Centretown West Introduction
Written by Bytown Museum
For the sake of the Capital Neighborhoods website, the boundaries of Centretown West have been extended north to the Ottawa River and south to Dow's Lake. The history of this enlarged area takes in much of Ottawa's early and modern history.
The first settled area in Ottawa, even prior to the existence of Bytown, was Richmond Landing (now known as Lebreton Flats). Following the War of 1812, veterans settled the town of Richmond in what is southern Ottawa today. The Richmond settlers debarked from their boats near the Chaudière Falls and travelled south to their new community. The debarkation point became known as Richmond Landing and it was home to Ottawa's first business – Mother Firth's Inn.
Near Richmond Landing was Victoria Island. For the Algonquin (Odawa) nation that lived in this area prior to European settlement, Victoria Island was a place to gather, trade and celebrate, and to many, the island is still sacred.
As the lumber industry began to thrive in Bytown, Lebreton Flats became home to many workers. In 1900, a chimney fire that began in Hull jumped the Ottawa River and decimated Lebreton Flats and the surrounding area. The Great Fire of 1900 left 15,000 people homeless.
In 1934, the Prescott Hotel opened its doors on Preston Street, making it one of Ottawa's oldest existing taverns. A decade later, Albert (Chappy) Carmanico and his wife, Mary, opened a restaurant – the first one in what would become known as Little Italy. Eating out wasn't fashionable at the time, but the Carmanico's had a secret – Mary's irresistible spaghetti and meatballs!
In the early 1960s, the working-class Lebreton Flats neighborhood was razed to make way for a planned headquarters for the Department of National Defence. Close to 3,000 people were forced out of their homes and the land stood vacant for decades.
Today, Centretown West is a lively neighbourhood where many of Ottawa's multicultural communities can be found. Between great restaurants and shops, the beauty of Dow's Lake and the distinctive characters of Chinatown and Little Italy, it's a great community to live in or visit.
As you explore the Centretown West map, you will discover Ottawa's multicultural side, from the Vietnamese Commemorative Monument and the Shanghai Restaurant to Little Italy's first restaurant and the history of the Odawa at Victoria Island.
Do you have a favourite memory, spot or shop in Centretown West? Share your story with us.