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City Strata

The Superstructure made up of the Government body and the Infrastructure of support services and workers changed Ottawa from ‘The Lumbering City’ into Ottawa ‘The Seat of Government’.
Large amounts of people, families, documents and information were transported to Ottawa, and required space and safe transport. City buildings had to be created or altered to suit the newcomers, and the City’s look and feel also changed, as services increased, architecture changed and the density increased into a metropolis. Some civil servants boarded for the winter, and brought families in the Spring – and some families did not join their husbands in Ottawa at all. How often did a personal family decision affect the public political decision, such as the vote process to make Ottawa the Capital?

Infrastructure

 City of Ottawa Archives /  CA-002942 
Copyright: Expired 

Title/description: Elgin Street, looking north to Sparks Street, Ottawa. ca.1890.

Date: ca.1890

Title/description: Metcalfe Street, looking north to Sparks Street, Ottawa. ca.1890.
Creator: Rorwick Accession
Date: ca.1890
Identifier: City of Ottawa Archives / CA-002942
Copyright: Expired

The Infrastructure of Ottawa was altered in many ways when it became the Capital of the Dominion of Canada, a process of change that was felt by many participants of society. Change took place in the physical structures such as the architectural feel of Ottawa, the social structures such as police and education, and the economic structures such as housing and produce markets. Political tensions factored into decisions regarding schooling for children and availability of housing, as Ottawa had to be regarded worthy to be the Capital of Canada.

Expansion

The City expanded geographically, economically, and physically as workers and government employees increased.

Populations in Bytown and other cities were expanding, although Bytown had one of the larger expansion rates between 1841 and 1851 census takings, with an overall increase of 149 percent. Toronto increased during the same period by 116 percent, and Hamilton increased by the largest margin – 315 percent! Bytown had the largest population increase between 1851 and 1861, with an increase from 7760 residents to 14,669, an increase of 189 percent.

With the increasing population, the types of workers and artisans were also diversifying. From the City Directories of Ottawa, 1861-1871, the types and numbers of advertisements increase and show change and diversity of services available.

Necessary to build and support a growing city, the trades and services in the early 1860s supported the expansion of the Parliament buildings, and other structures. Such trades include:

Stone cutters, carpenters, lock masters, insurance, lumber merchants, shoemakers, labourers, cabinet makers, blacksmiths, gas fitters and plumbers, tavern owners, clerks, land surveyor, civil engineers, grocers, a postmaster, Banks, goldsmiths, butchers, coopers, pump makers, gun smiths, harness makers, lawyers, booksellers, a homeopathic physician, pharmaceutical chemist, tinsmith, teachers, contractor, bookkeeper and printers, hair dressers, hotels, dentists, insurance companies, watchmakers, mills, the Prescott railway, tailors, a music store, photographers and carpenters.

Title/description: Her Majesty’s Theatre, before 1867.Creator: William James Topley , photographerDate: [before 1867]Identifier: Credit: Library and Archives Canada / Topley Studio Fonds / PA-012584 Copyright: Expired

Title/description: Her Majesty’s Theatre, before 1867.
Creator: William James Topley , photographer
Date: [before 1867]
Identifier: Credit: Library and Archives Canada / Topley Studio Fonds / PA-012584
Copyright: Expired

The contemporary perspective of the change in Ottawa by the year 1861 was focused on the many new private and public buildings erected, and improvements made, such as:

  • New wing of St. Joseph’s College; the church of England Schoolhouse and the new goal buildings
  • New buildings in Spark’s Street replaced those destroyed by fire in Spring
  • Dr. Grant’s residence on Rideau Street
  • Building and launch of a new steamboat, the Victoria

Government buildings’ progress was noted as ‘satisfactory’ and ‘not a single man was discharged from work; all ‘applicants connected with the stone trade were employed and for fair wages.
The City Directories for 1864 and 1865 show the lumber trade and masonry made up a large portion of Ottawa’s businesses.

