A stroll in the forest is great for the mind and soul, soaking in the sounds and sights of nature while escaping the absurdities of life, and sometimes you even stumble across something unexpected. It wasn’t a dead body, or a $50 bill, but rather an unusual arrangement of boulders and an “Ontario Well” post. Curious as to what was once situated on this forested hill overlooking the Jock River near Woodroffe Avenue, I returned home and started investigating, leading me on an adventure through time to uncover The Lost Chapel.
The area in question is a slice of land called “Heart’s Desire Park” and is maintained by the City Of Ottawa at the southernmost end of Woodroffe Avenue at Prince Of Wales Drive. Being surrounded by heavily developed Suburbia, I wondered why this slice of prime land escaped development, a beautiful forest on the banks of the Jock River.
Was there some archaeological site within that has been lost in time? Well, a quick Google Search turned up nothing, so I figured with all the development around it, an archaeological assessment must have been done around here, so I checked out that angle.
Lo and behold, an archaeological site that was 8,000 years old, BhFw-19, called the “Munro Site” was nearby, a Middle Archaic Period site (approx 6,000BC!) was discovered in 2011. At that site, which is now under a suburban street in Riverside South, they found Archaic Period artifacts like a quartz bi-face. So what might lie in the Heart’s Desire Park?
I could find nothing else about that particular area until I read up on the area which is marked lots 10/11 and indicated on a map from 1863. The lots of this particular area were owned by a Mr. George Sherwood, who later sold his land to a Mr. William Dawson in 1877. And this is where our story begins…
When William Dawson acquired Lots 10/11 in 1877 they were at the intersection of what was then called Jockvale Road, later Woodroffe Avenue. There was also the forced road from Richmond Road called “Bren-Maur Road”, part of the whole Chapman’s Mill area.
At was at this time that Dawson built a wooden chapel that measured 37ft by 21ft.
Dawson’s chapel was built on the land that overlooked the Jock River, and had a capacity of 80 persons, with 16 pews and served 45 families from Blacks Rapids, Gloucester, and Manotick. It was called “St. Margaret’s of Jockvale”
After Father Dawson died and his little chapel was deemed unfit for further service by the diocese. Dawson in his will stated that he wanted his land to never be sold, only used as a playground to be enjoyed. His little chapel would later be rented as a barn used to store hay before being demolished at some point, vanishing into obscurity as it became a forested city park.
So where was Dawson’s chapel, one of the first Catholic places of worship in South Ottawa? Using an old 1879 Belden Atlas I was able to find his chapel sketched on the map, right in the middle of his lots 10/11 off Woodroffe Ave. Ghosting that old map over a current Google Map and a GeoOttawa land parcel map, we can then pinpoint roughly where Dawson’s chapel would have been.
Pinning that location on my phone, I ventured out to the Heart’s Desire Park (not sure the origin of that name) and found the old roadway that led to the chapel. Trudging through the brush and following what was left of the old road, I came upon what looked to be the remains of Dawson’s house, as indicated on the map.
Just a depression in the ground with a pile of strewn stones, likely from the foundation. Onwards I went, up the old road, now overgrown with trees and covered in snow, another depression in the ground exactly where the church was indicated to be, halfway between Woodroffe and the Jock River.
An Ontario Well post was visible, and again, more strewn rocks, likely from the foundation of Dawson’s Chapel. His wishes continue to be granted as his land has not been developed and it remains a park, but no plaque is there to recognize this obscure hidden history, but that is par for the course in Ottawa it seems.
With a crust of frozen snow and ice covering most of the site, it is hard to determine if other remnants of Dawson’s 1879 chapel exists, perhaps the City Of Ottawa may want to further investigate this hidden piece of history, or not, and let the forest continue to consume the memory of the Lost Chapel in The Woods….
Most music listeners are familiar with the catalogue of songs produced by the legendary “Bee Gees”, from their 1960s ballads to their disco driven escapades of the 1970s. Yet, many may not be familiar with the secluded recording studio northeast of Ottawa that the Bee Gees used to record some of their recognizable disco hits. The Police, David Bowie, Rush, Celine Dion and many other A-listers all used the facility to record and produce their greatest hits. Now all but a memory, let’s take a look back at this secluded studio where the Bee Gees recorded, and lived, to create their 1976 platinum album, “Children Of The World” a 1.5hr drive north-east of Ottawa…
David Bowie recording at Le Studio. (andreperrystudio.com)
Children of the World is a 1976 album by the Bee Gees. The first single, “You Should Be Dancing” went to No. 1 in the US and Canada, and was a top ten hit in numerous other countries, and later was added to the soundtrack of the movie “Saturday Night Fever”. It was the group’s fourteenth album, and after many songs were recorded in Miami, the production moved to a brand new studio located an hour and half north east of Ottawa in a small Laurentian Mountain village called Morin Heights. Dubbed “Le Studio” this new recording facility was built in 1972 by recording engineer and producer André Perry, Nick Blagona and Yaël Brandeis. It was one of the earliest studios to install Solid State Logic mixing desk and RADAR digital-recording equipment, after Perry gained experience as a recording engineer working for John Lennon.
