of time anyway. :-)

  14. @Red: well, it'll survive him too, though yes, it's not on the best footing right now. Sufficed to say, someone with a MAGA bumper plate on their car might find themselves rather unwelcome in these parts at present!

    @Eileen: thank you!

    @Sharon: there's been a lot of change.

    @Grace: it's quite a museum.

    @MB: these ones are done well.

    @Marleen: huge changes, and more to come.

    @DJan: it is indeed.

  15. A wonderful way to show the history of the capital.

  16. I always like to see how an area has changed.

  17. Wonderful historical display of the capital!

    Happy Day to you,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  18. I like the overlays. When I go to the small town where I grew up (not so small anymore), I can't find the roads I knew so well years ago.

  19. Interesting to see the city over time. And oh, my! That's quite a mayor's chair.

  20. Museum visits can be very interesting. The mayor's chair is well preserved. Have a good new week!

  21. Fascinating.
    Thanks for a good tour of the museum and all the exhibits.

    All the best Jan

  22. I like when you can see how cities change, that's why I photograph my city all the time :-)

  23. @Bill: it is.

    @Janey: me too.

    @Carol: definitely.

    @Norma: my home towns have changed, both of them.

    @Kay: it's a show stopper.

    @Nancy: thank you.

    @Francisco: thanks!

    @Jan: you're welcome.

    @Klara: that's why I do it.