Within this set of years, there was an increase in advertisements for merchants, hotel owners, bookkeepers, clerks etc. Therefore more hotels to be constructed, which supported the building tradesmen. Ottawa also had many social clubs, such as literary societies, natural history societies, temperance societies, sporting clubs, Masonic groups, horticultural societies and a museum.

 Library and Archives Canada

Title/description: Victoria Hotel, sketch from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated News

Date: [ca.1860]

Title/description: Victoria Hotel, sketch from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated News
Creator: unknown
Date: [ca.1860]
Identifier: Library and Archives Canada / CA-000141
Copyright: Expired

While Ottawa was still in many respects a rough lumber town, the construction of public buildings, such as the jail and Post Office, and the emergence of cultural and academic societies, illustrate that the city was becoming a more “refined’ urban area.

Housing

Housing and Markets - Social change

As early as 1860, the editors of the Ottawa Citizen note that rental prices were increasing with the influx of workers and trades people to work on the Parliament buildings.

In few days - stone-cutters, masons, carpenters and host of other tradesmen in addition to the force already employed – increase rent of dwelling houses – which are becoming scarce. Ottawa Citizen April 17, 1860 (Tuesday)

The concern of housing and real estate markets were also used to propagate the perceived beauty and benefit of one city over another, and supported sectarian divisions. An article from the Quebec Journal in November 1860, related high prices of building plots within the limits of Ottawa and suggested “the city has more to dread from the conduct of its own citizens…” when real property of Ottawa was not improved or built on,

and [was] occupied by a person who has neither the sense nor magnanimity to make it available for the public… [an] evil genius of the place [when a] naked lot in 2nd class st. 25 to 30 per foot frontage and even at this price the owner is not anxious to sell. Quebec Journal in Ottawa Citizen, November 2 1860

In an effort to refute the position that Ottawa was over priced and untenable for prospective landowners, the Citizen published an editorial on, and stated “land held at such high prices as to deter people from purchasing” is an assumption ‘almost’ wholly without cause - there may have been ‘one or two owners’ who held their property at high prices, but there are eligible city lots for sale on terms that were reasonable and easy. The Citizen continued on to note:

Mr. Chas. Sparrow jr.- a land agent in Ottawa- advertised building lots a 5 min walk of the Parliament buildings from 50 to 100 each, Size 1/5 to 1/6 of an acre
These prices are small compare to lots in Western towns and cities during speculative mania of 1855-56
Previous six months- Sparrow disposed of some $50,000 worth and they are still in demand
Now it’s a good time to purchase. The Price of Land in Ottawa, Ottawa Citizen August 2, 1861

Ottawa’s housing markets were stretched with the sudden increase of population, and may have created housing shortages and rent increases for the locals already living in Ottawa.

Education

Educationally, Ottawa was well supplied by 1864. Listed in the City Directories are: College of Ottawa (est. 1848) Ottawa Senior Grammar school, the Ottawa Academy and Young Ladies Seminary. The junior/elementary institutions were either classified as common or private schools.

Perhaps the most important of these educational institutions was the College of (Bytown) Ottawa, given a charter as the University of Ottawa in 1866. Established by Bishop Guigues in 1848, the College was the first higher education institution to offer classes in both French and English. The sectarian division was bridged because the Catholic College would appeal to both French and Irish Catholic residents when the question of the location of the Seat of Government was considered. Initially located on Sussex Street, in 1855 the College received 6 lots in sandy Hill, its current location.

 City of Ottawa Archives / ANC-001494 

Title: University of Ottawa, Tabaret Hall

Date: 9 June 1959

Title/description: University of Ottawa, Tabaret Hall, 9 June 1959.
Creator: Andrews Newton
Date: 9 June 1959
Identifier City of Ottawa Archives / CA-002737-12
Copyright: Expired

 City of Ottawa Archives / CA-001494 

Title: University of Ottawa, 55 Wilbrod, between Cumberland and Waller, Ottawa, 1898.

Date: 1898

Title/description: University of Ottawa, 55 Wilbrod, between Cumberland and Waller, Ottawa, 1898.
Creator: unknown
Date: 1898
Identifier: City of Ottawa Archives / CA-001494
Copyright: Expired

Between 1866 and1868 the estimated increase in population was 5,540 people.