LeStudio in the 1970s (andreperrystudio.com)
The idea was to give recording artists a venue where they could record and live in a creative atmosphere, in the secluded atmosphere of the Canadian Laurentian Mountains. The Bee Gees, who recorded songs for the album “Children of the World” at Le Studio, reportedly stayed for five months at the secluded studio. Recorded at Le Studio in 1976 was a song called “Rest Your Love On Me” that would later be re-recorded with Olivia Newton-John for the 2021 album “Greenfields” by the last remaining Bee Gee, Barry Gibb. It was the site of the 1981 recording of Sting’s “Everything Little Thing She Does Is Magic”, and Ottawa’s own band “Eight Seconds” 1988 recording of their “Big Houses” album.
The Bee Gees with Andre Perry (second from left). andreperrystudio.com
After a successful run recording big name musical acts including Rush, Bowie, Cat Stevens, The Bare Naked Ladies and Celine Dion, The 233-acre site was listed for sale in July 2007, with an asking price of $2.45 million CDN. The property remained for sale until 2009, when the land was purchased with the intent to convert the area to a retreat and spa. However, it remained unoccupied, falling into disrepair and was unfortunately scavenged, and vandalized.
Le Studio in winter (andreperrystudio.com)
Google maps aerial view of the secluded Le Studio.
Tragedy struck August 11th 2017 when the studio was consumed by a fire in a suspected case of arson. The residential area of the studio was completely destroyed.
Abandoned icon. (TalesFromThe DarkSide.com)
Since abandoned, the update in the 1980s, as reflected by the pink and teal decor.
Google Streetview of the abandoned Le Studio where so many famous musical acts recorded.
The current demolished remains/empty lot where LeStudio once stood.(TheMetalVoice, YouTube)
The recording area still stood but was severely damaged. It was then bulldozed to the ground in October 2020 with nothing left remaining of this remarkable Canadian recording landmark but an empty lot. The ghosts of the Bee Gees, David Bowie and other legendary musical greats haunt the now empty lot where so many icons of music recorded their 1970s and 80s hits.
Ottawa holds a number of secrets beneath its streets, from tunnels to vaults with many other concealed subterranean features, but one hidden feature I find to be particularly interesting. It is the legend of a far stretching cavern with waterfalls, stalagmites and a century old connection to one of Canada’s largest soft drink companies. It is the Legend Of Pooley’s Cave.
Before the National Capital Commission “re-imagined” downtown Ottawa in 1960 and started terraforming the historic downtown core of the city, there were a number of unique elements that have sadly been lost forever. The entire neighbourhood of LeBreton Flats was expropriated and demolished without a trace. The “Park of The Provinces” was built over what was once Brading’s Brewery. And just around the corner from that was a remarkable natural feature of a cavern that stretched east under Sparks Street for apparently more than 200 feet all the way to Christ Church Cathedral. This legend originated from the 1800’s and described a “natural wonder” and a room of stalagmites and stalactites that were “beautiful beyond description”. But not a single mention or trace exists today of this incredible underground feature in the heart of the Nation’s Capital. So, I thought we should look for it.
I find it hard to believe that a substantial subterranean cavern running under downtown Ottawa would just be quietly sealed up without a mention, but then again, city and federal government officials continue to ignore the concealed beer train under LeBreton Flats, so I guess anything is possible. I started to do some digging based on the “legend” of Pooley’s Cave, the name “Pooley” found to originate from a Lieutenant Pooley who in 1827 was ordered by Colonel John By to construct a bridge over a gorge to make a connection between the Chaudiere/Flats area to Wellington Street.
First made of wood, it was rebuilt in 1873 out of stone, of which sit till stands in the same spot today. The bridge is called “Pooley’s Bridge” and it is near this bridge the entrance to our mystery cave lies.
Researching old newspaper clippings from the 1860s and onwards I came across curious descriptions of our cavern in great detail. The entrance was recounted to be down the side of the gorge near Pooley’s Bridge where the entry to the cavern was an opening about 5 feet by 4 feet in dimension.
