SAVING CIVIC: Good news for a beloved old sign.

All too often I use this blog to lament over the loss of Ottawa’s classic old signs, a trend that seems to have now finally been swayed in the other direction. I recently received some good news regarding the landmark Civic Pharmacy sign at the corner of Holland and Carling. It is has been saved and restored.

Many concerned residents emailed me about the sign when they witnessed its anchor building swathed in tarpaulins, unsure of what was happening to the building, and our beloved sign.

I am happy to report that through the efforts of the community, the sign is safe and has a positive new outlook. The thoughtful owners of the building have decided to keep and resurrect the iconic sign, returning it to its former splendour.

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The newly restored Civic Pharmacy sign at the corner of Carling and Holland. (photo by Tina Klein Walsh) 

 

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The old sign. Note how the lettering is now white instead of black. 

The newly renovated landmark sign has new letter boxes, and have only altered the letters to be white instead of black, as the originals were. Also, in place of “PHARMACY” the new tenants have their business on the sign, a Credit Union. Personally, I am thrilled they kept the sign instead of throwing it out as most developers do with older signage. Despite the modifications from the original, the sign has a new lease on life and looks refreshed for a whole new generation of Ottawa residents to enjoy.

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BACKSTORY

The Civic Pharmacy Building officially opened on September 17 1960, and along with it, the illuminated and animated “CIVIC PHARMACY” sign attached to its corner. The sign is inspired by “Googie” style of architecture, a modern, futurist architecture that evolved through the Atomic Age of the 1950s and 1960s. A culture absorbed with jets and the space-age inspired this style with Ottawa’s example brightly shining at the corner of Holland and Carling for 58 years.

Since the word “CIVIC” is a palindrome (a word which reads the same backward as forward) it was made into a rotating sign, with each letter rotating, and being able to be read from any viewing position. The rotating letters of the sign required much maintenance, and it stopped rotating at some point.

I was lucky enough to meet and chat with the original owner/pharmacist of the building, Wally Cherun, who told me about the history of the much cherished sign. It was the first sign of its kind in Canada, and was fully illuminated at night. Wally said a sign guy would oil the mechanics of the rotating letters regularly. It eventually got too expensive to maintain, the letters stopped rotating, and the lights burned out. The building went up for sale over a year ago, and changed hands, but luckily to someone who appreciates it. (STORY HERE)

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The Civic Pharmacy Building currently wrapped in tarpaulins. (Photo: author)

PRESENT DAY

Andy Billingsley, Chair of the Civic Hospital Neighbourhood Association History and Heritage emailed me about a month ago to inform me that he went over to check on why the Civic building was wrapped in tarpaulins and relayed that the new owner of the building decided to keep the cherished sign in place. Gregg Kricorissian, another concerned resident who also appreciated the sign, established a relationship with Steve LeBrun, President of Ray Neon Signs. Steve is the son of the original sign’s designer/builder. According to Gregg, Steve has lent his full support to save the sign, and generously offered to remove and and store the sign if that became necessary. Ray Neon has provided a quote for restoration, and completed the work on the new sign last week.

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HAPPY ENDING

So it seems that when some like minded people get together with a shared love of neighbourhood nostalgia, good things can happen. “It’s wonderful how our initiative to save the CiViC sign is playing out, and I’m pleased to have played a part in it.” says Kricorissian, who thinks the sign is a vital piece of neighbourhood history. “Not only is the sign a symbol of our neighborhood, but it’s also a great testament of how a small Ottawa business started in post-WWII Ottawa, and has grown to a highly successful member of its chosen industry.”

My sincere thanks to all those involved in helping to preserve this important landmark of Ottawa’s street scene. I know myself and probably most of Ottawa eagerly await the sign’s return to glory on the street it’s been quietly watching over for almost six decades.

Andrew King, Updated November 2019

 

 

 

 

 

An Ancient Humpback Whale Found South Of Ottawa

When Whales Swam Above

When stuck in Ottawa traffic, your mind can drift as you stare with glazed eyes at the hundreds of cars slowly moving ahead of you. The snail beside you in the ditch is making better progress. On one such occasion during rush hour, I began to imagine a time when the entire Nation’s Capital was under a vast ocean with the surface we live on being the seabed of an ancient body of water called “The Champlain Sea”. This is not a daydream, but reality…about 12,000 years ago melting glaciers created a murky sea that covered the region in about 500 feet of saltwater, from Ottawa all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.

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The extent of the Champlain Sea that covered the Ottawa area 12,000 years ago. (Image: Wikipedia)

 

Imagining this ancient sea that once existed above our heads, I also pictured the many sea creatures that would have swam above us so long ago, and how their remains must be buried in the soil all around us. A quick bit of research revealed that such a find did occur, a creature of the ancient sea was in fact discovered in 1874 south of Ottawa, and it was none other than a giant humpback whale.

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A report on The Peter Redpath Museum published by Princeton University in 1883 outlines the discovery of a humpaback whale north of Smiths Falls in 1874 while building the Canadian Pacific Railway line, just a stone’s throw from the current VIA rail tracks.

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The report explains that bones were found in a gravel pit, three miles north of Smith’s Falls, at a depth of 30 feet from the surface. Two vertebrae and a fragment of another with a portion of a rib, and other fragments were found in good preservation.

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The red dot marks the location of where an ancient humpback whale was found in 1874. (GoogleMaps)

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The gravel pit where the humpback Whale was found, just off Highway 15 (GoogleStreetview)

The Humpback whale bones were then donated to the Peter Redpath Museum in Montreal, which still houses them today. In addition to the Humpback whale, SEVEN other whales have been unearthed in the Ottawa Region. From Arnprior to Montreal scores of whales, seals and porpoises have been found accidentally, cocooned in sand for over 10,000 years.