Social needs and deficiencies led to the creation of social support organizations. The Health Department was established in a basic form in 1847 and the Ottawa General Hospital was established by 1849, which only served the very basic needs of the population. But by the 1860s other institutions had been incorporated out of necessity, such as St. Joseph’s Orphanage in 1865, and the St. Charles’ Home for the Aged in 1871. The St. Vincent de Paul Society was established in 1865 to support the Roman Catholic population in need of support. The Young Men’s Christian Association was Incorporated in 1867 “to foster the growth and development of boys and young men”. The growing population created pressure and need for expanded social services.

Architecture

Ottawa changed significantly in look and feel during the 10 years prior to becoming the capital of the Dominion of Canada. Architecture changed as politicians and wealthy business men demanded certain architectural aesthetics. Since Gothic was the chosen style of the Parliaments, effectively becoming the National style, construction often reflected these visual elements.

Common styles of Heritage buildings in Ottawa consist of Gothic, Neo-Gothic, Lowertown cottage, Gothic, Second empire, and Italianate.

Examples of City expansion:

 Library and Archives Canada / Samuel McLaughlin / C-001185

Title/description: "View across Ottawa looking West from Court House to Parliament Hill"

Date: ca.1866

Title/description: "View across Ottawa looking West from Court House to Parliament Hill". This view possibly taken from the old Court House on Nicholas St. Ottawa, indicates that the new buildings on The Hill constituted Ottawa’s only skyline at the time 1866.
Creator: Samuel McLaughlin, photographer
Date: ca.1866
Identifier: Credit: Library and Archives Canada / Samuel McLaughlin / C-001185
Copyright: Expired

Title/description: Basilica of Notre Dame Roman Catholic Church, Ottawa. The cornerstone was laid in 1841 and completed in 1853.  It was the first church to welcome both Anglophone and Francophone worshippers.

Title/description: Basilica of Notre Dame Roman Catholic Church, Ottawa. The cornerstone was laid in 1841 and completed in 1853. It was the first church to welcome both Anglophone and Francophone worshippers.
Creator:
Date: 1931
Identifier: City of Ottawa Archives / CA-002204
Copyright: Expired
Notre Dame Cathedral - cornerstone 1841- completed in 1853- basilica in 1879 CA-019900, CA-002204, CA-001612

 City of Ottawa Archives / CA-001494 

Title: University of Ottawa, 55 Wilbrod, between Cumberland and Waller, Ottawa, 1898.

Date: 1898

Title/description: University of Ottawa, 55 Wilbrod, between Cumberland and Waller, Ottawa, 1898.
Creator: unknown
Date: 1898
Identifier: City of Ottawa Archives / CA-001494
Copyright: Expired

Title/description: Rideau Hall, Government House, Ottawa, rear of building.  Built by Thomas MacKay, the building was later purchased as the Governor General’s residence.
Creator: unknown
Date: [19--]
Identifier: City of Ottawa Archives / CA-000116 / 
Copyright: Expired

Title/description: Rideau Hall, Government House, Ottawa, rear of building. Built by Thomas MacKay, the building was later purchased as the Governor General’s residence.
Creator: unknown
Date: [19--]
Identifier: City of Ottawa Archives / CA-000116 /
Copyright: Expired

Title/description: Old St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, situated on the corner of Kent and Wellington Streets, Ottawa. The original building was constructed by Thomas MacKay’s masons in 1828, enlarged in 1854 and replaced by the current structure in 1872.
Creator:
Date: [before 1872]
Identifier: City of Ottawa Archives / CA-002202 / 
Copyright: Expired

Title/description: Old St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, situated on the corner of Kent and Wellington Streets, Ottawa. The original building was constructed by Thomas MacKay’s masons in 1828, enlarged in 1854 and replaced by the current structure in 1872.
Creator:
Date: [before 1872]
Identifier: City of Ottawa Archives / CA-002202 /
Copyright: Expired

Christ Church Cathedral, Ottawa. Originally built in 1833, the cathedral was enlarged in 1841, rebuilt in 1873, and elevated in 1896.

