Month: January 2019

Fountains Of Our Youth: The Lost Shopping Mall Fountain

“Meetcha at the fountain.” 

That was a phrase most teenagers of the 1980s were saying when they wanted to meet up with friends at the local mall. Before Snapchat or texting, us 80s kids had to phone each other from our parents kitchen phone to make plans to hangout IRL where all the cool kids hung out: The Mall. 


This newspaper clipping shows the exact fountain I spent many of my teenage days sitting around at Catarqui Town Centre in Kingston, ON…..there was an amazing arcade just to the right of this photo…note the MMMMMMMuffins in the background. (Photo: Whig-Standard)

The Shopping Malls of the 1980s were extravagant retail meccas, a place for us awkward kids to spend our allowance on a bag of Kernels, some posters from Discus, video games from CompuCentre, and the idyllic spot where our parents did their year round shopping under the dappled rays of a skylit roof. 

screen shot 2019-01-29 at 1.56.59 pm

There was nothing like the mall of the 1980s. Note the ever present water fountain, tropical plants, and, smoking. (photo: CBS News)

Appointed with soothing beige tile work, usually complimented with a mix of wood and teal/dusty rose trim, there was nothing quite like the malls of the 80s. In addition to their era-specific decor splendor, they almost always had another common feature: A massive water fountain. 



Spraying a geyser of chlorinated water into the dry mall air, its burbling sounds and circular construction was always a welcome and soothing sight to behold, a place to relax , congregate and meet up with your school pals for an afternoon of hanging out at the mall. Yet this once core landmark has now vanished from most shopping malls, their demise brought on by the downward spiral of the mall retail model. Cutting corners and adapting to increase their profits, the mighty water fountains of malls are deemed too expensive to maintain, and likely were a liability (yes we all know someone who jumped or fell in one) or maybe the coins we all tossed in for our deepest wishes were too much to bear for the mall management to wrap and donate to charity. 

screen shot 2019-01-29 at 1.41.56 pm

The now dry water fountain of the Glebe’s Fifth Avenue Court. (Image: GoogleMaps)

Before they all disappear from existence, lets tease our hair, pull up our tube socks and take a take a step back in time for a look at Ottawa’s FOUNTAINS OF OUR YOUTH.


The shopping mall was a post-war retail concept primarily based on the transition of residential areas moving into a suburban mode of living.  Servicing these new suburbs  with shopping “centres” involved an enclosed space with stores indoors, away from downtown, and accessible only by car. Ottawa has its share of early 1950s malls, but the focus of this piece are malls that featured opulent water fountains. 


An American shopping centre developer by the name of Taubman revolutionized shopping malls by introducing tiled floors instead of carpet, indoor fountains, and two levels, allowing a shopper to make a circuit of all the stores. Daylight was filtered through glass skylights making it seem like the afternoon was lasting longer, which encouraged shoppers to linger the whole day. 

screen shot 2019-01-29 at 1.49.31 pm

The massive green trees that used to be at Rideau Centre mall in 1983 (photo: CBC archives)

screen shot 2019-01-29 at 1.49.25 pm

The once prevalent greenery of plants at shopping malls is now gone. Remember these at the Rideau Centre? (photo: CBC archives)

The water fountain and accompanying greenery of a mall was to create an “oasis” for the shopper, a place to relax and enjoy the shopping experience, like going on a vacation. Under the calming sounds of burbling water amidst lush tropical plants, you could buy your slacks and some MMMMMMuffins to snack on. The fountain was where parents would tell kids to meet if they got separated, a rendezvous place, and a spot for kids to toss coins into the depths of the crystal clear waters in hopes that a special wish came true. 


The epic water fountain that was once at Bayshore Shopping Centre. Like the parent pictured, many a son/daughter were propped up on its ledge to make a wish and toss a coin into its burbling waters. (photo: Lost Ottawa)

One of the most notable mall fountains in Ottawa was the one at Bayshore Shopping Centre.  Bayshore opened in 1973, and featured an epic central fountain with a commissioned sculpture of “very thin people” dancing in its spray. Most of Ottawa that shopped there between 1973 and the 80s remember this very memorable fountain, until it mysteriously disappeared during renovations.


PLANTS! LOTS OF THEM! Another view of Bayshore Shopping Centre’s landmark water fountain. A virtual jungle oasis. (photo: LostOttawa)


That exact same spot today. No plants, no fountain. Sterile.

A common misconception about that fountain sculpture is that it was moved to Sparks Street. A similar looking sculpture does exist on Sparks Street, but that was one commissioned by ER Fisher when his men’s store was down there. That sculpture is called “Joy” by the late Bruce Garner, with the elusive Bayshore fountain sculpture made by someone else. 