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In 1948 at a sandpit near the Uplands Airport, two beluga whales were recovered. It seems the sandy bottom of the Champlain sea is where a number of whales were laid to rest 12,000 years ago, with many more likely still waiting to be found.

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Beluga whale skeleton in the Redpath Museum, unearthed in the Eastern Ontario region. 

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Map showing where various whale and other sea creatures were discovered in the region of the Champlain Seabed. (fossilslanark.blogspot.com)

You can still see the bottom of the ancient ocean in the sand hills near the airport where creatures large and small would have swam above for thousands of years as the glacial waters receded to their present levels. This ocean 500 feet deep was full of whales, seals, and other creatures. Quite astonishing to imagine, but if you are stuck in traffic you can let your mind wander and close your eyes, picturing humpback whales swimming above the current sea of traffic. Existing in a time when the highways of Ottawa were nothing more than a weed covered ocean floor, with its salt content being the only thing similar to our current dreary winter roads…

Andrew King, November 2019

SOURCES

http://fossilslanark.blogspot.com/2015/04/hunting-for-whales-in-eastern-ontario_24.html

Google E-Books

Wikipedia

GoogleMaps

GoogleStreetview

“Guardian”: The 30th Anniversary Of A Bizarre UFO Incident near Carp, Ontario

On the night November 4th, exactly thirty years ago, in that glorious year of 1989, one of the most bizarre and unexplained stories in UFO circles occurred, known as the “Guardian” case. Centred around the supposed crash of an extraterrestrial craft in a swamp west of Ottawa near Manion Corners, today marks the 30th anniversary of the mysterious incident. Since it is in the realm of the OR file cases, I thought it would be interesting to recount the story here once again, in case anyone knows more about it since it occurred that November night in 1989…

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The area that matches the Unsolved Mysteries clip where the crashed UFO was supposedly recovered west of Ottawa. (Google Maps)

“GUARDIAN”

The fantastical story of a UFO crashing into a swamp west of Ottawa begins when a gentleman by the name of Tom Theofanous of The Canadian UFO Research Network (CUFORN), received a package from someone calling themselves “Guardian”. With no return address on the package, it was curiously opened and within was a written claim that an alien craft was recovered from a swamp in West Carleton involving both United States and Canadian security teams.

Graham Lightfoot, a UFO researcher living in Ottawa at the time was dispatched to verify these explosive claims, and he interviewed some residents in the area mentioned by Guardian about anything unusual that may have occurred on the night of November 4th, 1989 to substantiate his claims.

Diane Labanek, a resident of the area, said that on the night of November 4th 1989, she witnessed an intense, bright light pass overhead, heading towards a swamp at the far end of the field south of her home. She said she also saw several helicopters earlier that evening using bright lights to scan the area.

Another resident said their cattle was dispersed by something and it took a while to recover them all again the next day.

Another couple in the area told Graham about a very bright light that shone through their south-facing bathroom window. “It reached right down our hallway!”. The same wife also recalled hearing the sound of helicopters that evening.

Without verifiable proof of a crashed UFO and no photographic evidence, the case was deemed a hoax and that GUARDIAN was a crackpot.

However, if we read the note that GUARDIAN sent in 1989 once again, perhaps we can learn more from it 30 years later using more modern research methods.

Below is an edited transcript of the original letter sent by Guardian and his claim, and some further investigation into what could be a real incident:

From Guardian, 1989

“Canadian and American Security Agencies are engaged in a conspiracy of silence, to withhold from the world the alien vessel seized in the swamps of Corkery Road, Carp, in 1989.

UFO sightings in the Ontario region had intensified in the 1980’s, specifically, around nuclear power generating stations. On Nov. 4, 1989 at 20:00 hrs Canadian Defense Dept. radars picked up a globe shaped object traveling at phenomenal speed over Carp, Ontario. The UFO abruptly stopped, and dropped like a stone.

Canadian and American Security Agencies were immediately notified of the landing. Monitoring satellites traced the movements of the aliens to a triangular area. (see aerial map) off Almonte and Corkery Roads.

The ship had landed in deep swamp near Corkery Road. Two AH-64 Apaches and a UH-60 Blackhawk headed for the area the following night. The helicopters carried full weapon loads. They were part of a covert American unit that specialized in the recovery of alien craft.

Flying low over Ontario pine trees the Apache attack choppers soon spotted a glowing, blue, 20 meter in diameter sphere. As targeting lasers locked-on, both gun-ships unleashed their full weapon loads of 8 missiles each. All 16 were exploded in proximity bursts 10 meters downwind from the ship.

The missiles were carrying VEXXON, a deadly neuro-active gas which kills on contact. Exposed to air the gas breaks down quickly into inert components. Immediately after having completed their mission the gun-ships turned around, and headed back across the border.

Now the Blackhawk landed, as men exploded from its open doors. In seconds the six man strike team had entered the UFO through a 7 meter hatchless, oval portal. No resistance was encountered. At the controls, 3 dead crewman were found.

With the ship captured, the US Air force, Pentagon, and Office of Naval Intelligence were notified. Through the night a special team of technicians had shut-down and disassembled the sphere. Early the next morning Nov. 6, 1989 construction equipment and trucks were brought into the swamp. The UFO parts were transported to a secret facility in Kanata, Ontario.