Title/description: Christ Church Cathedral, Ottawa. Originally built in 1833, the cathedral was enlarged in 1841, rebuilt in 1873, and elevated in 1896.
Creator: Andrews-Newton, Photographers.
Date: December 2, 1954
Identifier: City of Ottawa Archives / CA-006731 /
Copyright: Expired

Title/description: Courthouse and jail ca.1870. 
Creator: William James Topley, Photographer
Date: ca.1870
Identifier: Credit : Library and Archives Canada / PA-012371 
Copyright: Expired

Title/description: Courthouse and jail ca.1870.
Creator: William James Topley, Photographer
Date: ca.1870
Identifier: Credit : Library and Archives Canada / PA-012371
Copyright: Expired

Byward Market Expansion

With the influx of carpenters, stone masons and labourers into Lower Town to work on the new Parliament and Departmental Buildings, the Byward Market became the economic and social centre of life in Lower Town.

Merchants and business owners recognized the market potential of the expanding Ottawa, and attempted to sway the profits in their own direction. To attract shoppers and increase land values, Old City Hall was originally built in 1848 as the West Ward Market by Nicholas Sparks, which stands at the site of the National Arts Centre in 2008.

Title/description: City Hall, demolished in 1874.
Creator: unknown
Date: [before 1874]
Identifier: Credit: Library and Archives Canada / C-002185 
Copyright: Expired

Title/description: City Hall, demolished in 1874.
Creator: unknown
Date: [before 1874]
Identifier: Credit: Library and Archives Canada / C-002185
Copyright: Expired

Market areas in Upper town were attempted but the incorporation of Bytown in 1847, which created North, South and West wards with representatives for each, put the political favour to Lower town.

Lower town contained two of these wards and accordingly was entitled to two members from each. The Upper Town had only three councillors thus revealing that Lower Town held the higher proportion of electors and consequently the political balance was in its favour.

Lower town as a market centre proved far more attractive to both retailers and shoppers. A market building had been constructed in the middle of George Street near Sussex Drive in 1846. It was destroyed by fire in 1857, and quickly replaced by another structure on the north side of York Street. The movement to expand the ancient wooden market building began in autumn of 1861.

Title/description: Byward Market, Sussex Drive between George and Rideau Streets, Ottawa.
Creator: unknown
Date: [ca.1860]
Identifier: City of Ottawa Archives / CA-000231/ 
Copyright: Expired

Title/description: Byward Market, Sussex Drive between George and Rideau Streets, Ottawa.
Creator: unknown
Date: [ca.1860]
Identifier: City of Ottawa Archives /CA-000231/
Copyright: Expired

It was to these Lower town markets that the area’s mixed farmers and market growers brought their wares, along the macadamized River Road and Bank Street. Ottawa Markets demanded produce suitable for politician’s tables, to entertain and sway political favour. Produce types expanded, ‘exotics’ such as strawberries and cucumbers were introduced, orchard fruits were cultivated, all in response to the demands of the moneyed politicians.

Roads

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 councillors 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.

 City of Ottawa Archives / CA-001504 
Copyright: Expired 

Title: Horse-drawn omnibus on Sparks St. between Elgin and Metcalfe St.

Date: [ca. 1877]

Title/description: Horse-drawn omnibus on Sparks St. between Elgin and Metcalfe St.
Creator: unknown
Date: [ca.1877]
Identifier: City of Ottawa Archives / CA-001504 /
Copyright: Expired

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

Correspondence

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 Jehu's) 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 regardless 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, particularly 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 entitled to the thanks of every one who is in this slippery season. -A Walker Ottawa Citizen February 20th, 1867

 City of Ottawa Archives / MG11/ CA-019070 
Copyright: Expired 

Title: Elgin St at the Intersection with Sparks

Date: [ca.1875]

Title/description: Elgin Street at the intersection with Sparks Street, Ottawa.
Date: [ca.1875]
Identifier: City of Ottawa Archives /MG11/ CA-019070
Copyright: Expired