Through some investigative sleuthing and a source that will remain anonymous (thank-you), I believe I have been able to locate the Bayshore Fountain, which still exists in Ottawa. The iconic bronze sculpture was done by a German artist, Almuth Lütkenhaus.


The Bayshore water fountain sculptor revealed…Almuth Lutkenhaus.

screen shot 2019-01-29 at 8.10.30 pm

Lutkenhaus at work on one of her sculptures. She died in 1996.

Studying her craft in Germany until she moved to Canada in 1966, Lütkenhaus was commissioned to do the 15 foot high bronze sculpture for the newly constructed Bayshore Shopping Centre in 1972, as discovered in an old artist catalogue that mentioned the sculpture. 

Prominently installed amidst a geyser of water in the centre of Bayshore shopping mall, when it first opened, Lütkenhaus’ sculpture was later removed sometime later when the mall underwent renovations, disappearing from public view.

Enjoyed by thousands of Ottawa shoppers and kids who were propped up on its ledge, how could such a prominent and beloved sculpture suddenly just disappear? After contacting some folks who might be in the know, I was told that it was sold off to a “private collector” for their private property here in Ottawa. Who bought such a well-known public art piece? It must be someone of stature, someone who in the 80s-90s was wealthy enough and had the grounds big enough to accommodate the large art piece. Who fits this description? Let’s look at a few suspects….Bill Teron was a wealthy developer of the time who built his massive estate out in Kanata, but a Google search showed no connection. Next, COREL founder Michael Cowpland. 

Cowpland launched Cowpland Research Laboratory, COREL in Ottawa in 1985, amassing a fortune and building a metallic encrusted estate in Rockcliffe Park in the 1990s, which in 2008, ranked as Ottawa’s third most valuable private property with an assessed worth of CAN $12.5 million.


Marlen Cowpland, poolside. (photo: Ottawa Sun)

A quick Bing Maps aerial 3D view shows the estate has a swimming pool with… wait a second, a CIRCULAR FOUNTAIN AND SCULPTURE OF FIGURES. A zoom-in reveals what looks to be a match to our beloved Bayshore Fountain sculpture by Lütkenhaus.

fount1 copyfount2


I can not confirm this 100% without access from the Cowplands (I think they still own it?) into their estate to see it in person, but it seems to me that the Lost Fountain Of Our Youth lies poolside in their backyard.


In the mid-1990s, shopping malls were still being built at a rate of 140 a year, but in 2001 malls began to decline in popularity and were called “greyfield” and “dead mall” estates. With the advent of online shopping through web retailers like Amazon, shopping malls began their death spiral, with some management corporations adjusting their retail mall model to the open air “Big Box” mall approach, with the enclosed malls now defunct. Cheaper to maintain without the indoor common areas, these big box malls did away with frivolous fountains and plants in favour of asphalt parking lots. 


The once mighty water fountain at Place D’Orleans Mall, removed and now leased out to auto dealerships to display their vehicles.

Place D’Orleans Mall expanded to its current size in 1990 and had a re-opening event, but it was to be one of the last enclosed malls built in Canada. It’s massive fountain, once an illuminated Vegas-style light show, has since been removed, its area used to display paying vendors wares.

Hazeldean Mall which opened in October 30, 1979, is the last of Ottawa’s great shopping malls to still operate a water fountain. A trickling stepped fountain that once ran from one end of the mall to the other has now been reduced in size, but still functions. 

screen shot 2019-01-29 at 1.35.35 pm

Hazeldean Mall is Ottawa’s last shopping mall to maintain a water fountain. (photo: GoogleStreetview)

Along with the water features, the tropical plants that used to provide a foliaged refuge for shoppers during the bitter winter months have also been removed from most shopping centres, replaced with a clean, sterile aesthetic that resembles Apple’s minimalist environment. . Tall trees and tropical plants were all axed from the malls as their “cost of upkeep” was deemed too expensive in a market that is trying to cut cost any chance it gets. The plants, the fountains, and even the Christmas decor have all been trimmed down along with operating budgets for malls in an effort to compete in what is now a harsh retail environment.


St. Laurent Mall, centre court, no fountain.

The once bustling meccas of our youth, the prime Saturday hangout where we’d hit the Orange Julius, Discus, Zellers, and the arcade, are now but distant memories for us Gen Xers. We are a generation that was raised by retail, television, video games and celebrity fashion trends…wait, maybe much hasn’t changed, but I still miss those soothing mall fountains. If I had known, I would have tossed a dime into their bubbling waters, wishing they would never disappear.

