Sparks Street Mall
Written by Bytown Museum
Sparks Street, named for landowner Nicholas Sparks, was laid out in 1848. Over 20 years earlier, in 1821, Sparks purchased 200 acres of land on the south side of the Ottawa River (most of today's downtown Ottawa), sight unseen, for £95. He is reputed to have wept when he finally saw the isolated, rocky land dotted with swamps. However, when construction of the Rideau Canal began, the value of Sparks' land increased dramatically (though some of the choicer parts were expropriated by the British).
In the late 1800s, Sparks Street would become the main commercial street in Ottawa. And in 1893, Sparks Street welcomed its first electric streetcar – a familiar sight to many right up until the 1950s, when the streetcars ceased to run in Ottawa.
In 1966, a portion of Sparks Street was opened as a pedestrian mall; the future of the mall remains a hot-button issue in Ottawa.