As a cover story the locals were informed that a road was being built through the swamp. No smokescreen was needed for the military activity as Canadian forces regularly train in the Carp region. Officially nothing unusual was reported in the area. Although someone anonymously turned in a 35mm roll of film. It was received by the National Research Council of Canada, in Ottawa. The film contained several clear shots of an entity holding a light. (see photo) At this time the photographer is still unidentified.

The humanoids were packed in ice and sent to an isolation chamber at the Univ. of Ottawa. CIA physiologists performed the autopsies.

The reptilian, fetus-headed beings, were listed as CLASS 1 NTE’s. (Non Terrestrial Entities) Like others recovered in previous operations, they were muscular, grey-white skinned, humanoids.

The ship was partially reassembled at the underground facility in Kanata. Unlike previous recoveries this one is pure military. Built as a “Starfighter” it is heavily armed and armored. In design no rivets, bolts, or welds were used in fastening, yet when reconstructed there are no seams. The UFO itself is made up of a matrixed dielectric magnesium alloy. It is driven by pulsed electromagnetic fields generated by a cold fusion reactor. All offensive capabilities utilize independently targeting electronic beam weapons. In the cargo hold were found ordnance racks containing fifty Soviet nuclear warheads. Their purpose was revealed by advanced tactical/combat computers located in the flight deck.

The most important alien-tech find were the 2 millimeter, spheroid, brain implants. Surgically inserted through the nasal orifice the individual can be fully monitored and controlled. The CIA and Canadian Govt have actively supported mind-slave experiments for years. Currently the Univ. of Ottawa is involved in ELF wave mind control programs. A continuation of the CIA psychological warfare project known as MKULTRA, started at the Allen Memorial Institute in Montreal.

Using ELF signals transmitted at the same wavelength the human brain uses, the researchers could subliminally control the test subject. The alien implants utilize the same principles except that the whole unit is sub miniaturized and contained in the brain. Fortunately the implants can be detected by magnetic resolution scanning technology. All individuals implanted by the aliens are classified as ZOMBIES.

The ZOMBIES have been programmed to help overthrow Mankind in the near future.”

Now, this seems completely ridiculous and an obvious a piece of fiction. But, let’s see if anything within Guardian’s letter could actually be true…

CLAIM 1

“Canadian and American Security Agencies were immediately notified of the landing. Monitoring satellites traced the movements of the aliens to a triangular area. (see aerial map) off Almonte and Corkery Roads.”

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These satellite images of the area clearly show both an unusual triangular shaped area of land and the swamps below it where the craft was apparently recovered. (GeoOttawa)

TRUE: Zooming in to the property area mentioned on a current Google satellite map where Guardian claimed the craft crashed, there is indeed a triangular area of land that is adjacent to a swamp. This was area was later verified by analyzing an episode of “Unsolved Mysteries” and the property was identified.

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Clearly a triangular area as Guardian mentioned does exist with some equipment scattered around. (Google Maps)

CLAIM 2

“Two AH-64 Apaches and a UH-60 Blackhawk headed for the area the following night. The helicopters carried full weapon loads. They were part of a covert American unit that specialized in the recovery of alien craft.”

TRUE: Unrelated witnesses in the area said they saw and heard helicopters and bright lights that evening.

CLAIM 3

“The UFO parts were transported to a secret facility in Kanata, Ontario.”

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The DRDC facility near Kanata. (Google Streetview)

COULD BE TRUE: In Kanata at Shirley’s Bay there is a government research facility where classified Defence Department projects are worked on. It is called DRDC:
Defence Research & Development Canada where some sites claim there is ongoing alien craft reverse-engineering projects. *This is not confirmed and highly speculative!*

CLAIM 4

“The CIA and Canadian Govt have actively supported mind-slave experiments for years. Currently the Univ. of Ottawa is involved in ELF wave mind control programs. A continuation of the CIA psychological warfare project known as MKULTRA, started at the Allen Memorial Institute in Montreal.”

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The Allen Institute in Montreal where CIA funded mind control experiments occurred under the MkUltra program. 

PARTIALLY TRUE: This is actually true that the MkUltra program operated Mind Control experiments from the Allen Institute in Montreal during the 1960s. Extremely low frequency, or ELF, has been the subject of many conspiracies that the mind can be controlled with these signals.

So, HOAX or real?

Now those claims mentioned above can be somewhat verified by cross referencing current data, but in my opinion it is not enough to verify the claim that an actual craft was recovered November 4th, 1989. Perhaps Guardian’s story is true, perhaps it is not. It was 1989 and we did not have the proper abilities and resources that we have now to validate the story.

It would be two years later that Guardian submitted a SECOND claim and package of yet another UFO landing AT THE EXACT SAME SITE west of Ottawa, and that story was actually featured in the 1990s television series “Unsolved Mysteries” hosted by Robert Stack.

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A still from ‘Unsolved Mysteries” showing the property where the UFO incident occurred. 

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The area that matches the Unsolved Mysteries clip where the crashed UFO was supposedly recovered west of Ottawa. (Google Maps)

To this day the video footage recording the craft within that case has yet to debunked or logically explained, so maybe Guardian’s first story in 1989 was indeed true and he was an insider of a certain top secret project? We may never know, unless of course one of you readers happened to work in that secret underground Kanata base, or witnessed an alien autopsy at the University of Ottawa 30 years ago…

Andrew King 

November 2019

SOURCES:

https://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/ciencia/ciencia_flyingobjects34.htm

http://wikimapia.org/35409/Shirley-s-Bay-Research-Centre

GOOGLE MAPS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remains Of A Hudson’s Bay Trading Post on the Ottawa River

Situated approximately 57km northwest of Ottawa there is a nondescript piece of property near Chats Falls on the Ottawa River. It is part of the oldest known European settlement in the Ottawa Valley and includes the ruins of a centuries old Hudson’s Bay Trading Post.

