“Things are the way they are because they got that way.” ~ Kenneth Boulding
Understanding why our streets have the names that they do requires knowing a little bit of Britannia history. This installment of the story begins around 1900 when the prominant Ottawa merchant Louis Napoleon Poulin purchased or built a home on the south side of the intersection of Richmond Rd and Carling Ave. He would retire there permenantly in 1928 after selling his downtown department store, but until then it was a summer residence known as ‘Loma Cottage’.
Eva Taylor’s Ottawa’s Britannia mentions that Loma Cottage is still standing at that time (1983) as part of the West End Villa. The building is still there attached to Larga Baffin, although the exterior is considerably modified since Poulin’s time. Presumably the interior is as well.
It is about this time that Britannia Highlands (soon to be known as Britannia Heights) was being developed. Up on the Heights there was an obvious affection for the novels of Sir Walter Scott in choosing street names, as Dwight Williams discussed in 2011.
According to Eva Taylor, Poulin bought the land between Carling / Richmond and the old village and called it ‘Loma Park.” He submitted a plan for subdivision in 1904 (which Taylor identifies as being “M Poulin” for some reason) and began selling off lots in 1905.
The cottage and Loma Park are mentioned as the site of picnics in 1908 and that there had been one in 1905 as well.
When putting in the roads to access the lots he clearly meant to leave his mark on the area. The extension of Main St to Carling Ave south of the train tracks was named Louis Ave, and the road running parallel just one block east of it, Poulin Ave.
The streets connecting Louis and Poulin Avenues were largely named after members of the Poulin family (see Britannia 1926 above right), specifically daughters Marie, Priscilla, Violet, Isabel, Julia Regina and son Edmund.
That the sons Clement, Fabien, Gildes got no mention is curious, nor do I know who Cameron and Dufferin were. They are names associated with prominent English families and presumably refer to important individuals from about that time or earlier, but why they should take precedence over Poulin’s own sons is odd.
The map seems to show all of these cross streets as extending east of Poulin Ave, when in fact they did not at the time, and none would for more than another three decades.
Note also the once continuous Greenview was Park Ave, the northern section becoming Lorne Green Way when it was split. Salina was Bay St, Maude extends right to Britannia Road, and Ella (now Cascades) doesn’t appear at all. There does not seem to have been a ‘Boardwalk’ either even though with the beach and pier it was easily justified.
So what happened to the street names Isabel, Edmund, Cameron etc?
When Britannia became part of the City of Ottawa proper on Jan 1, 1950 the sudden, rapid expansion created various problems for the City, one of them being duplicate street names. Ottawa already had a Bay St, a Park Ave, etc, so street names had to change to prevent long term confusion.
On Jul 3 1950 City Council voted to change the names of 114 streets, including many in Britannia. That would explain why the older names disappeared, but not where the new names of Don, Conn, Howe etc came from. Some of these also sound like the names of a family, but whose? Curiously, this 1951 proposal for developement by Glabar Realty (below) includes all of the new street names, except Britannia Road which it is still given as Louis Avenue, and Edmund Av .
Presumably Edmund was not renamed in that there was no other Edmund Av in Ottawa at the time. Indeed Edmund does not seem to get any mention, ever. The 1923 Ottawa City Directory lists it, but that’s about it.
At the time one of the four residents mentioned is John Skuce, presumably the son of early residents James and Margaret and no doubt the basis for the subsequent renaming to Skuce Priv when that area was redeveloped as Eva Taylor Court.
As for Louis Avenue, the name changes would have been relatively recent, so perhaps Glabar just missed that one in thier planning proposal since the official name had definitely been changed. Obviously the development did not proceed exactly as planned in a number of respects,
If you have any insight or knowledge about the many unknowns mentioned here, or the origin of other street names in Britannia, please leave a comment to that effect. Thanks
|Old Name||New Name||Old Name||New Name|
|Bay St (Belltown)||Grandeur (Belltown)||Ella||Cascades|
|Bay St (Britannia)||Salina (Britannia)||Frank St||Walter St|
|Bell St||Haughton||Henderson||Fallis Ave|
Table Source: Ottawa’s Britannia
Proposed, but never used (Ottawa Journal, 29 Sept 1950)
|Old Name||Proposed Name||Name Used|
|Bay St (Bell Town)
Bay St (Britannia)*