New Edinburgh Introduction

Written by Bytown Museum on 03/Dec/2009

A photograph of New Edinburgh, 1845
A video of New Edinburgh resident Tom

New Edinburgh was founded by Scotsman and stonemason Thomas MacKay, who arrived in Canada in 1817 to help build the Lachine Canal in Montréal. In 1826, he became one of the five main contractors on the Rideau Canal. He built the Ottawa Locks and the Commissariat Building (now the Bytown Museum).

MacKay did well by the Canal's construction and, in 1829, after recognizing the potential power of the Rideau Falls, he began purchasing land in the area. He proceeded to build mills, factories and stores. One of MacKay's larger mills was a five-storey flour mill which produced in excess of 350 barrels of flour per day.

MacKay also laid out the community of New Edinburgh near the falls and encouraged his many workers to settle there. Typical occupations for the workers included mill hand, cooper, blacksmith and weaver. Merchants and farmers also settled in the area.
In 1833, the community of New Edinburgh was formally recognized. Its main streets were named for members of MacKay's family, including himself, his wife (Ann Crichton), and their four sons (John, Charles, Thomas and Alexander).

In 1838, MacKay built Rideau Hall as his family home. When Ottawa was chosen as capital of Canada in 1857, the government leased Rideau Hall from MacKay's widow (MacKay had died in 1855). The government purchased the residence outright a few years later. Rideau Hall's vice-regal status attracted prominent families to the area and, in the late 1800s, substantial brick houses for the gentry were built along MacKay Street.

In 1887, New Edinburgh was annexed by the City of Ottawa and became known as New Edinburgh Ward. In the first half of the 20th century, New Edinburgh's industrial sector declined and it became largely a residential community. From the end of World War II onward, it stabilized into the community we know today – home to the prime minister, governor general, international diplomats and, of course, many local residents.

As you explore the New Edinburgh map, you will discover many sites and buildings with ties to community founder Thomas MacKay and his family, including Rideau Falls, Earnscliffe and the Bytown Prescott Railway, along with the site of Ottawa's first shintie game.

Do you have a favourite memory, spot or shop in New Edinburgh or the surrounding area? Share your story with us.

post a comment Story Comments

I would like more info on the first school built in this community.

Thank you.


Wilhelmina Lacelle, Sunday, November 23, 2014

In the 1960s, I wrote a little booklet entitled "The Evolution of a School". It was a short history of schools in New Edinburgh. It involved quite a bit of research at the time. It had the "Fraser School House" on the cover. Does anyone still have a copy of this? I dont see reference to it anywhere.

Peter Hessel
Am Hang 21
27753 Delmenhorst

Peter Hessel, Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I think its quite interesting that the Canal is the oldest stone structure ever made in Ottawa.

Its a fascinating story really if you haven't done the scavenger hunt, then you need to try it

Yours truly Sam French

sam french , Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I grew up at 25 Crichton in the early sixties...There was a groceries store at Crichton and Union it was called McCreays and that was my first job delivering groceries by bike..Also swimming at the Minto Bridges and going to the Burg dance on Stanley.....

Barry Curran, Saturday, June 01, 2013

Hi, my Grandfather was Norman Bedard. He had a butcher shop on Crichton Street. When he retired there was a write up in the paper that read "PM's butcher hangs up cleaver"

His father built 175 Stanley and the house next door. My mother (Norma) who is turning 80 shortly grew up on Stanley Ave. I would appreciate anyone who could share pics or sketches from New Edinburgh. Thanks

Chuck Balik, Friday, March 16, 2012

Cricton School late 40s and early 50s which later was turned into garage (Crichton Garage)

Spelling error above from "Story Comments".

N. Nash, Monday, July 18, 2011

Raised in New Edinburgh at 139 Crichton 1946-65 and
107 Stanley 1965-70. My father and mother ran a Restaurant across from Cricton School late 40s and early 50s which later was turned into garage (Crichton Garage). They also ran a small hot dog and drinks pick up from the New Edinburgh Play Ground and Flat Rock pool on Stanley early 50s.

Gilles Desjardins, Wednesday, February 17, 2010

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Bytown Museum


New Edinburgh was founded by Scotsman and stonemason Thomas MacKay, who arrived in Canada in 1817 and helped build the Lachine Canal in Montreal. In 1826, he became one of the ... read more