Andrew King, January 2019



Google Maps

Bing Maps

Lost Ottawa

CBS News

CBC Archives

The Steampunk Dream Machine That Lies Buried Beneath Toronto

Concealed beneath Canada’s largest city lies an iron apparatus designed in Prescott, Ontario from the Victorian Age that resembles an invention from the pages of a Jules Verne novel. A perfect example of the steam punk aesthetic, this 110ft. ironclad cylindrical vessel remains buried under the Gardiner Expressway, quietly resting below the traffic of thousands of commuters. Its remarkable story is one of innovation, passion and ill-fated decisions.  Join me now as we uncover the whereabouts of this lost tubular dream…



Prescott in the late 1800’s was bustling industrial town.

The small town of Prescott sits 45 minutes south of Ottawa and during the late 19th century it was a booming community of industry and innovation, a town that was the inception for J.P. Wiser’s Whisky, Ottawa’s first railway, the Prescott & Bytown Railway, and it even had Bell telephone service far sooner than any other town. The terminus for the Great Lakes Shipping industry, it also was home to a Labatt’s Brewery. It comes as no surprise that from its dusty streets would appear another creative force, an ironclad machine so imaginative, so unique and so bold that it would garner the attention of the world stage in 1897. 


Queen Victoria hated traveling by ship due to sea sickness. (Image:Wikipedia)

At the time Queen Victoria was the reigning monarch, but she never visited her colonies since she hated traveling by sea, as it made her sea-sick. In 1860 she sent her son, Albert Edward to Ottawa and on a North American tour in her place. This led one Prescott resident to design a ship impervious to the travel and motions that caused sea-sickness on the open sea. His name was Frederick Augustus Knapp, a lawyer turned inventor, and he designed what was probably the most bizarre, ambitious and unbelievable ship ever to be made. 


Ripley’s cartoon depicting a strange and unique vessel that began my quest to find it.

I became fascinated with this iron clad marvel when I saw an old Ripley’s Believe-It-Or-Not illustration featuring Knapp’s craft, and always wondered what happened to it. I researched its history and it turns out the Iron Tubeship was designed and operated in Prescott, just a short drive from my home. As I dug deeper into its voyages through time I learned it now lies most likely buried under the Gardiner Expressway in downtown Toronto. But before we get to that point, how did such a ship get there in the first place, and why? 


Fred Knapp had a vision for a giant tube ship 800 feet long that would glide over ocean waves at 60mph, undisturbed by the rolling sea. His idea was soon put to paper as he drew out plans for a scaled down version of his iron dream, imagined on his many trips across the Atlantic aboard steamship liners of the day. In an interview with the Prescott Telegraph in 1897, Knapp revealed he spent most of those voyages within the engine rooms of the ships he was aboard, studying the mecahnics of how to overcome the resistance of water and waves. He realized that a ship must not fight them, but join them, and ROLL over the waves. Working at a law firm in Montreal, Knapp soon moved back to his hometown of Prescott where he set up a law practice and purchased a home in a stone triplex on Dibble Street.

screen shot 2019-01-23 at 6.31.37 pm

Knapp’s residence still exists in Prescott where he designed the Iron Tube Ship. (Image: Google Streetview)

I journeyed to Prescott to see if the original Knapp residence where he drew up the idea and plans for his colossal Victorian Tube ship still existed, and indeed it does at 272 Dibble St, a modest end unit of a larger 19th century stone triplex building.  No plaque or indicator is there to tell of what was designed behind its walls, but this is where Knapp created what would become a most fascinating piece of nautical history.

Soon after drawing up plans for his mighty steam tube, Knapp presented the concept to Polson Iron Works in Toronto, and had built a working scale model 9 feet in length. The original drawings for the Roller Tube Ship are stored in the since closed Maritime Museum of the Great Lakes in Kingston, Ont., of which I unfortunately can not get access to at this time. 

Knapp soon organized a joint stock company called “The Knapp Ocean Navigation Company” and raised funds from investors in Montreal, Quebec City, the UK and Toronto. His proposal to Polson Iron Works in Toronto was accepted and they were contracted to build the vessel as a working steam powered prototype at a cost of $125,000 (in 1890s dollars). 

screen shot 2015-04-21 at 2.34.02 pm

Knapp’s tube ship gained the attention of Scientific American magazine in 1898 with his unique design.

After some trials and tests, a full scale, 110-foot prototype was ready for launch in Toronto’s harbour in June of 1899. With Knapp aboard manning the helm, the innovative new ship was to travel from Toronto to Prescott on its maiden voyage.



Photo of the Roller Boat underway in 1898.

Perhaps because it was never officially christened or named, the poor ship was to be doomed. On June 9th it ran aground in Bowmanville, and it took a month for a tugboat to arrive and tow it all the way to Prescott where it was holed up and underwent modifications until the ship was ready for another sea trial in 1901. 


Knapp’s Roller Boat steaming along, his portrait above.


Seeming to be a glutton for punishment, Knapp decided to test his newly modified ship on a cold February day, with a strong north wind that hampered its planned voyage across the St. Lawrence to Ogdensburg, NY.


