Written by Bytown Museum
When Centretown was first developed in the mid–1800s, it was home to a number of smaller villages, including Ashburnham and Stewarton. Stewarton was bounded by Gladstone and Bronson avenues and Isabella and Bank streets. The community was founded by William Stewart, and a number of Stewarton's streets were named for his children, including Flora, William and Isabella. When Stewarton was annexed by the City of Ottawa in 1887, it was home to fewer than 500 people.
Most of Centretown was developed between 1875 and 1912 and many of the early residents were wealthy enough to build brick homes. Bank Street was the community's main commercial strip from the beginning. One of the earlier businesses to be found along Bank Street was Scrim's Flower Shop, which opened in 1875. Scrim's is still operating today, but it has moved to Elgin Street. In 1891, the electric streetcar made its first appearance in Ottawa, and this spurred further development along Bank Street.
During World War II, Ottawa was the headquarters for the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. The presence of the armed forces and the government's commitment to the war effort led to a dramatic increase in the number of civil servants in the city. Prior to the war, there were 12,000 bureaucrats in Ottawa; by 1945, there were almost 36,000. At the time, Centretown was the focal point for Ottawa's business and political arenas; however, the creation of new suburbs on the outskirts of the city convinced residents to move out of the community in the 1950s and ’60s, as was the case for many urban areas at the time.
Today, Centretown is once again home to many growing families and offers a comfortable mix of businesses and homes where most residents can walk to their neighbourhood stores. It is also home to the Sens Mile on Elgin Street, and some of Ottawa's most desirable real estate, including many homes in the Golden Triangle and along Queen Elizabeth Driveway.
As you explore the Centretown map, you will discover some lesser-known parts of Ottawa's history including the site of the Ottawa Hockey Club's first Stanley Cup victory, a local park's link to the Cold War and the story of an early Irish settlement along the banks of the Rideau Canal.
Do you have a favourite memory, spot or shop in Centretown? Share your story with us.