Upon entering the cave, a natural tunnel headed in an easterly direction towards Christ Church Cathedral. Traveling 75 feet in a stooped position through the tunnel, it was then said that one had to go on hands and knees for another 40 feet. Here, the tunnel widened into a room about 40 feet by 60 feet where stalagmites and stalactites appeared. Other descriptions mention a running waterfall inside the cave. So, this all sounds pretty cool but where would this be now and would it still possibly be there?
Back in 2015 I went on a quest to find the actual “spring” from Pure Spring Ginger Ale that was said to be around this very same place. Coincidentally I ended up at the cliff where this cave is supposed to be located, and I did indeed hear a waterfall or some kind of running water underground. Was this the same “waterfall” mentioned by the early cave explorers who said there was the sound of rushing water in the cave? This would seem logical as Pure Spring’s entire business centred around an actual spring coming out of this very spot.
Canning this fresh underground cave spring water in the early part of the 20th century, a young Jacob Mirsky sold it in five gallon cans and delivered it to Ottawa homes by horse and wagon. Using his earnings from water sales, Mirsky began to carbonate and flavour his spring water, and by 1925 incorporated his company as “Pure Spring”. The Mirsky family continued to own Pure Spring until 1963 when they sold it to Crush Beverages which later moved operations in 1969 to a state of the art manufacturing and bottling plant on Belfast Road.
Pure Spring not only commanded a large percentage of the soft drink industry in Canada at the time, but they also introduced canned soft drinks to this country and later the twist off cap. Pure Spring Ginger Ale continued to be produced until the mid-eighties, at which time their logo featured spring water pouring over a limestone embankment, the same water source that was likely inside this cave!
An exploration of the area found it is overgrown and fenced off in most parts, but behind some shrubs an old stone and mortar structure rising from the base of the cliff about 15ft up its face was visible accompanied by the sound of rushing water.
Sometime in history, someone has built a stone enclosure around the base of this cliff containing what sounds to be a water source underneath. A concrete hatch is on its top surface and nearby there is a City Of Ottawa water management building with hatches to whatever lies underneath. Is this an entrance into Pooley’s Cave?
Looking at old maps of this area to see if any cave was marked, that search turned up nothing, so I then turned to satellite imagery from the Pre-NCC revisions to the area. In 1928 the cave entrance probably still existed, and perhaps right up until 1991 when the NCC started to terraform the Pooley’s Bridge area. Massive alterations were made to the gorge and any cave entrance was likely sealed up for safety reasons, its secrets blocked off and hidden forever.
But using the 1860’s descriptions I can sketch out what it may have looked like before it was sealed off as it stretched east underneath the cathedral and Sparks Street.
The cave is probably still there and if it indeed lies under the cathedral then perhaps a member of the church could provide further details. Maybe they have an access door to this mysterious cave. The Cathedral was built in the 1870s and has a crypt so they may have information on what lies beneath.
It seems that more than one source over history has described what seems to be a large cave under the western end of Sparks Street, yet no entrance to it has yet been found. The sound of running water from under the cliff substantiates the tales of a cavern waterfall or running water, and it is historical fact that Pure Spring Ginger Ale got its water from an underground spring at this exact spot. Perhaps someone in the city staff network knows more about what is around Pooley’s Bridge, or maybe members of Christ Church Cathedral can shed some light onto this dark mystery.
If anyone else has more information about it, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments section of this post. I’d love to get a ground penetrating radar rig out there and see what we can find, but again I do not know anyone in that field of expertise. Until then, this will remain the Legend Of Pooley’s Cave…
A successful businessman from South of Ottawa had just built a brand new brick house for his young family, boasting the finest of Edwardian features. It was sitting waiting for them to take occupancy when Hudson Allison and his family returned from attending a Board Meeting in England. Mr. Allison was the epitome of success who seemed to make all the right decisions, with perhaps one exception…he bought tickets to come home on Titanic.
As we approach the 110th Anniversary of the tragic sinking of Titanic, the gap of time continues to widen between us and that fateful night in 1912. A few artifacts have been recovered from the wreck on the bottom of the Atlantic when they found Titanic’s final resting place in the 1980s. Some deck chairs washed ashore and sit in museums, along with some survivor memorabilia which are our only physical connection to the ill-fated ship.
The Chateau Laurier has a curious piece of Titanic history in its lobby, a marble bust of Laurier that Charles Hays commissioned for his hotel, of which he would never see open as he perished aboard Titanic that fateful night of April 14th, 1912. (I wrote about that previously HERE.)