Prescott citizens slide over the ice to board Knapp’s latest modded ship. (Image: Morris History Of Prescott)


Dressed for the February cold, the passengers await Knapp to take them across the St. Lawrence River to Ogdensburg, NY (Image: Morris History Of Prescott)

The strong winds were no match for the very hard-to-steer giant tube ship, and Knapp and his ship ran aground on a shoal of mud off Ogdensburg, where it soon became trapped in ice and snow. A rescue team was sent out in rowboats to retrieve the passengers and Knapp, who were suffering from exposure to the cold. The iron tube was towed back to Prescott where it remained for the winter. 


Knapp decided to now modify the shape of his shape into that of a giant cigar, with conical ends, and a new engine, but it had to towed to Montreal for that work. After an arduous tow and retrofit in Montreal going through the myriad of canal locks, the roller boat was then towed back to Toronto across Lake Ontario, around Prince Edward County and into the docks of Polson Iron Works once again. There the ship sat, Knapp now out of money and investor interest, its forlorn hull left to languish in the waters off Toronto. The orphaned vessel that no one wanted broke free of its moorings and hit another ship causing damage to both ships. The now rusting hulk was sold for scrap metal to pay for the damages. As World War One began, it was said the tubular disaster was scavenged for its metal for the war effort, picked apart like a carcass under the beaks of vultures. 


Showing its new cigar shape, but badly deteriorating due to salvaging its parts, the un-named Roller Ship lies in the waters off Toronto.

Left deteriorating in the shallow waters, legend says the ill-fated ship was buried under landfill when in 1927 the Toronto shoreline was expanded, its whereabouts unknown.


Completely forlorn, what’s left of the Iron Steam Dream lies in the mud awaiting to be filled over when the Toronto shoreline was expanded overtop of it.

kanpp-1927 copy

Knapp returned to Prescott, continued his law practice and dabbled in other inventions, but nothing similar to his grandiose Roller Boat. He died in 1942, buried at the Blue Church cemetery outside of Prescott, joining his beloved ship below ground for eternity. 


Knapp’s unassuming gravestone in the Blue Church cemetery near Prescott.



It is remarkable how the internet can provide a trail of bread crumbs that lead to a successful quest for information. Searching records of recent archeological assessments of downtown Toronto for any mention of “Polson Iron Works” where Knapp’s boat had its final days, it was revealed that a report called “Toronto Transit Commission Environmental Assessments for Transit Projects in the Eastern Waterfront Assignment 4: Stage 1 Archaeological Resource Assessment of theEast Bayfront Transit Precinct City of Toronto, Ontario, Prepared for McCormick Rankin Corporation in 2009″ reveals the EXACT location of Knapp’s Victorian Steam Dream.

screen shot 2019-01-23 at 7.14.52 pm


Page 21 of the report states “The remains of this unusual ship lie buried 356 feet (108.5m) south of the Frederick Street slip and 140 feet (42.7m) west of the Polson Iron Works dock (wharfs 35 and 36)as they existed in 1923. Today, this location corresponds to the area between Lakeshore Boulevard andthe Gardiner Expressway, between Richardson and Lower Sherbourne Streets and north of the property currently known as 215 Lakeshore Boulevard East (Figure A 13). Placement of the vessel under these roads is generally consistent with that proposed earlier by Stinson and Moir (1991:112)”

screen shot 2019-01-23 at 7.19.18 pm

Apparently, according to the archeological assessment, in 1923 soundings were done by the Toronto Harbour Commission that labeled a “wrecked roller boat” and that no dredging was to be done here. This means the remains of the tubular ship were likely covered over by fill as the land was extended, and it remains buried there to this day.

Where that spot exactly rests is the subject of the following information.


screen shot 2018-01-20 at 11.10.43 am

The assessment has a map pinpointing the exact location of the lost 1897 ironclad tube ship. (image: Archeological Surveys Inc.)

Using modern Google Maps with the corresponding Archeological Survey plans, we can superimpose the two together to reveal the exact location of the lost ship. Using Photoshop to “ghost” the two together, we can see that the ship lies buried perpendicular to Lake Shore Blvd, and partially underneath the Gardiner Expressway. Located behind what is now a FedEx depot, the 110 ft ship may lie beneath tens of feet of earth and service lines, its state of decay unknown. 




Beneath the street at this location in view of the CN tower lies what is left of Knapp’s Great Steam Dream.

Whether this unusual chapter in maritime engineering warrants a proper archeological excavation to find a 19th century iron clad tube ship is a matter left to city officials, but next time you pass behind that FedEx depot on Lake Shore Blvd East, remember Knapp’s iron steam dream that lies below. 

Andrew King, January 2018


Morrises’ History Of Prescott, John A.H.Morris, 2000.