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Lying quietly on the shores of the Ottawa River near Quyon, QC are remains of the Ottawa Valley’s oldest settlement and a Hudson’s Bay Trading Post.

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Concealed under the cover of bushes and underbrush, the original stone foundation of a structure is visible. This is most likely the remains of Mondions original home he built in 1786, the oldest known settlement in the Ottawa Valley, and later a busy trading post.

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More stone ruins.

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Before Philomen Wright arrived in 1800 from Massachusetts to settle the National Capital Region in Hull, there was another visitor that settled in the wilds of the Ottawa River Valley. An area traversed by nomadic tribes of the First Nations for thousands of years to transport goods and copper from Lake Superior east along the Ottawa River, or “Great River” as it was known then, this parcel of land was an important strategic and cultural piece of property.  Samuel Champlain would have passed by this property in the early 1600’s but it wouldn’t be until 1786 that Joseph Mondion would decide to build a permanent residence here. Fourteen years prior to Philomen Wright setting up shop in Hull, Mondion arrived in 1786 on what is now called Mondion Point, or “Indian Point”.

A description of the trading post at Mondion Point from an 1832 publication entitled "British Dominions in North America" by Joseph Bouchette

A description of the trading post at Mondion Point from an 1832 publication entitled “British Dominions in North America” by Joseph Bouchette. Note “spirits” for sale. SOURCE: Google

Known to be a major transit route for both First Nations tribes and French voyageurs and “coureur des bois”, Mondion built what is now known to be the first permanent structure in the Ottawa Valley when he built his home there in 1786. A wise entrepreneur, Mondion raised cattle and hogs and sold meat to the hungry fur traders passing by and portaging Chats Falls in the late 18th century. After the British took control of the previously French occupied lands of New France in 1763, Mondion operated his little trading empire on the Ottawa River until he was apparently shut down for selling illegal whisky to those en route along the river. Packing up shop in 1800, he sold his piece of property to a trading company from Montreal: Forsyth, Richardson and Company. In 1804 the Northwest Trading Company took over the property, a valuable piece of land known to be a strategic fur trading point along the Ottawa River.

An 1804 survey map outlines where the structures of the trading post and previous Mondion buildings were located.

An 1804 survey map outlines where the structures of the trading post and previous Mondion buildings were located. (Source-http://www.histoireforestiereoutaouais.ca/en/b2/)

The North West Company of Montreal and Hudson’s Bay Company were forcibly merged in 1821 by order of the British government in an effort to end the often-violent competition between the two trading companies and the piece of land became an official Hudson’s Bay trading post. This once remote outpost consisted of log cabin structures and wooden outbuildings that would contain the inventory needed to trade with natives, such as guns, blankets, iron tools, and clothing.

A typical Hudson's Bay Trading Post in the 1800's.

A typical Hudson’s Bay Trading Post in the 1800’s.

In 1837 the trading post was abandoned since most of the native population had been displaced and the fur trade was coming to an end with lumber being the new commodity along the Ottawa River. The trading post log cabins fell into ruin and the land was transformed into farmland until it became cottage country, of which it remains today.

Overlaying the 1804 Northwest Trading Company map over a current map we can see where any ruins may be located.

Overlaying the 1804 Northwest Trading Company map over a current map we can see where any ruins may be located. SOURCE: Bing Maps

In an effort to locate this once prosperous 200 year old Hudson’s Bay Trading Post I referred to an 1805 map by the Northwest Trading Company that outlined where the original structures would have been. Transposing that map on a current aerial view map indicated where any ruins may lie today.

Another map from 1845 indicates where Mondion's original 1786 house would have been.

Another map from 1845 indicates where Mondion’s original 1786 house would have been. Some cottages are built on a burial ground. (Source: The Upper Ottawa Valley by Clyde Kennedy)

Of course the original plot of land settled by Mondion and used by the Hudson’s Bay Company has been subdivided into many lots since they departed, but a significant parcel of waterfront land that was once owned by Mondion and the Hudson’s Bay Company is still undeveloped. Nearby, off the main road it was also discovered that some overgrown stone foundations remain, likely those of the original 1786 Mondion house and the 1800’s trading post. The crumbling stones of this once bustling fur trading dynasty now sit quietly forgotten in the bushes.

Concealed under the cover of bushes and underbrush, the original stone foundation of a structure is visible. This is most likely the remains of Mondions original home he built in 1786, the oldest known settlement in the Ottawa Valley.

Concealed under the cover of bushes and underbrush, the original stone foundation of a structure is visible. This could be the remains of Mondion’s original home built in 1786, the oldest known pioneer settlement in the Ottawa Valley.

The stone ruins lie almost exactly where the old maps indicated it would be.

The stone ruins lie almost exactly where the old maps indicated it would be.

The concealed stone ruins measure approximately 10ft by 20ft.

The stone ruins measure approximately 10ft by 20ft.

 

Lying quietly on the shore of the Ottawa River the remains of the Valley's oldest home and a Hudson's Bay Trading Post lie forgotten.

It seems a shame that the area of Ottawa Valley’s oldest pioneer settlement and a Hudson’s Bay Trading Post lie forgotten on the shores of the mighty Ottawa River.

I find it seriously disheartening that such an important piece of Ottawa Valley history, if not Canadian history remains forgotten. This is certainly an important part of our national history that I think should be considered for recognition by the federal or provincial government. Who knows what important historical artifacts lie beneath the surface of this land. With the Hudson’s Bay Company recently sold to an American private equity firm, these ruins of the old HBC trading post, whoever they belong to, should be preserved and recognized for their cultural and historical value to this country.