To honour the memory of the 1,514 lives lost that night I wanted to try and find another local connection to Titanic that may help bridge the widening gap of time between us and Titanic. That search turned up information there was indeed another local connection, just south of Ottawa.
It is the homestead of Titanic passenger Hudson Allison and his family, a stately Edwardian home he had built in Chesterville on his farm that was to welcome them back after their transatlantic voyage. However, the young family would never set foot in the house, as all but one member of the family perished in the icy waters the night Titanic slipped under the waves. The Allison family home still sits as a quiet memorial to that tragic night.
Situated in Chesterville, Ontario, the Allison home was built for the successful businessman and his family in 1912. With the finishing touches being put on his new brick home, Mr. Allison and family were in England as Hudson was a member of the board of the British Lumber Corporation, and he and his family crossed the Atlantic to England for a directors meeting. While there, the Allison family took a trip to the Scottish Highlands where Mr. Hudson purchased two dozen Clydesdales and Hackney Stallions and mares for the farm back in Chesterville.
They then reserved cabins C-22/24/26 on the First Class Upper Deck of Titanic. This cabin was just around the corner form the French sculptor Chevre that made the marble bust of Laurier that now sits in the Chateau Laurier lobby. Mr. Allison and Mr. Chevre likely passed each other in the hallways of Titanic, not realizing they were both connected to Ottawa that fateful night.
Hudson, his wife Bess, and their children, Loraine and Trevor, all boarded Titanic for the exciting adventure across the Atlantic to their new home in Chesterville. Hudson and his wife would dine with Harry Molson from Montreal (yes, of Molson Brewery fame) the night Titanic hit the iceberg. In the aftermath of the sinking, only their young son Trevor would survive as he was hoisted into a lifeboat. Hudson, Bess and the daughter Loraine all perished, never to see their new home back in Chesterville. Trevor survived Titanic but would later die of food poisoning at the age of 18.
A few days after Titanic met its fate, Hudson Allison’s body was found floating in the Atlantic, the only one of the Allisons to be recovered. His body was brought to back to Canada and Mr Allison’s body was buried in the Allison family plot in Maple Ridge cemetery near Winchester, Ont.
One month after the funeral, Hudson’s brother Percy took delivery of the horses that Allison had arranged to be shipped by tramp steamer from Scotland. His house and farm was sold to new owners, and still stands much like it did back in 1912.
So, where exactly is The Allison House and his resting place? Let’s take a closer look.
The Allison Stock Farm where Hudson’s new home was built was an Edwardian red brick home.
Together with his brothers Percy and George, Hudson acquired 100 acres of farmland to create the Allison Stock Farm, purchasing land from John Hummel for $15,000. He built the imposing red brick house and a fine set of barns which he stocked with imported livestock.
This home would later become the Vanden Bosch Farm. A quick Google map search of that farm reveals the location of the ill-fated Titanic passenger’s home that he never got to step foot in. Using this information I was able to spot the Allison Home. It stands back from the highway, the landscape not much different than what it would have looked like back in 1912.
Now locating the resting place of Hudson Allison was more difficult. On a cold blustery April day, the day after the Titanic sinking last year, we visited the cemetery to pay our respects to this Titanic connection. Looking for the Allison Family obelisk where he and his family are buried, we soon found the family memorial plot and paid our respects with a moment of silence to remember the Allison family that was lost on Titanic.
The house and gravestone south of Ottawa is a sombre connection to the many souls lost along with Hudson and his family that tragic cold night on April 14th, 1912.
Driving along River Road south of Ottawa is a always a pleasant experience, with scenic views of the Rideau River on one side and pastoral farm fields on the other. Then you pass a crossroad called Snake Island Road and visions of a cursed island full of deadly snakes comes to mind. This would seem like a fictional scenario, except upon further investigation it’s actually true….there once was an island full of snakes that the road is named after.
So my quest begins…
After the Rideau Canal was completed in 1832 hundreds of unemployed laborers started to settle around the areas they once worked, the majority being of Irish descent. They traded in the pickaxes for pitchforks and switched from building canals to barns, with many of them settling in the areas south of Ottawa.
A settlement grew out of the wilds near Greely with the families of O’Connor, Devereaux, Shea, Tobin, and Otto all building a new life in the area of raised land amidst swampy marshes around Concession 4/5 and Lots 20-22.
It was here on this raised land amidst the boggy marsh a settlement of families flourished finding a new life after the canal was finished. Yet what the families did not expect to find was that their new home was also the home of hundreds of snakes.