Correspondence

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

Police

The first organized non-partisan Board of Commissioners of Police was organized on the 29 of January, 1863, to supervise the activity of the police. Councillor Scott introduced By-law number 192 on January 19, 1863, regarding the appointment of Police Magistrate Hammett Hill as ‘Commissioner of Police’

However, it wasn’t until By-law 235 was passed 29 of May, 1866 that a permanent, salaried, and accountable police force was established. The board demanded that the constables receive a salary, be employed on a full time basis, be answerable to the Police Chief and be identified by a proper uniform

Previously, there was a heavy reliance upon the civilian population to maintain order. There was also a civilian militia, which would be called to duty when dangerous situations, such as riots, occurred.

On the 11 of April, 1859, by-law 159A was passed defining the duties of the chief Constable and his constables: to preserve the public peace; prevent robberies and other felonies and misdemeanours; apprehend offenders; enforce all the laws and By-laws; and produce evidence for the prosecution of offenders.

From 1859, Bytown was policed by nine constables, three in each ward, under the direction of a head constable. This small Force headed by High Constable Berichon was the grand-father of the Ottawa Police.”

After Ottawa was chosen as the capital city, the population began a dramatic increase, especially between the years 1860-1865. The previous law enforcement system of nine constables had worked adequately with a smaller population. But as the number of residents grew to eighteen thousand people, the older system was no longer sufficient.

Local Intelligence - An Orderly City

Ottawa always has been – since the last of the Shiners – and is, the most orderly and best conducted city in Canada- intending the latter word in its fullest significance. Heavy crime is rarely committed here, and even petty ones are as scarce as blackberries in January. Our police force, including the detective, are the most vigilant that any city need desire to be blessed with, and yet three and sometimes four days elapse without their being able to drum up the smallest case for the Police Magistrate to exercise his judgement upon. Such has been the case this week. Since Friday morning the Police Court has not been graced with an offender. If there is any other city in the Provinces with a population over 17,000, which can say as much for its morals, let it speak. -Ottawa Citizen March 12, 1867

Local Intelligence - A New Vocation

Few cities in the province have been more free from professional beggars than has this hitherto, with the exception of one or two old fellows who were fond of a drop and who solicited a charity to obtain it. Mendicants were strangers on our streets. Too much cannot be said at the present time of the [scarcity?] of that class of citizens in Ottawa. Quite a number of young urchins – boys and girls between the age of eight and ten- now make their regular rounds, soliciting ‘a copper’ and representing themselves as orphans or the children of disabled parents. Every one of these young beggars should be picked up, and if they should prove to be orphans-which is very doubtful- they should be put into the institution in this city for the reception of such. To permit them to continue to ply the avocation is only exposing them to temptation, and in a measure preparing them for the gaol.
[The City Council] adopted the motion to carefully monitor the number of times the constables were called for duty, the number of days of employment and the necessity that existed for them to be called out. -Ottawa Citizen March 12, 1867.

Constables were paid according to work carried out, and not by a set salary and were also responsible for collecting fees which helped pay for the Police Force. For example, Constable John Brown was paid one dollar for the arrest of an offender for fighting, a further dollar for his attendance in court and seven cents for taking the offender to and from jail, a total of $2.07 he received for his services.

In 1865 the Board of Commissioners argued that “It is absolutely required that a police force be established within this City to consist, for the present, of a Chief Constable or Chief of Police, a detective, a market Constable, a sergeant and six privates.

 Library and Archives Canada / C-002185 / Copyright: Expired

Title: City Hall, demolished 1874

Date: [ca.1840-1874]

Title/description: City Hall, Ottawa, demolished 1874.
Creator:
Date: [ca. 1840 – 1874]
Identifier: Library and Archives Canada /C-002185 /
Copyright: Expired

Nicholas Sparks had donated a two storey wooden structure to Town Council in 1849. Previously the West ward market Building, it became the town hall building. In 1865, the police station, with two initial cells and later five cells, was established in its wings.

Superstructure

The political environment was not confined to the visible public – politics permeated the homes and lives of ordinary people, as well as political personalities.