Andrew King, October 2019

SOURCES:

firstpeoplesofcanada.com

heritagepontiac.ca

histoireforestiereoutaouais.ca

Wikipedia: Hudson’s Bay Company

Google Maps

Bing Maps

The Upper Ottawa Valley by Clyde Kennedy, 1970.

 

 

 

PROMO ART PRINT WITH BOOK ORDER

After six years and one hundred articles, Ottawa Rewind will now be available October 15th as a book! Ottawa Press and Publishing now makes it possible to take home the mysteries and adventures uncovering this area’s hidden secrets.

Ottawa Rewind: A Book of Curios and Mysteries will arrive in Chapters/Indigo/other bookstores in early October, but you can pre-order your copy today by visiting Ottawa Press and Publishing at https://www.ottawapressandpublishing.com/

 

Click the LINK HERE TO OTTAWA PRESS AND PUBLISHING to reserve your copy AND as a special BONUS, receive a complimentary signed, but limited print featuring one of the sketches in the book. NEW PRINT ADDED OF OTTAWA”S FIRST RAILROAD LOCOMOTIVE.

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So click now and join the adventure ahead of time, while also receiving a bonus postcard print.

The book will then appear on store shelves October 15th with book launch events soon to be announced!

 

PRE-ORDER THE BOOK AND GET A SIGNED ART PRINT

After six years and one hundred articles, Ottawa Rewind will now be available this Fall in a handsome page-turner book format! Through Ottawa Press and Publishing you can now take home the mysteries and adventures uncovering some the area’s hidden secrets.

Ottawa Rewind: A Book of Curios and Mysteries will arrive in Chapters/Indigo/other bookstores in early October, but you can pre-order your copy today by visiting Ottawa Press and Publishing at https://www.ottawapressandpublishing.com/

 

Click the LINK HERE TO OTTAWA PRESS AND PUBLISHING to reserve your copy AND as a special BONUS, receive a complimentary signed, but limited print featuring one of the sketches in the book. So click now and join the adventure ahead of time and get your bonus print.

The book will then appear on store shelves sometime in October with book launch events soon to be announced!

THE COVERT OLD COKE MACHINE THAT STILL DISPENSES GLASS BOTTLES BENEATH PARLIAMENT HILL

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During the Swinging Sixties Canada had three Prime Ministers: Diefenbaker until 1963, Pearson 1963-68 and Trudeau starting in 1968. One of them is responsible for the installation of a secret Coke machine that still dispenses Coke in those old fashioned individual glass bottles.

According to my informant, the machine still exists, caught in a weird state of suspended animation, perhaps tied to a contract in perpetuity for it to be filled with those glass bottles then, today and into the future.

THE STORY

Word on the street is that in the 1960s a certain wife of the Prime Minister in office at the time would often demand ice cold, freshly-bottled Coca Cola. In response, Hill staff orchestrated to have the freshest Coke available underneath Centre Block, dispensed by a modern (at the time) vending machine. The Prime Ministers and their wives have come and gone, but the Coke machine still remains hidden in the subternnean tunnels beneath Parliament Hill. It is unclear if a contract with Coke was set up in perpetuity so the machine will always remain filled, so I investigated.

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A recent photo given to me of the covert Coke machine hidden beneath Parliament Hill. Note the pile of empty glass bottles sitting beside the machine.  (photo: “J”)

During the 1980s the machine was updated from the 1960s machine, but instead of dispensing easier to handle aluminum cans of Coke, it was replaced by an 80s machine that was designed to maintain the tradition of spewing forth ice cold glass bottles of Coke as it originally did in the 1960s.

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A 1960s glass bottle dispensing Coke machine, likely similar to the one that first was installed below Centre Block. (Photo: Etsy)

By closely examining the photograph it reveals the name of  “Navan Vending” as the company that maintains the machine. I contacted the owner of the company to see if I could extract any further intel about this curiosity hidden beneath our country’s seat of power. Navan Vending is currently listed for sale, so I’m not sure if the business will dissolve and the contract for the hidden Coke machine along with, or if the contract has to be fulfilled by a new company. No reply has been received as of this posting, but if I do hear anything, I will update this story accordingly.

The Concealed Coke Machine’s fate may also be further sealed because Centre Block is now closed for major renovations. Shutting down for restoration work for a period of TEN YEARS, the Coke machine may thus be mothballed, or worse, permanently removed. Again, I have asked Navan Vending for comment and await their response to get answers about this cool facet of obscure history hidden below the Nation’s Capital.

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Until that time, we now know a covert Coke machine has been dispensing ice cold bottles of refreshing cola for over 50years in the subterranean halls beneath Parliament Hill, quenching the thirst of Prime Ministers and staff for half a century.  I’m surprised our current Prime Minister did not have it replaced with a healthier Organic Cold Pressed Juice Machine, but maybe through some strange perpetuity contract with Coca Cola or just good old fashioned nostalgic reasons, the wood grained relic remains.

It is a reminder that even in today’s world of fake news and political lies, those that operate in parliament still sometimes need the Real Thing, and Coke is it!

Andrew King, September, 2019

SOURCES

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/the-secrets-of-the-parliament-hills-centre-block/article37800112/

The ‘deputy streaker’ and more: Stories of sex, violence and stonework from parliamentary history

“J”

COMING SOON: OTTAWA REWIND BOOK

After six years and one hundred articles, Ottawa Rewind will now be available this Fall in a handsome page-turner book format! Through Ottawa Press and Publishing you can now take home the mysteries and adventures uncovering some the area’s hidden secrets.