It seemed the swamps around them were home to a large population of water snakes and black rat snakes, who would seek the higher ground when not hunting for prey in the marsh. Countless snakes slithered around the area and were said to grow up to six feet, likely the now endangered Black Rat Snake, which is the largest snake in Canada.
One settler and his wife, John and Sally, allegedly experienced what would be a deadly snake attack. John decided to venture into the swamp and cut down some marsh reeds to feed their cow over the winter. John gathered his scythe, lunch and pipe and headed off the island to harvest the plentiful marsh reeds.
John soon came across a large snake that reared its head and lunged at John with its open fangs. Sadly for John, the fangs bit into his leg, and he required immediate medical attention which was provided by a passerby who saw the snake attack. John was bandaged up but the snake bite worsened likely by infection, and John soon died.
Not long afterwards the swamps were drained to create farm fields for the settlement, and the island of giant snakes disappeared as the surrounding waters receded.
So where was this legendary Island of Snakes exactly located? If you follow Snake Island Road from one end to the other, it begins at River Road near Kars, and stretches east to Metcalfe. It was along here that the island of snakes was located, but if the snake filled swamps were drained, where would this island have been?
If there was an island in a swampy land, that island would be the highest elevation topographically. That’s when I consulted a great topographic map resource and found the exact elevations of the area. The topo map revealed a highest elevation of about 92m in a marshy area, which would most likely have been the old Snake Island settlement.
Using the old 1880s family names of those that settled on Snake Island, I researched a map from 1879 and saw all those same family names in that same area of high elevation. The two corresponding pieces of evidence thus pinpointed the spot that would have been the Snake Island Settlement.
I drove out to this area to investigate and sure enough it is a very swampy area but the road climbs to a higher elevation area that would have been the original Snake Island.
This is at the current crossroads of Snake Island Road and Swale Road. There is even an out of place 1800s stone house (most period homes in this area are wood or log construction) on the top of the hill that would most likely would have been built by a former canal lock labourer who had previously built the stone locks on the canal.
Referencing the old 1880 map of that intersection shows the stone home would have belonged to the O’Connor family, which is listed as one of the settlers on the original Snake Island. There was even a Devereaux Road south of the intersection to confirm the location of the lost island.
A visit to the area reveals that much of that original snake infested swamp still surrounds the area, a reminder of the early days that gave Snake Island Road its legendary name.
The official City Of Ottawa Coat of Arms and logo that’s featured on Ottawa police and emergency vehicles show a shield with wavy blue and white lines. These lines represent the Ottawa River running from left to right, and the Rideau and Gatineau rivers represented above and below. The Nation’s Capital is surrounded by waterways, but despite our aquatic surroundings, we have no lighthouses. A feature of most shorelines surrounded by water, the City Of Ottawa curiously lacks any surviving lighthouses from the first decades of its existence, even though it was originally solely serviced by steamships. Sure, we have some modern navigational lights dotting the Ottawa River, but no classic old “LIGHTHOUSES”.
As a fan of the old fashioned lighthouses and their symbolism of isolation and safety, I was glad to discover we did once have one across from Beacon Hill, of which I wrote about earlier, but it has been long demolished. Then I was recently contacted about one still in existence, a hidden relic of a bygone era on the Rideau River canal system. After some research proved the tip was true, it was successfully located. This is the tale of Ottawa’s LAST LIGHTHOUSE.
The Rideau Canal system stretches from Kingston to Ottawa across 202 kilometres of waterways, its largest stretch of interrupted water being called “The Long Reach” which extends 40km from the lock at Burritt’s Rapids, to the locks at Long Island near Manotick. It is along this stretch of the canal system the last lighthouse resides, hiding behind some trees amidst modern homes, a shadow of its former self.
Between Kars and Osgoode, there is an island called James Island, and on the eastern shore of the river, Doug Wallace and Harry Boyd decided to build a lighthouse in 1915.
The Lighthouse was a wooden clapboard beacon situated on a rectangular main building base and it is not known if it was an actual functioning government funded navigational aid, or simply a lighthouse built for fun. Nevertheless, The Lighthouse became the most popular landmark on the Long Reach between 1935 and 1967 as a Big Band Dance Hall.
The Lighthouse’s resident orchestra during the 1950s was “The Cliff Wilkes Orchestra”, featuring Cliff, a barber from Vernon. In its heyday, the Lighthouse would be jammed with 400 people trying to dance the night away in the small Lighthouse dance hall. It was “THE” place to be on a Saturday night in the South Ottawa region, with food, drinks, swimming, boat races and regattas happening all summer long.