Title/description: Diary of Lady Macdonald, 5 July 1867.Creator: Susan Agnes Macdonald, Baroness of EarnscliffeDate: 5 July 1867Identifier: Credit: Library and Archives Canada / MG 26 A, v. 559ACopyright: Expired

Title/description: Diary of Lady Macdonald, 5 July 1867.
Creator: Susan Agnes Macdonald, Baroness of Earnscliffe
Date: 5 July 1867
Identifier: Credit: Library and Archives Canada / MG 26 A, v. 559A
Copyright: Expired

5 July This new Dominion of ours came noisily into existence on the 1st and the very newspapers look hot and tired under the weigh of announcements and Cabinet lists. In this house, the atmosphere so awfully political that sometimes I think the very flies hold Parliament on the kitchen tablecloth. -Baroness Macdonald diaries, 5 July to 7 December 1867. C-1447

Transporting families, households and documents to Ottawa were of major concern in the decision for Ottawa as the Seat of Government.

The Parliament Buildings in Ottawa were finished enough to permit civil servants to move to Ottawa when session of legislature closed in Quebec in Sept. 1865. Government workers came by boat and some by train, with 350 government workers who brought large families and servants.

The perambulating system of parliament had seriously hindered their ability to enact legislation. Records were lost or damaged during the moving process, staff were disrupted and displaced and had to find new schools for children and new homes to live in. The cost to move a family of 8 from the Executive Council in 1855, from Quebec to Toronto was allocated approximately £56, although the allowances made to each member of Government was calculated based on the number in each family, the rate of salaries; and the sums which have been paid to them, respectively, on the last removal.

The Government sought to conserve finances early in the decision process of the Seat of Government - the residence for governor general was not built new to suit but was retrofitted from an existing structure. Thomas MacKay’s Rideau Hall was purchased and modified in 1863.

In practice, Government workers were given allowances to move themselves and their families, including hired help and servants, according to household size and rank within the government. The overall cost of moving the Government to Toronto from Quebec in 1856, for example, was stated to the Governor General by the Commissioner of Public Works as such:

To His Excellency the Governor General
The undersigned have the honour to report for the information of your Excellency that the expenses connected with the removal of the Seat of Government from Quebec to Toronto, alterations and repair of Buildings etc. to the present date amounts to the sum of £ 55, 856.17.5. – as follows Government House - £15,543.11.3
Parliament Houses - £5,356.14.9
Mechanics’ Institute - £7,451.19.1
Old Hospital - £4,807.4.4
Military Chambers - £669.7.11
Temporary Hospital & [?] Office - £1,689.10.3
[Subsidies? Sundries?] - £451.0.9
Removal, including furniture for Offices - £19,897.9.1
Total - £ 55, 856.17.5 To meet outstanding liabilities, the following sums, so are as the Comm. of Public Works have been able to ascertain, will be required. Government House - £650
Parliament Houses - £ 8050
Mechanics’ Institute - £770
Old Hospital - £1500
Military Chambers - £330
University - £550
Public Works - £60
Removal - £2600.
Total - £ 14,510.0.0 The above information is supplied for the consideration of Your Excellency as to whether the amount - £ 70, 366.17.5 should be placed on the estimate to be laid before the Legislature at the approaching session.
Respectfully Submitted,
J. Lemieux.
Chief Head

Moving Government was costly and challenging, but also benefited the City who received Parliament because the process increased population, increased market demands, supported housing real estate prices, and improved the infrastructure.

The Removal to Ottawa

Within a day or two, for what reason we cannot well say, there has been some flutter among the Civil Service men and their families anent the removal to Ottawa, which was fixed by the late Government for the coming fall. By some means a rumour has got afloat that the removal at so early a day is an actual impossibility, and that all the available labour which could be forced upon the public buildings would not change the prospect. As a Quebecer, sharing in the general benefits accruing from the presence of the Departments and the meetings of Parliament in the city, we might be excused for encouraging the hope that the rumour was likely to turn out correct; but we very much fear there is no such good luck in store for us.
From the Quebec Gazette, May 2. Ottawa Citizen reprint 6 May 1864.