Ottawa did not have many paved roadways and streets until 1895, and travel within the city difficult and weather dependent. It was not until 1916 that the Government created the Department of Public Highways—the precursor to today’s Ministry of Transportation. This department took over duties that had previously fallen under county, municipal, or township jurisdiction. Bank Street, or Metcalf Rd., was macadamised when many main Ottawa Roads were still in a rough dirt format. A private company, Gloucester Road Company, undertook the task. The process began in 1854, and the company had completed macadamization as far as Billings Bridge by 1867.
The impending visit of the Prince of Wales in 1860 was a focus for the Ottawa Citizen and business owners to rally behind, as they encouraged the City to:
Use your influence with your councilors to get our great thoroughfares macadamized and beautified by planting young tress not peddling and patching.
Ottawa Citizen, April 1860.
The concern remained in vocal public well into the establishment of Ottawa as the Nation’s Capital.
Title/description: Horse-drawn omnibus on Sparks St. between Elgin and Metcalfe St.
Identifier: City of Ottawa Archives / CA-001504 /
Local Intelligence - Man-traps and Pitfalls
Besides the dangerous hole at Pooley’s Bridge, to which we directed attention in Yesterday’s issue, there are in various parts of the city dangerous holes in the sidewalk. We would mention in particular that dangerous place on Dalhousie street, where the slightest misstep would precipitate an unwary passenger into a large open drain on one side, or into a smaller hole on the other side, where in either case a broken leg would be almost certain result. The sidewalk at the place is narrow and in slippery weather it would require an acrobat to traverse it in safety. Ottawa Citizen February 14, 1867
To the editor of the Ottawa Citizen
Sir –While the City Council takes time to deliberate on the best location for the hack-sleighs, whose present stand is at the junction of George and Sussex streets, I would suggest one most desirable improvement in the existing state of things and one to which (without offending the susceptibilities of the too-sensitive Jehus) immediate effect might be given.
It is simply this : Let the horses’ heads be turned the other way, up George street instead of acing Sussex street.
Those of your readers who may ever have been so unfortunate as to pass down Sussex street about five p.m. – when the evening train is due, and an hour when the street is thronged with passengers – cannot be ignorant of the whooping and yelling, and lashing of horses, with which on the first sound of the whistle, the carters dash into their vehicles, and totally disregardless of the poor pedestrians who may be crossing George street at the moment, tear away down to the station like demons just let loose.
George street is wide, and a person, partienlarly a lady, cannot gain the sidewalk in a moment. Almost the same scene was enacted the moment the cabbies espy any person beckoning for a sleigh. They rush, with one accord to their respective sleighs, then follows a scrimmage and a brief scramble until the most expeditious of the number distances his rivals.
Were the horses heads turned up the street, pedestrians would at least, have time to reach a place of safety before the rush comes, and ladies would suffer fewer alarms from the “shying and starting” of horses at other times, on snow falling from the neighbouring roofs, or on the bugle surrounding the barracks &c.
If you can succeed, Mr. Editor, in effecting this experiment, you will be entitiled to the thanks of every one who is in this slippery season,
A Walker Ottawa Citizen February 20th, 1867
Title/description: Elgin Street at the intersection with Sparks Street, Ottawa.
Identifier: City of Ottawa Archives /MG11/ CA-019070
Sir – In this climate there is at this season of year a great deal of unnecessary non- intercourse between the city and country—and that does exist is carried with much loss and great cruelty to animals. The condition of the main streets are such that sleighing is almost impossible – while from the depth of snow on every country and side road wheeling is on them equally impossible. Even in mid-winter , after a heavy thaw followed by a hard frost, the streets of Ottawa are covered with a coating of frozen manure , which makes them almost impassable for those heavy loads of wood or produce so easily then brought in from the country. For this there is at present no remedy but a fresh fall of snow. But at this season there may be weeks what at least half of every load which reaches the suburbs should there thrown off, when country people leave their vehicles outside and walk in, to save themselves and horses from becoming objects of comment and commiseration while creeping along the gutter and hunting up every detached piece of clean snow or ice.
Now this is just the season of the year when there is little else but teaming to be done, when the price of wood can be kept down by good roads inside and when manure is wanted outside, when supplies are being hurried off to the shanties before the ice falls, and when everyone is hurrying up to prepare for the opening of spring. To have, therefore, the transportation of the city and country at this season shorn of at least one half of its efficiency is a great public loss – an intolerable nuisance-and so far as it can be remedied a great public scandal.
There is under the accumulation of filth in the streets a foot or more of solid snow and ice which if it can be got at would maintain the streets in passable order for a long time. The road thus cleaned would, among other benefits, set free those turn-outs, maintained at great expense in the city, which are now useless and will be for weeks, and enable their owners to enjoy the beautiful sky, the sleighing and scenery in the country.
Can nothing be done? A few horses and scrapers at the proper time could rake the manure to the sides, from where it could be carted (and worth the cartage) and I am confident there is nothing in which a small outlay, scarcely worth considering, would produce such important economical results.
Outsider Ottawa Citizen March 25, 1867