Month: February 2016

Ottawa’s Sealed Mid-Century Underground Tunnel



Before security and safety issues were of concern, Ottawa had a number of publicly accessible underground tunnels that allowed residents to escape the frigid above-ground winter temperatures and move about in conditioned comfort.

The most famous of these underground tunnels is probably the one that links The Chateau Laurier with the old Union Station, once connecting train passengers to the hotel without ever having to step outside. Now closed to the public, this tunnel will most likely never be accessible again after the old tunnel becomes part of the new Senate Building. Accommodating  the Senate chamber while the Centre Block undergoes major rehabilitation work, it is expected that the Senate will remain there for up to 10 years.

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The former Freiman’s Parkade where the subterranean tunnel was accessed. (Google Streetview)

A lesser known tunnel under Ottawa is a sealed mid-century tunnel that once connected Freiman’s Shopping Mall (now Hudson’s Bay) to their own Parkade facility on George St. This tunnel was closed sometime in the early 2000’s but I was fortunate enough to record the tunnel on video back in 1999 when I filmed a chase scene for a short film I was working on.


Having recently stumbled across the closed off entrance in The Bay basement while looking to buy a Hudson’s Bay wool blanket to escape the cold, I was reminded to dig out the old VHS tape that documents this tunnel also used to escape the cold.


The now sealed entrance to the tunnel from The Bay that is now used for storage. Note the painted over coloured acrylic panels.

The tunnel is actually a phenomenal piece of mid-century architecture, utilizing materials and an aesthetic that provides a unique glimpse back to mid-century shopping conveniences. Resembling a colourful set piece from the TV show “MadMen” I dusted off the poor-quality VHS tape of the tunnel and have posted this piece of subterranean history below.



On November 4 1959 Freiman’s Department Store opened their “ultra modern” parkade on George street, a Guggenheim museum inspired spiral parking garage that linked to their store across the street by an air-conditioned and heated tunnel. In a ribbon-cutting ceremony that saw the Mayor and other community leaders attend, guests toured through the 231 foot tunnel that was finished in glazed subway tiles and a kaleidoscope of coloured acrylic panels that also acted as storage compartments for seasonal store decorations in Freiman’s.


A still from the film that shows the coloured panels and storage area behind them.

After Freiman’s department store was acquired by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1972, the tunnel remained opened and in service until sometime in the early 2000’s, probably just after 9-11 when security concerns likely forced the tunnel to close.

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Ads in the newspaper entice shoppers to use the “weather-proof” passage. (GoogleNews)

It has remained sealed since then, and The Bay has closed off the tunnel entrance and used the area for storage but the original 1959 illuminated sign can still be seen. The entrance from the Parkade side has also been sealed and locked.

With this unique time capsule of a tunnel forgotten below the city, lets take a closer look with some stills of the scene filmed there in 1999. If you would like to see the full film clip of the tunnel chase scene you can see it here.


The 231 foot length of the tunnel was finished in glazed tile and multi-coloured acrylic panels.


The ceiling of the tunnel was a typical 1959 tunnel ceiling with odd pipes and eerie clinical fluorescent lighting.


Google Maps Streetview

Ottawa Journal

Ottawa Citizen

Bing Maps




parliamentillumToday marks the 100th Anniversary of Canada’s original Parliament Buildings being destroyed in a fire that swept through the structure on February 3 1916. All that remains today of the original Parliament structure is the Library of Parliament, a unique round building at the rear of the current Centre Block. Designed by Thomas Fuller, an architect and member of the Freemasons, the original buildings have a unique connection to an ancient Order and their secret symbology.


Thomas Fuller, architect of the original Parliament Buildings and Freemason.

The unusual characteristics of our original Parliament buildings designed by Fuller constructed in 1860 have already been examined in a previous post, the “Knights Templar and Canada’s Parliament Buildings” . The connection to the ancient order of Knights Templar and the Freemasons was exposed but now we will look closely at a new connection to that of the Eye Of Providence, the most notable depiction of this eye being on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States, which appears on the United States one-dollar bill.


The original Parliament buildings began their construction September 1 1860 when The Prince Of Wales, later to become King Albert Edward, a known member of Freemasonry, presided over the Masonic ritual of laying the cornerstone of the Parliament Buildings. The Masonic Ceremony included The Prince Of Wales and Fuller exchanging Masonic vows while lowering the ceremonial stone. In 1875 Albert Edward became Grand Master of the Convent General of the Knights Templar.


Prince Albert, shown here in Freemason attire, presided over the ritual of laying the cornerstone for Parliament.

The Library of Parliament shares an uncanny resemblance to the Temple Church of the Knights Templar built in 1185 in London, perhaps a coincidence but with Fuller’s connection to Freemasonry and their subsequent link to the Templars, it seems unlikely.


Comparison of the lone surviving Library of Parliament on the left (c.1860) after the fire of 1916 and on the right, the Templar Temple Church in London (c.1185)

To have the exterior of the Parliament Library resemble a Templar church is one thing, but to have our Parliament INTERIOR also match Templar architecture is another. The interior of the Parliament buildings compared to the interior of Templar churches are shown below.


Interior of Knights Templar temple church, London, 1185AD.


Interior Hall Of Honour, Centre Block of Parliament, Ottawa. 


Interior chamber Templar church, London 1185AD.


Interior Parliament Buildings, Ottawa. 

The influence of the Knights Templar and Freemasonry has also been connected to the Eye of Providence on the Great Seal of the United States, which appears on the United States one-dollar bill. This eye in a triangular shape above an unfinished pyramid was adopted as part of the symbolism on the reverse side of the Great Seal in 1782.


The Eye of Providence as part of the Great Seal on the reverse side of the U.S. One dollar bill.

It was first suggested as an element of the Great Seal by the first of three design committees in 1776. The use of the same symbol within Freemason symbology dates to 1790 and of all the members of the various design committees for the Great Seal, only Benjamin Franklin was a known Freemason.


The “All Seeing Eye” symbol used in a 19th century Freemason hall. 

Now in 1860 when the Parliament Buildings began construction in Ottawa under Fuller, the symbology of the ancient Order seems to have made its way into Canada’s original centre tower as we will see below…


The original 1860 Parliament Buildings as built by Fuller before the 1916 fire.


Zooming in on the original tower in comparison to the Eye Of Providence. 


Superimposing the Eye of Providence over the original tower and clock we see the two match perfectly.


The “eye” aligns perfectly to the original round clock, the triangle is also a perfect match with all respects to angles and proportions. 

One could argue that this is pure coincidence, and that Canada’s original Parliament building was in no way meant to incorporate the Freemason symbol and Eye Of Providence. But as I am learning, there seems to be a deeper meaning as to why things are designed a certain way.

On this 100th Anniversary of the fire that destroyed the original building, look closely at what other symbols can be found in buildings designed by Fuller and their connection to an ancient order that is still operating among us today.