Canada Day, or “Dominion Day” as it would’ve been called back then, would feature a hydroplane boat race on the Rideau River which drew thousands of visitors to the Lighthouse to wacth these high speed river races during the day, and to dance and drink to the sounds of the Big Band Orchestra playing throughout the evening.
The Lighthouse became such a hotspot for raucous activity that it drew the ire of the local clergy who tried to shut its partying down, but to no avail. I can only imagine the scene on a warm summer Saturday night at the Lighthouse, roaring wooden boats pulling up to the dock, big band music blaring, couples dancing and drinking and enjoying the “river life” at this bustling beacon. As with most good things, they must always seem to come to and end, and in 1967 the Lighthouse was closed for good as teenagers found new things to do an a Saturday summer night, and the aging, older crowd just stopped attending.
Doug Wallace, co-founder of the Lighthouse would later start up a tour boat company taking passengers up and down the Rideau Canal, that would later be sold and be known as “Paul’s Boat Lines”.
THE LIGHT GOES OUT
After it closed in 1967, the lighthouse would be disassembled and modified. The pyramidal beacon would be placed off to the side of the property, with the main dance hall being converted into a residence. It is now an operating business, “Modern Living Realty Inc. Brokerage” whose office is in the historic old Long Reach landmark.
I noticed the little lighthouse on a summer boating excursion, now painted grey and red, and snapped a photo of it, not knowing it would turn out to be such a historical landmark. Now at over 100 years old, the Lighthouse remains a quiet reminder of the bygone days of river life, literally a beacon of fun and memories for so many of those that were lucky enough to have visited it over the decades.
The beacon part of the Lighthouse has been maintained and sits quietly hiding behind some trees on the shore, still gazing out at the waters of the Rideau River, its light long extinguished, but its soul and 100 year old history intact for those of us that know it’s still there.
Andrew King, January 2021
“On a Sunday Afternoon” Classic Boats On The Rideau Canal, Manotick Classic Boat Club, Turner, Douglas. 1989. The Boston Mills Press, Page 32.
The “Medieval Period” lasted from the 5th to the late 15th century, and within that time frame the period known as the “Viking Age” spanned from the late 8th to late 11th century. The Vikings were seafaring Norse people from southern Scandinavia (present-day Denmark, Norway and Sweden) that explored westward to Iceland, Greenland, and to what is now Newfoundland & Labrador. The “discovery” of North America by these hardy Norse explorers was finally substantiated when Norwegian husband-wife team of explorer Helge Ingstad and archaeologist Anne Stine Ingstad uncovered a Norse settlement at L’Anse Aux Meadows in Newfoundland. Their study of Icelandic sagas—Eirik the Red’s Saga, Saga of the Greenlanders, described how the Norse left Scandinavia and started to explore lands to the west of Greenland only a few years after settlements were established.
The stories, or “sagas” as they are called, describe that in 985AD while sailing from Iceland to Greenland with a migration fleet consisting of 400–700 settlers and 25 ships (14 of which completed the journey) a merchant named Bjarni Herjólfsson was blown off course, and after three days’ sailing he spotted a land west of the fleet. Bjarni was only interested in finding the farm of his father, but he described his discovery of this new land to Leif Erikson who explored the area in more detail and planted a small settlement fifteen years later, which puts Europeans in North America in 1000AD.
The sagas describe three separate areas discovered during this exploration: Helluland, which means “land of the flat stones”; Markland, “the land of forests” and Vinland, “the land of wine”, found somewhere south of Markland. It was in Vinland that the settlement described in the sagas was founded, and which is thought to be somewhere in the Atlantic provinces of Canada, although their main settlement, “Hop” has yet to be found.
What was discovered in 1960 was a temporary Norse boat repair encampment at L’Anse Aux Meadows, Newfoundland. They found some rivets, iron slag chunks, and some bone items, but nothing too indicative of “Viking” swords or amour. During archeological excavation butternuts were unearthed but have never been native to Newfoundland. This means that the inhabitants of this camp ventured further south, likely into New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, but no new evidence has yet been found, nor has any expedition been ignited to find the true Vinland/Hop settlement of these Norse sagas. Norse settlement of what is now Canada would end quickly as they battled indigenous inhabitants and harsh weather, departing our shores only ten years after building a settlement. The “Viking Age” would end one hundred years later around 1100AD. So what are European artifacts from 1250AD, the Medieval Period, doing in the Canadian Museum of History?
Let’s take a closer look.
