Category Archives: History

Heron Park: From Farm To Neighbourhood

I grew up in Heron Park. Actually, it was my father’s parents (Berhiaume) that owned the big white clapboard farmhouse with the wrap around porch on the corner of Kaladar and Heron Rd. as well as all the land that eventually became known as Heron Park. It was initially their farmland. My uncles had a building company and had built an office right across the street from the big farmhouse. This site eventually became Mason’s Confectionay where I worked as a young girl waitressing in the mid 60’s.

When my father and mother returned from serving in the war, my father joined his brothers in the family building business and helped to build many of the brick bungalows in Heron Park. He built a 3 bedroom bungalow on Clementine Blvd. (formerly Hill Street) for his growing family. Clementine was my grandmother. Many of the streets in the neighbourhood were named after my relatives. Several uncles and aunts lived in the area as well so I grew up with lots of cousins just a stone’s throw away. My family lived on Clementine until my mother’s death in 2003. My father passed away in 1983. The house was sold in 2007 with much sadness.

I have many photos of the area when our family first lived on Clementine. You could see right up to Bank Street back then with only the odd house scattered in the neighbourhood. The streets, of course, were not paved at that time. We had a huge garden on the lot next to our house until they built duplexes on either side of us much to my mother’s dismay. Her view out the kitchen window was the wall of the house next door. The face of the neighbourhood began to change as more houses and a school were built.

I recently drove through the neighbourhood and was saddened to see that all the mature ash trees had been cut down to stumps because of the recent infestation of the ash borer. I remember when the trees were first planted by the city and watched them grow to maturity for over 50 years. They made a lovely canopy over the street. I especially remember the tree on our front lawn which weathered the great ice storm of 1998. We lost a few branches but the tree was trimmed by the city and it thrived. Surely they could have figured out a better way to manage the ash borer problem. This has changed the look and the cozy feeling of the neighbourhood. What a pity.

– Annette (Berthiaume) Facette

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.]

The Villagers

“The Villagers” reminisced about their ability to make their own fun when it came to leisure time. Many of them spoke of family gatherings where they sang and played music together, accompanying each other on the piano or violin. On festive occasions they would gather with close neighbours and hold square dances, or improvised concerts and singalongs. They enjoyed their holiday seasons and made the most of them with those closest to them as travel, particularly in winter months, was difficult.

Many recalled playing hockey on Sawmill Creek under the CNR Bridge. One even stated that on Saturdays they could easily assemble as many as 50 hockey players. Under the bridge there was less snow so it was easier to clear. Some years there could have been as much as 2 miles cleared off the Creek for skating by the Billings villagers, men and women alike. They flooded the Creek by cutting holes at various points and taking out pails of water to fl ood. They did this weekly. No doubt it was an icy and at times, dangerous job.

In a certain time period, there were some men who maintained a rink in the village but it was a fair bit of work. To flood it, they would have to go by horse and sleigh with big barrels to the Rideau River to haul the water to fl ood it. One fellow recalls going and getting 6 x 45 gallon drums of water and hauling them back in the sleigh to fl ood the rink. The rink for a time even had lights. It was well used but represented a lot of work, and folks who weren’t afraid of hard work or the cold.

Before 1937 they often strapped blades to their boots for skating. Knee pads were created from newspapers, magazines or catalogues and strapped to their knees. I’m sure more than a few players lost a few teeth over the game as they didn’t really have masks then. By 1937, most had real skates and real hockey sticks and maybe a few fortunate (i.e. wealthier) fellows had other hockey equipment.

For skiing they often used staves of large barrels that were smoothed down with sandpaper. This seemed to be very popular at the time. Of course, green space wasn’t as limited as it is now, and traffi c wasn’t really an issue (hard to imagine in 2007 isn’t it!). Their toboggans were typically made out of circular cheese boxes by unhooking them where they had been stapled. Some also had sleds made out of tin. Many of them often went sliding down the big hill or hills that were by the old St. Thomas Aquinas Church. A simple and inexpensive way to have a lot of fun!

We can learn a lot from those who lived before us in this area. How they made the most of what they had along with family, neighbours and friends who lived nearby. They knew how to enjoy themselves during the cold winter months, both indoors and outdoors, without the various modern and electric inventions that we surround ourselves with now. Although they were a lot poorer in material things and technology, in many ways they were richer in their enjoyment of the more important things in life. Perhaps this winter, you may want to put the DVDs and PlayStations aside a bit more and venture out to the skating rinks at Heron Park North or the one adjoining the park in Heron Park South to enjoy the brisk outdoors with family, friends and your neighbours in Heron Park.

A Stroll Down Memory Lane

As we drove down Kaladar Avenue toward Heron Road, I thought back to when we first moved into the neighbourhood with our young family in 1959. Heron Road was just two lanes and ended at Riverside Drive. It would later be expanded to four lanes and a bridge built to connect it with Baseline Road.

This brought to mind the many changes in the community since we moved here so long ago. At the corner of Heron Road and Kaladar Avenue was a large old white frame house with a wrap around verandah. The house was renovated from top to bottom and became a doctor’s office and is now home to Trigon Insurance Brokers.

Directly across Heron Road is O’Brien’s Pub, formerly Mason’s Confectionary, Ghady’s Food Store and Restaurant and then Galileo’s Restaurant.

Turning right off Kaladar to Heron Road and Bank Street was a much smaller Canadian Tire Store, later expanded to its present size.

On the left side of Heron at Bank is the Appletree Medical Center, formerly a Dominion Grocery Store. Going north on Bank in the Local Heroes strip was another grocery store, The A&P, as well as a Royal Burger. Dairyland was across Bank Street. Long before Blue Heron Mall was constructed, Beaver Lumber occupied the space that is now Farm Boy. For many years, a restaurant was on this site. Where the Blockbuster Video Store is now there used to be The Red Barn which was a very popular burger place. The Compuphile Systems Inc. shop at Bank and Evans Avenue was, for many years, the Sky Ranch Restaurant.

Back to Heron Road and Bank Street, a B.P. Service Station was on the site of Tim Hortons, Fendi’s Hair Salon and Extreme Pita.

The Roger’s Independent Grocer at Bank and Alta Vista was formerly Loblaws until they relocated to the South Keys Shopping Centre. At the other end of the mall, now Cora’s, McDonald’s was a landmark for many years.

One constant and never changing treasure, Heron Home Hardware at Bank and Heron has been serving the community for longer than I can remember.

I remember the wild raspberries growing along Saw Mill Creek. The ball hockey games on the road (frowned upon and too dangerous to be enjoyed now). Football games in the empty fields on Kaladar and Little League Baseball games at Kaladar Park.

There were two schools on Brookfield Road and one on Kaladar. Only Lamoureux on Kaladar remains. The other two, St. Victor’s and Heron Park (later to become Gabrielle Roy) were closed because of low enrolment. The children in the neighbourhood were growing up.

We seem to be coming full circle. As homes in the area are being offered for sale, more and more families with young children are moving into the neighbourhood. I am sure they will enjoy living here as much as we have these many years.

Bev Levasseur