Ottawa Rewind: A Book of Curios and Mysteries will arrive in Chapters/Indigo/other bookstores in early October, but you can pre-order your copy today by visiting Ottawa Press and Publishing at https://www.ottawapressandpublishing.com/

 

Click the LINK HERE TO OTTAWA PRESS AND PUBLISHING to reserve your own copy today and join the adventure ahead of time. It will appear on store shelves sometime in October with book launch events across the region.

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MYSTERY OF THE CARVED CROSS

On a recent camping trip north of Kingston, Ontario, a lunch-time picnic at an unusual rocky structure revealed an intriguing inscription. While looking for a spot to set down our picnic blanket at a peaceful waterfall, an inscribed cross in granite was discovered.
Containing deep grooves and lichen growth, the cross symbol appeared to be quite weathered and did not seem like a recent addition to the stone. Who would inscribe such a symbol in this hidden place? Was this a surveying mark for the nearby 19th century Rideau Canal? A bored religious hiker from decades ago? The mark of a lost Samuel deChamplain in 1615, or is it the mark of an earlier explorer?
This is the mystery of the carved cross.

 

DISCOVERY
The Rideau Canal is a 200km waterway built between 1826 and 1832 that snakes through Eastern Ontario between Kingston and Ottawa. It is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America, and we often enjoy traveling through its many locks and camping at the lock stations. This summer was no exception, and on a recent two-day campout on Whitefish Lake, we discovered this unusual inscribed cross.
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“The Rideau Route” was a waterway route used by natives who wanted to travel from Lake Ontario to the Ottawa River. In 1783 a survey expedition initiated by the British government was led by a native guide along this ancient highway. From the Ottawa River they travelled south along the Rideau River to its source in the Rideau Lakes, then down through the lower Rideau lakes into the Gananoque River. From there it leads down to the St. Lawrence River and further to the Atlantic. Traveled for centuries before any Europeans arrived, the route was chosen by Lieutenant Colonel John By of the Royal Engineers who was given the arduous task of building a navigable waterway, with a minimum depth of 5 feet, from the Ottawa River to Kingston where the eastern end of Lake Ontario enters the St. Lawrence River.
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Original waterway as surveyed in 1783 from the St. Lawrence north to present day Ottawa. Image: Rideau-Info.com, “Communication with the St. Lawrence & Ottawa Rivers, by the Rivers Petite Nation and Rideau” copied from sketches by Lt. Gershom French 1783, by William Chewitt, August 26, 1794, Archives of Ontario, AO1336 (left panel).

The proximity of the carved cross to the Rideau Canal creates a suspicion that it was possibly inscribed by one of the thousands of labourers or tradesmen that were hired by independent contractors, with the rock work completed by French Canadians and Scottish stone masons. The unskilled labour was generally made up of Irish immigrants and French Canadians. Could one of them made the cross? It seems unlikely as the cross was carved on a very unusual rock feature that would have been hidden away from the labour camps.
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Situated on a granite rock facing an opening where a stream of descending water enters, the carved cross is about 15 feet up from ground level and would require a person with some level of skill to ascend to.
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Detail of the inscribed cross showing weathering and lichen.

Facing the rising sun in the east, the cross is carved with deep grooves with exact precision to replicate the exact proportions of the Latin Christian cross.

 

Someone who knew those dimensions and proportions carved that cross. Approximately 10 inches in height, the cross is intentionally carved to be visible when at the cavern opening where the water enters into the cave below.
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The carved cross is on a stone that faces the rising sun in the east.

POSSIBLE SUSPECTS
So who carved the cross? With dating methods to try and date the inscription not being available, we must look back at possible creators through history. The indigenous people are a possibility, but would they replicate a Christian Cross in exact proportions? The only other rock inscriptions by indigenous people are at the Peterborough Petroglyphs where the soft stone was carved using gneiss hammers to incise human figures, animals, and figures by the Algonkian or Iroquian speaking people between 900 and 1100 AD.
Was there a visitation to the area by pre-contact Christians who used the ancient waterway of the native population at the time? Legends of Irish monks like Saint Brendan that travelled to North America in 520AD, as well as Prince Madoc from Wales who apparently made it to North America in 1170AD. Other possible visitors are medieval Norse Christians who we know visited North America in 1000AD and in the Arctic region in 1200-1300.
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The robed carving dated to the 13th century with an etched cross found on Baffin Island (photo: historymuseum.ca)

In fact there is a wooden figure that was uncovered along with sword fragments, chain mail and tools during a 1970s archeological dig on both Baffin and Ellesmere Islands that shows a carved Christian cross on its chest. There is always the theory that Templar Knights ventured to North America and followed routes inland to create a new establishment. Did they follow the routes of the native people from the St. Lawrence up the waterway and leave their mark at this unusual location? Without being able to date the inscription it is hard to say who made the symbol of the cross.
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Size relation of a watch with the carved cross.

Other possibilities include a surveying mark left by the British Ordnance survey team while surveying the Rideau Canal. But further research and a note from the British Ordnance says that they did not, and never would have made that mark.
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British Ordnance survey benchmark carved into rock. Images: Wikipedia

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Was it just some random religious person taking the time to carve out an exact Christian cross for fun? It seems unlikely, as this was precisely carved using a tool of some precision.