MEDIEVAL SWORDS AND ARMOUR
Without being able to visit museums in person, I enjoy exploring the various museum artifacts inside the museum online. A casual search turned up some interesting artifacts I’ve never seen before, of which I will share with you below. I think they blow out of the water anything that was ever found in Newfoundland. These revealing artifacts were found on Baffin Island sometime in the last 45 years.
The artifacts are carbon dated to be from around 1250AD and include sword blades, chain mail, oak barrels, wooden boxes, iron and copper, knives, and woven cloth. They are catalogued simply as “Norse” under “origin” but we are told that the Norse left what was North America hundreds of years before that date. One explanation states that the Norse continued to travel to trade with the Inuit inhabitants of Baffin Island at that time. So it seems that it wasn’t Vikings, but medieval Europeans who brought an assortment of items found recently on Baffin Island. Did we have other European visitors prior to Cabot, Cartier and Champlain? Seems so, but their story has yet to be told in greater detail. In the meantime, let’s check out these items from over 700 years ago.
IRON BLADE: OBJECT NUMBER: SgFm-4:2 MEASUREMENTS: Length 68.4 mm, Width 47.0 mm, Thickness 4.5 mm. Date made: Unknown.
2. PINE SHAFT:
DATE MADE: Circa A.D. 1250-1500
OBJECT NUMBER: PgHb-1:8483 Length 104.4 mm, Width 27.0 mm, Thickness 17.1 mm
MEASUREMENTS Length 135.0 mm, Width 105.0 mm, Thickness 11.5 mm
6. SWORD BLADE: Circa A.D. 1200
OBJECT NUMBER SfFk-4:1184
Armament edged Length 99.3 mm, Width 37.4 mm, Thickness 6.3 mm
7. IRON RIVET:
Circa A.D. 1200
OBJECT NUMBER SfFk-4:2816
Length 38.7 mm, Width 17.9 mm, Depth 18.4 mm, Thickness 5.1 mm
8. OAK BOX
Circa A.D. 1260
Length 183.0 mm, Width 110.0 mm, Thickness 14.8 mm
9. OAK BARREL:
Circa A.D. 1260
Length 169.0 mm, Width 52.5 mm, Thickness 20.2 mm, Outside Diameter 210 mm
10. IRON AND BONE KNIFE:
Late 13th Century
OBJECT NUMBER SfFk-4:193 Iron, Muskox horn Length 153.9 mm, Width 19.1 mm, Depth 9.3 mm, Thickness 9.3 mm
11. BRONZE BALANCE:
Circa 14th Century
OBJECT NUMBER SlHq-3:4
Length 146.0 mm, Width 8.0 mm, Thickness 7.2 mm
12. BRONZE BOWL:
Circa A.D. 1250-1500
OBJECT NUMBER: RbJu-1:269 Length 101.7 mm, Width 68.9 mm, Thickness 2.4 mm
13. PINE PLANE
Circa A.D. 1260
OBJECT NUMBER SfFk-4:3502 Length 206.0 mm, Width 52.6 mm, Depth 31.0 mm, Thickness 31.0 mm
14. IRON CHAINMAIL:
OBJECT NUMBER: SfFk-4:2
body armour, Height 25.6 mm, Length 53.0 mm, Width 36.7 mm, Thickness 25.0 mm
15. PINE FIGURINE:
Circa A.D. 1250-1300
OBJECT NUMBER KeDq-7:325
Length 53.8 mm, Width 18.7 mm, Thickness 9.4 mm
With the above artifacts representing a definite presence of medieval Europeans on Canadian soil in the 13th century, we have to speculate why they were here, and where exactly they came from. Were they trading with the Inuit for whale bone and other supplies? Did the Norse set up another settlement in North America after leaving 200 years before? The shipbuilding related artifacts suggest they had a presence for sometime, and not just a meet and greet, hello/goodbye visit. Were these 13th century medieval knights on a new crusade to the New World to expand their realm? What other artifacts are out there?
This treasure trove of unique artifacts might just be the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, with other items waiting to be found on Arctic shores, or even further south where they perhaps found their pine and oak wood for these items. Unfortunately, most of these revealing artifacts of a medieval presence in Canada lie in storage and the full story has yet to be told. Maybe someday we will find more pieces to this vast puzzle called history, and soon we will snap together a more detailed story as to what our medieval guests were up to.
One of the favourite holiday traditions for many families, mine included, is to watch the classic Rankin and Bass produced “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer” stop motion animated special. It first aired Sunday, December 6, 1964, on the NBC in the United States, and was sponsored by General Electric as part of the The General Electric Fantasy Hour. It is the longest continuously running Christmas TV special.
