Sandy Hill Introduction
Written by Bytown Museum
When development began in earnest in Sandy Hill in the 1860s, the area was a desolate place. For 30 years the trees in the area had been logged to build houses and warm the growing communities of Lowertown, Uppertown and New Edinburgh.
The selection of Ottawa as capital of Canada in 1857 resulted in an influx of close to 2,000 people, including 350 civil servants who were transferred from Québec City in 1866, as the Parliament Buildings neared completion. Those wealthy residents, including statesmen, professionals, businessmen and public servants, were able to build the beautiful homes for which Sandy Hill has become known.
While most Ottawa communities were divided by ethnicity, religion and language, Sandy Hill was home to a diverse population, united only by wealth. With the arrival of many new and wealthy residents, the estates of majority landowners Louis Besserer and Lieutenant-Colonel John By were laid out. The lots to the north of Laurier Avenue were made wider than those to the south, creating very few cross-streets along Laurier Avenue between King Edward Avenue and Charlotte Street.
The character of Sandy Hill changed in the 20th century as the community saw the development of apartment buildings and other multi-unit housing. Many rambling mansions became home to embassies or were transformed into multiple dwellings; however, the work of community association Action Sandy Hill and the designation of five heritage districts have ensured that Sandy Hill will retain its historic character.
Today, some would say that Sandy Hill is a community of extremes. On one side you’ll find elegant embassies and stately mansions; on the other you’ll see student housing and rooming houses. And even though it is one of Ottawa's oldest communities, Sandy Hill includes some of the youngest and most transient residents in the city – namely, thousands of students from the University of Ottawa.
As you explore the Sandy Hill map, you will discover some of Ottawa's most interesting stories, such as the location of Ottawa's last public hanging, the beautiful poetry of one of the Confederation Poets, and the founding of Sandy Hill's favourite deli.
And don't forget to take a look at the street names the next time you walk through Sandy Hill. You will see our surrounding townships honoured through street names like Osgoode, Goulbourn, Russell and Blackburn.
Do you have a favourite memory, spot or shop in Sandy Hill? Share your story with us.