Building Heron Park
Anyone who drives around our neighbourhood can tell just by looking at the houses which areas were built up at different times. The older streets on the north side – Rockingham and Bélanger for example – are identifiable by the older styles of houses on them. These are visible reminders of the history of this area. This area used to include a bustling village and a large brickyard that were expropriated and then demolished so the land could be used for the Billings Bridge Plaza and the adjacent office tower. Just a little earlier, the city of Ottawa had annexed this part of what was then Gloucester Township. As a result, streets with names already in use in Ottawa had to be renamed. Some of the newer names reflect family names that were common in this area: Bélanger and Brulé are two examples.
After World War II, the restraints imposed by the war were gradually removed, men returned home from service and families grew quickly; other families appeared as a result of immigration from Europe. In response to the resultant demand for housing, there was a huge boom in construction in the late 1950’s.
Many of our houses were built in that period. Most of them are brick and include singles as well as semi-detached homes, bungalows as well as two storeys. The houses themselves are not unusual, other parts of Ottawa have similar houses. But the houses in Heron Park have a special link to the families who lived here decades earlier.
Many people have heard of the Campeau Corporation. But did you know that it began in this area? Robert Campeau came to Ottawa from Sudbury and began building homes around 1948 on the east side of what is now called Bank Street. He began very modestly, lots on Utah Street were bought for $100. Times have changed – and so have prices! His Campeau Construction Company went on to build 75 homes on the east side of Bank.
West of Bank Street, the houses built in the 1950’s were built by a local family. When the Berthiaume family originally arrived in the Billings area in 1936 they bought a farm from a local family and expanded it by buying nearby smaller farms. One of their sons, Rémi, built up a successful dairy business using the rich milk from their Jersey cows. He later sold that business but continued his dairy farm. It was located along Heron Road and included what is now Kaladar Road as well as Clementine Boulevard – although that was called Hill Street then.
Two other sons, Raymond and Charles, began manufacturing cement blocks. After that business was well established, about 1952, the three young men began building houses here. They named the streets in the area after family members or other people they knew. Gilles was the name of Rémi’s oldest son; Guertin was his lawyer’s name. Aldéa Lecompte was a mother-in-law, Apolydor was Rémi’s father, Clémentine his mother. After their initial success in Heron Park, the Berthiaume’s went on to build residential areas in other parts of the city.
Speaking of names, even Heron is a local name. Yes, we had herons in this area and blue herons are living here again, but the road was named after the Heron family who lived here.
Rosella Mac Neil [Based largely on “Billings Bridge – My village, my life” compiled by Gérard & Bernard Pelot.]