Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Canal

Things were going on outside the Bytown Museum on Colonel By Day, including the presence of re-enactors in period clothing and uniforms. As the occasion fell on August 7th this year, it was also Colonel By's birthday- his 238th. A cake was here for the occasion. Yes, it was delicious.

The Canal is busy through the summer season, and for whatever reason, boats going through the locks seem to attract onlookers.

On the east side of the Canal here, in the shadow of Major's Hill Park above, a Celtic cross was erected several years ago in memory of the more than a thousand workers (and family members) who died during the construction of the project. Some died in accidents, but others of malaria, which was a problem of the time. On Colonel By Day, there is always a ceremony held during the afternoon here. 

While I was in the area, there were musicians playing for listeners in this shelter by the Museum. When I took this shot, it was a trio playing something with an Irish tune.

Here we see the Museum from above, in Major's Hill Park, with a view of Parliament Hill above. Colonel By's statue finishes the set. Tomorrow I'll start to show you the other event that was going on here on the first weekend of the month- the buskers.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Picking up where I left off yesterday, the Bytown Museum features a number of panels on the assassination of Thomas D'Arcy McGee, one of our Fathers of Confederation, an eloquent speaker, politician, and writer, who was a friend of Sir John A. Macdonald. He was killed outside his boarding house here in Ottawa after coming home from a session in the House of Commons. An Irish nationalist was hung for it; his assassination came in the wake of the Fenian Raids, and was for his stance against Irish radicalism of the time.

This bust is of Lady Macdonald, the Prime Minister's wife Agnes. It is a marble by Marshall Wood, and the quote behind it I found poignant. The case beside it contains the original plaque marking the spot of McGee's assassination, the plaster cast of one of his hands done after his death, and a copy of a book he wrote on Irish history. Photographs of the site of the crime and his funeral are also found here.

The burning of Centre Block on Parliament Hill also features strongly in this section of the Museum. It was destroyed in 1916, with only the Library of Parliament spared, and then rebuilt. A Union Jack that flew over the original tower on that day now resides here in the Museum. Tomorrow I'll take you back outside.

Monday, August 14, 2017


As I'm busy here at the moment, have a look at my writer's blog today, where I have another photo post in my Ottawa Welcomes The World embassy series set for today, this one featuring the South American country of Uruguay. Come and have a look at Uruguayan cooking, the tango, and candombe.

This formidable looking chair dates back to the 1850s, built of mahogany, leather, and horse hair. It was used by the mayor, James Friel, who presided over the transition from Bytown into Ottawa during the period.

Ottawa's choice as a capital is explored here. I like the quote from an American writer on why it was chosen, found in this panel. The sculpture of Queen Victoria certainly does catch the eye.

This formal portrait was done late in the subject's life. Sarah Olmstead, 1862, is composed by an unknown artist, showing the American born widow of Philemon Wright II, the son of the founder of what would become Hull across the Ottawa River, and is today Gatineau. Sarah married again after the death of her first husband, taking Nicholas Sparks for her husband. Sparks had been a farmhand for the Wright family, and became a landowner in his own right later on.

There is quite a bit here about Victorian era customs, such as clothing, or rituals of grieving.

Two busts in this display case feature Sir John A. Macdonald, our first PM, and Sir George-Etienne Cartier, who were both Fathers of Confederation. The desk set accompanying these belonged to Macdonald. Other items date to the Confederation era as well.

This is a print of a painting all Canadians have seen at one point or another. Robert Harris painted the original, Fathers Of Confederation, in 1884.

The sword in this case and the medals date back to the era of the Fenian Raids by Irish American veterans of the Civil War after that conflict, and the response made by the Canadian army against those incursions. That ties into where we'll start off tomorrow.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Bytown Progress

I have more from the Bytown Museum today.

This portrait is by an artist named Moses Pierce, depicting two sisters, Annie and Mary McLeod.

This chair was used between 1876-1903 as the mayor's office chair.

This less comfortable looking chair was actually used by Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales, during a visit to North America in 1860.

This formal brass helmet was worn by Charles Eliot, a member of the Princess Louise Dragoon Guards who served a distinguished career in the Canadian military before retiring in 1910. 

In its earliest years, Bytown had a reputation for being the roughest town in British North America. Drinking, fighting, and a lack of law and order were hallmarks of the early years of the lumber town that would become Ottawa. Artifacts in this display case reflect that part of the story.

Another display case features items of the lumber trade, and a panel that goes into detail about Joseph Montferrand, a legend of the Ottawa Valley. I'll be showing you another take on him before the end of the month.

There are three models of Ottawa down through time set side by side on the third floor. The first marks the city as it stood in 1832, with the Canal first completed, and the town was still Bytown.

This model shows how the town had evolved by 1855 when it was officially renamed Ottawa. The town had been growing beyond its initial roots.

The last shows the city as it stood in 1918, with much greater development of the core, including a smaller basin on the Canal- that basin no longer exists today, but is where Confederation Park now stands. A close look at the buildings of Parliament Hill even shows Centre Block under re-construction, since in 1918, it had only been two years since the fire that had destroyed the building's predecessor.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Historical Artifacts

This bust of Colonel John By occupies a prime spot within the Bytown Museum.

Close by is the Drummond Cup. One of four silver cups commissioned by the colonel, it was an acknowledgment of satisfaction from By to the construction crew chiefs, in this case, Robert Drummond, after the Rideau Canal was completed. Drummond's work crews were concentrated in the Kingston section of the waterway.

Here are more tools that would have been in use at the time of the building of the Canal.

This display is about Sister Elizabeth Bruyere and the Sisters of Charity mission, who came up from Montreal in the mid-19th century and established local institutions, such as the hospital that still bears Sister Elizabeth's name.

This formal portrait, an oil painting by an unidentified artist, shows the timber baron J.R. Booth, who was hugely influential in the latter 19th century and early 20th century in the city and beyond.

Some of you might remember this from a previous visit. The Hannum Table was crafted by James Hannum, a manager at the E.B. Eddy lumber property, in 1874. This table offers a bird's eye view of the complex, and incorporates over 10 000 pieces of wood, with 19 different kinds of wood used to construct it. This table was exhibited at the 1876 World Fair in Philadelphia. Today the Museum calls it home.

This view looks out one of the windows to the far side of the Canal, a different perspective than I gave you in yesterday's post. The Colonel's statue can just be seen to the left of the center pane frame.

Artifacts and a display panel factor into a section that deals with the Great Fire of 1900, which devastated both Ottawa and the Quebec side of the Ottawa River- what is today called Gatineau was then called Hull. 

Some of the Museum's artifacts have been shifted into a temporary exhibition, such as these two items. The arm chair dates to 1820, and belonged to Colonel By. The chest at its side is a carpenter's chest, one owned by Joseph Summers, a carpenter and foreman who spent fifty years working on Canal maintenance. His family donated the chest to the Museum's collection after his death- and before the Museum actually took possession of this building.

I finish for today with something else that caught my eye. This daguerrotype camera dates to around 1854, built of wood, brass, and glass. It was furnished by a New York company, Palmer & Longking. The fascination with the new technology quickly found its way to Bytown, as it was still being called, and numerous photographers were setting up shop in the city by mid-century.