Another contender is the famous explorer Samuel DeChamplain who was lost in the woods for a week in the fall of 1615 after his failed mission to destroy the Iroquois in what is now Syracuse. His exploits and the ensuing battle resulted in him being shot twice with arrows in the leg, forcing him and his party to retreat across Lake Ontario to a “large river” where they built cabins and stayed for a period of a month. Champlain pleaded to be returned to his settlement and as he recounts in his journal:

“after crossing from the island, the end of the lake, we entered a river some 12 leagues in length”. This I believe to be Cataraqui River, now part of the Rideau canal system.

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Converting Champlain’s “French League” from his journal into modern kilometre measurement.

This entry most likely refers to crossing “from the island” which would be Wolfe Island, over to Kingston, On and into the Cataraqui River. When we apply Champlain’s “12 leagues in length” it calculates to be 42km up the Cataraqui River, placing Champlain up near Seeley’s Bay, ON. and Whitefish Lake. A This leaves the Cataraqui River as the most likely option and matches the “marshy” description of the river’s entrance in his journal.

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Champlain’s group built two or three log cabins most likely on the shores of  a lake, likely Whitefish Lake, where a great deer hunt was established using native hunting methods of building traps and deer capture enclosures. This “great deer hunt area” is marked on a map made by Champlain in 1632 that is marked “Lieu Ou il y a Forte Cerfs” which when translated means “place where there is strong deer”.

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Champlain’s 1632 map mentions the area where the cross was found as a place with strong deer, as noted from his 1615 journey.

Champlain at this point on his adventure gets lost in the woods of which he transcribes into his journal in great detail. Having wandered off trying to capture an unusual bird he had spotted, Champlain was separated from his native companions and was lost in the woods North of Kingston for days. Spending the first night at the foot of a massive tree, Champlain trudged on and came to a pond where he killed some birds of which he ate to survive. In what he describes as being about 5-6 days lost and wandering the woods north of Kingston, which I think is in the vicinity of Jones Falls where he came across a stream that he followed to a small lake about 4km in length which would have been Whitefish Lake before the building of Rideau Canal in 1830 and the subsequent flooding of the land.

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Champlain mentions hearing a great waterfall and being surrounded by mountains, of which were probably Jones Falls (the falls are long gone as they were dammed up for the canal project) and the mighty and nearby Rock Dunder mountain area respectively. There are no large mountains per say anywhere west of the Frontenac Axis geographical formation of which his terrain descriptions would match. It has to be here.

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The only “mountains” north of Kingston where Champlain would have ventured are the mighty Dunders, at Morton, On on Whitefish Lake.

Following the river Champlain was finally re-united with his worried native companions who told Champlain that if had not returned, they would never again meet with the French in fear that they would think they had killed Champlain. It is something to contemplate that history could have been much different if Champlain remained lost in the woods and perished north of Kingston.

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Did a lost Champlain thinking he would die in the wilderness leave a trail of bread crumbs in the form of carved crosses? It is unique and recognizable symbol of a European Frenchman at a very prominent location on the waterway.  His accounts match the area where the cross was found almost exactly and this geological feature would sure be a known location on a travelled route. Further investigation into Champlain’s possible route would be necessary, but the carved cross could have been made by Champlain as he wandered the wilderness in 1615.

 

I contacted both Parks Canada and The Canadian Museum Of History about the inscription, but as of this posting, neither has responded. 
Was it carved by a bored religious person at the falls or was it something more meaningful? Roaming Knights Templar on a journey through North America? The lost explorer Champlain leaving a trail of recognizable French Christian symbols of his whereabouts in 1615? Without further study of this inscribed cross hidden in the woods its origins will continue to pass through time, yet another piece of a puzzle lost in the margins of history.
Andrew King, August 2019
SOURCES:
Rideau-Info.com
The Voyages and Explorations of Samuel deChamplain, Journal by Champlain. c. 1616.

THE GREAT WISHING TREE: In Search of The World’s Oldest Maple Tree

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When most people are asked what best symbolizes Canada, almost everyone responds with “the maple leaf”. Emblazoned on our national flag, federal government signage and in our collective minds, the maple leaf has the distinction of being our beloved national symbol. The mighty tree from which it comes from is strong and beautiful, but where can we find the oldest maple tree? Is it even in Canada? This question is what lead me to the legend of THE GREAT WISHING TREE. 

History books tell us of the many events that took place in the 13th century, from the fierce invasion of China by the Mongols lead by Genghis Khan, to the signing of the Magna Carta, and here in Canada, the exploration of the arctic region by Norse Vikings. It was also at this time in history that a little maple tree began to grow, a tree that would end up being the oldest known sugar maple in the world, a tree that would see countless meetings and events take place beneath its leaves over a span of 700 years…a tree that was right here in our backyard. 

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Location of what was reported to be the world’s oldest hard maple tree in Prince Edward County. Image: GoogleMaps

The area of West Lake in Prince Edward county is a magical place lined with blazing sand dunes, lapping waters and a vibrant flock of tourists that descend upon it in the summer months. Thousands upon thousands of people drive along West Lake Road each year on their way to Sandbanks Provincial Park, but very few of them probably realize that they are driving over what was once the world’s oldest sugar maple, a tree known to locals as “The Wishing Tree’. Currently, the oldest known maple tree resides in Mark. S. Burnham Provincial Park near Peterborough, Ontario. It is the oldest known living sugar maple in the world, certified by Wasyl Bakowsky, a biologist at the Ministry of Natural Resources in Peterborough, who determined the tree age to be at least 330 years old based on samples he drilled. Another UNconfirmed maple tree in the Comfort Maple Conservation Area in Pellham in the Niagara Region is said to be more than 500 years old. 

