Does the name “Poulin” ring a bell?

How about “Louis Ave?”

Louis Napoleon Poulin was a prominent Ottawa merchant who was active in the development of early Ottawa, particularly the Britannia neighbourhood.

Poulin was born on July 10, 1858 in Addison Ont. near Brockville. He began working for the firm Nichols and Parker when he was 13 years old.

At age 20 in Oct 1878 he traveled to Ottawa to look for work. For the next 11 years he worked for other merchants in the dry goods business.

In 1889 he opened his own modest store at the corner of Sparks St and O’Connor. Apparently his third customer was Lady MacDonald, wife of Sir John A. MacDonald.

The store flourished becoming one of the largest in Ottawa, and what began as 1,000 sq ft in 1889 had become 100,000 sq ft by the time he retired in 1928. For his retirement Poulin held a huge “Going out of Business” Sale. The location would remain a department store, but I guess Poulin wanted to go out with a bang.

Poulin rented his downtown department store location to Schulte United Ltd, and then in the 1940s it was sold to Zellers. This iconic Zellers would remain a Centre Town fixture until 2013.

Apparently Poulin was the first in Ottawa to use a horseless carriage for commercial purposes having adapted his 1902 7 hp Rambler for deliveries with a cargo top. For non-business purposes, such as conveying the Archbishop Duhamel to Britannia for the consecration of the Catholic Church extension in 1905, the top was removed1.

According to the Ottawa Journal the Poulin family resided for many years at 200 Bronson Ave. The blog Apt613 states that at some point they also lived on Vittoria St (below), what is now the site of 395 Wellington, Library and Archives Canada.

Shortly before 1900 they bought or built a residence on the south side of the intersection of Richmond Rd and Carling Ave, diagonally opposite of the Old Forge. It is not entirely clear, but in “Ottawa’s Britannia” it seems like Poulin probably had the residence built rather than buying an existing one 1.

This 2012 Ad for a “Redevelopment Opportunity” lists the date as “Circa 1902”, but they are 5 years off on the date for the later construction so I wouldn’t put too much faith in their numbers.

The Britannia property was known as “Loma Cottage” and Poulin would retire there permanently in 1929 after leasing his downtown department store to Schulte United Ltd, but until then it was a only summer residence.

Shortly after building Loma Cottage Poulin bought the land between Carling / Richmond and the old Britannia Village from J.R. Booth, subdivided into lots in 1904, christened the area as “Loma Park”1, and began selling off lots in 1905.

When putting in the roads to access the lots he clearly meant to leave his mark on the area. The extension of Main St (now Britannia Rd) 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.”

Ignoring LeBreton Ross’ Britanniaville plans, the streets connecting Louis and Poulin Avenues were largely named after members of the Poulin family, specifically daughters Marie, Priscilla, Violet, Isabel, Julia Regina and son Edmund. A couple of these names would change when the City of Ottawa annexed Britannia in 1950.

Personal

In 1884 Poulin married the 24 year old Mary MacEvoy. They would have five daughters, Marie, Priscilla, Violet, Isabel, Julia Regina (or Regina Juliet), and four sons Edmund, Clement, Fabien, Gilde. For their Golden Wedding Anniversary in 1934 they received a cable from the Pope. At the time they had 27 grandchildren.

The names of the children appear differently in various newspaper articles and censuses (eg 1911). Presumably this reflects both transcription errors of the hand written censuses and Anglicization of what had been Francophone names. Here I use them as they appear in Poulin’s obituary.

Louise Napoleon Poulin died at age 83 on Weds July 9th, 1941 in hospital after a prolonged illness. His obituary discusses his considerable community involvements as well as his progressive treatment of his employees.

Given his death in 1941 and the sale of his downtown property to Zellers “in the 1940s” it is probable that the sale was part of settling the estate rather than a deal he made himself. At his death Poulin left an estate worth almost $900,000 (about $14.5 million in 2015 dollars).

The widow Mary Poulin died Jun 3, 1949, apparently having moved back downtown to 211 Third Ave in the Glebe. Poulin had at least one brother George, and a nephew Arthur, both of whom worked with him in the department store.

Sources:

As linked in the text, and:

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