Capital Housing


Like many other cities across Canada, Ottawa experienced a boom during the 1880s and 1890s, which persisted well into the 1930s. Much of the housing that has become characteristic to the the nation’s capital was built during this period, and most of these homes still exist. As in Toronto and Montreal, the choice building material for Ottawa’s first permanent homes was brick. While Toronto and Montreal both had large quantities of apartment buildings, though, Ottawa’s housing stock was comprised mostly of relatively large single-family homes that were often later subdivided into apartments.

The photo above shows three 1910-era multi-family homes with typical Ottawa design features: the prominent front balcony, and in the case of the two houses on the right, “barn roof” detail. Such homes were usually built to house two families—one on the upper two floors and another on the bottom floor—but many have since been subdivided into three or four-apartment units.

Barn roofs

The barn roof style can be found in other cities, but nowhere is this feature more prominent than in Ottawa. It is notable in particular on many of the city’s Edwardian-era “foursquare” homes, especially throughout the city’s streetcar suburbs such as the Glebe, Old Ottawa South, Ottawa East and Westboro.

Centretown homes

The majority of the city’s residential buildings built between the 1880s and the 1910s resembled the ones depicted in this scene on Gilmour Street in Centretown. The two-and-a-half story houses followed a simple and symmetric layout of three upstairs bedrooms and a bathroom with a large living and dining area on the main floor. The relatively ordinary architecture of the late Victorian-era homes were often embellished with artistic details on the eavestroughs, and most of these homes have seen various additions over successive generations of ownership.

Unlike the downtowns of many large North American cities, Ottawa’s Centretown retains much of its original prewar housing stock. Some of the building styles shown above can be seen interspersed with highrise office complexes in the city’s central business district.

This entry was written by Ken Gildner , posted on Tuesday January 16 2007at 08:01 pm , filed under Architecture, Canada, Heritage and Preservation and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

2 Responses to “Capital Housing”

  • Christopher DeWolf says:

    I’m always amazed by the lack of attention paid to some of Canada’s urban vernacular. Toronto and Ottawa are often described as being bland, yet they both have distinct styles of housing.

  • Nick Wellington says:

    Nice article Ken! Great that you’ve drawn some attention to historical Ottawa housing vernacular, which I find very interesting. I got to visit one of those houses on Lisgar that we took pictures of the other day, it was quite interesting.