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Ministry of Natural Resources biologist Wasyl Bakowsky points to a hole he drilled in the world’s oldest known living sugar maple tree in Mark S. Burnham Provincial Park on Hwy. 7 just east of Peterborough. PHOTO: ROB McCORMICK/Peterborough Examiner/QMI Agency

The legend of our famed tree in Prince Edward County puts its age at over 700 years old. How can this be true? Well let’s take a look…

The tree we are in search of is said to have started its life as a sapling around 1200AD, a maple tree growing in size and reputation at West Lake where it became a special meeting place for the local indigenous tribes. It was under this maple tree that elders and tribe leaders would meet. In its shade, Mohawk and Algonquin tribes would barter goods, becoming a well known meeting place not just in Prince Edward County, but across North America. 

The mighty maple would be recognized by native tribes across the continent as a place for feasting, celebration and also of negotiating conflicts. It is said that the Mohawks met under this tree to form their allegiance with the Iroquois League in the 1500s. 

The tree got its name “The Wishing Tree” from the fact that young native children would collect fallen bark from its branches, and then toss up the pieces into its web of leaves and branches. If the piece of bark stayed up in the tree, they were then granted a wish. It was thus known as The Wishing Tree.

This magical tree continued growing for hundreds of years and in the 1700s when the first of the United Empire Loyalists began to settle in the area, the simple foot path to the tree was widened to accommodate horseback travelers and a larger volume of visitors who wanted to see this legendary old maple tree.

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The Great Wishing Tree. 

As more and more people began to populate the County, the footpath, turned horse path, was widened further to accommodate carriages, and the path to the tree expanded to go around the tree. Measured to now be at close to 200 feet in height in the 1800s, people flocked to it for picnics, family gatherings and much relaxing under its cooling shade. Postcards were made featuring the legendary Wishing Tree. Tourists now driving automobiles would make it a destination to have their photo taken with the famous old Wishing Tree. 

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A lodge was built in 1837 across from the tree which was aptly named “Wishing Tree Lodge” on what is now called West Lake Road. A landmark tree standing strong for centuries would sadly soon see the fame it created for itself contributing to its demise. 

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With so many cars now passing over its giant network of roots, the weight of traffic compacted them, irreversibly damaging it. The magical maple’s fate would soon be sealed when nature itself decided to end the tree’s existence in 1925. A bolt of lightning struck the tree and it began to decay back into the earth form where it began. In 1941 after years of dying slowly, the grand old Wishing Tree was finally felled, its true age now being revealed by chainsaw. 

A cross section of its trunk was cut and the rings could now be counted. Sure enough, it was confirmed that the Wishing Tree was truly the oldest known maple tree in the world at 731 years. The tree that lived through so much history since its life began in 1200AD, was then hauled away with not a single trace of its existence left behind. Lost in time, it vanished.

It was thus my goal to find out where this legendary tree once stood and bring it to the attention of you, the reader, who may have unknowingly driven over the same magical spot that those before us once met, shared knowledge, stories, items and the simple enjoyment of the great Wishing Tree. 

So how do we track down where the Wishing Tree once stood? No one seems to know exactly where it was that I talked to, except one person who pulled out the book “A Settler’s Dream”. There is a mention of a Wishing Tree Lodge, an old inn built across from the tree. Opening it up to page 126 there is listed “Wishing Tree Lodge” where the house is described along with the story of the Wishing Tree. The Inn still stands there today, but is now a private residence. A quick check of Google Streetview confirmed the old brick lodge is still there, but where was the mighty tree that once stood outside of it? Was there an old stump? 

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My parents remembered seeing an old photo in a book they had, and an elderly gentleman who knew of the tree before it was cut down in the 1940s was pictured standing on West Lake Road where the tree once stood. That photo was found, and sure enough the old brick lodge is seen in the background. We could then use that photo to superimpose it over a current photo taken at the same angle to give us the exact location of where the Wishing Tree once stood. 

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A simple exercise in Photoshop quickly revealed where our legendary landmark once was. A drive to the spot to see it in person was extremely gratifying, as I was now able to stand on the very same spot as the legend told, the place where countless people once met to share in the tree’s magical essence. All around me smaller maple trees were growing, likely the offspring of the now vanished Wishing Tree.

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Other maples, likely offspring from the original Wishing Tree in the area where it once stood. 

No plaque exists, no marker shows those who pass by what a special place that this once was where the oldest maple tree once made its home. I quickly jumped off the road before a speeding car of beach-goers zoomed by, its driver oblivious to the fact they were roaring over this special spot.

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The exact location of where the world’s oldest sugar maple once stood. 

Perhaps someday a plaque will be erected to mark the location of what was once the oldest known sugar maple tree in the world, a place that meant so much to so many people over the course of 700 years of history. Maybe someone in Prince Edward County has a table or other furniture made out of the wood from this special tree. Maple is renowned for its hardiness to make pool cues and guitar necks. As I drove back home I smiled at the thought that somewhere, an aspiring musician is strumming a tune on a piece of the Wishing Tree, hoping their wishes come true. Until those artifacts are found, the legend of the Wishing Tree and the world’s oldest maple quietly lies unknown among the dune dotted landscape of Prince Edward County. 

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Andrew King, July 2019

SOURCES

https://www.thepeterboroughexaminer.com/news-story/8200612-which-is-really-the-world-s-oldest-sugar-maple-tree-pelham-s-comfort-maple-or-mark-s-burnham-provincial-park-s-maple-tree-/

https://www.millard-and-kleinsteuber-histories.com/blog/the-wishing-tree-at-west-lake

The Settler’s Dream, Corporation Of the County Of Prince Edward, 1984.