Rankin and Bass chose Canadian voice actors because radio dramas were still being produced in Canada at the time, which gave producers a large talent pool to choose from. Rankin and Bass were also financially stretched and knew there were lower labour costs in Canada if they used Canadian voice talent.
In 1964, Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer had all its voice recording done in Toronto, Ontario, Canada at CBC studios.
Now, Hermie, the elf that wants to be a dentist, was voiced by Paul Soles. He currently lives in Toronto.
And the mean head elf, was voiced by fellow Canadian voice actor, Carl Banas.
But what I didn’t know was that BOTH THESE VOICE ACTORS ALSO DID VOICES FOR THE OLD SPIDER-MAN CARTOON. Paul Soles voiced Spider-Man/Peter Parker & Carl Banas voiced Scorpion!
Now here is where my mind is blown: SPIDER-MAN AND SCORPION YELL AT EACH OTHER IN THE SPIDERMAN CARTOON AND HEAD ELF AND HERMIE ALSO YELL AT EACH OTHER IN RUDOLPH. This mashup and revelation may just be too much for my nostalgic mind to handle. So let’s just switch gears, what ever happened to all those little stop motion puppets from the film? The crew involved with the production had no clue of the future value of the stop-motion puppet figures used in the production, so many were not preserved. It is claimed that Rankin was in possession of an original Rudolph figure.
The remaining nine other puppets—including Santa and young Rudolph—were given to a secretary at the studio, who gave them away to family members. Seven were discarded, leaving only two in existence.
In 2005, those surviving two puppets magically appeared on the Antiques Roadshow episode that aired in 2006 on PBS. At that time, their appraised value was between $8,000 and $10,000. The original puppets had been damaged through years of rough handling by children and storage in an attic. Toy aficionado Kevin Kriess bought Santa and Rudolph in 2005 and in 2007, he had both puppets restored by Screen Novelties a Los Angeles-based collective of film directors specializing in stop-motion animation.
The figurines were recently sold at auction on November 13, 2020, netting a $368,000 sale price, doubling the expected return.
You could now legitimately say that “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer….You’ll go down in history..”
I am fortunate enough to live in the wonderful village of Manotick, Ontario, a quaint little town with white picket fences and historic homes and buildings lining picturesque streets. What I didn’t know is that there is a dark secret lying within its most recognized jewel…a ghost in the the mill…
Nestled on the west bank of the Rideau River south of Ottawa there lies a stately stone mill surrounded by falling water and thick trees. Built in 1860 by Moss Kent Dickinson and his business partner Joseph Currier, Watson’s Mill is a gorgeously restored old grist mill that harnesses the power of the river to grind wheat into flour, of which it still continues to do today. In addition to the over 150 year old relics that occupy this unique landmark, the spirit of a ghost is said to also lie within its walls, a confined spirit who haunts the mill where a young life came to an untimely end one tragic day in 1861.
A native of North Troy, Vermont, mill co-owner Joseph Currier’s first wife died in 1858 after all three of their children died within five days of each other three years earlier. After his wife’s death, a saddened Currier traveled to the waters of Lake George, New York and stayed in the Crosbyside Hotel. During his stay at the hotel Currier fell in love with a tall, beautiful young woman by the name of Anne Crosby, the daughter of the family who ran the Crosbyside Hotel. Soon Joseph and Anne were married and honeymooned in the North Eastern United States. An investor and co-owner of brand new grist mill in Manotick, Ontario, Joseph wanted to show his new bride the mill he had built in Manotick and brought his love there to celebrate its first year anniversary that February.
A cold February night in 1861, Anne wrapped herself in a flowing assortment of clothing as she toured her husband’s new mill. Strolling through the operating machinery, Anne’s white dress suddenly became caught in the revolving turbine equipment, violently throwing her against a nearby support pillar which killed her instantly.
With his new bride dead on the floor of his mill, a heartbroken Joseph immediately sold his shares in the mill to his partner Dickinson and never set foot in Manotick again.
Anne was buried in Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa and Joseph, picking up the pieces of his shattered life, moved there where he became a member of Ottawa city council and was later elected as a representative for Ottawa in the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada. Becoming president of the Citizen Printing and Publishing Company which produced the Ottawa Daily Citizen, he was also president of two railway companies in the Ottawa area.
Yet Anne never seemed to leave the mill. Her spirit was said to remain on the site along with blood stains and fingernail marks on the post where her body struck. Current visitors are said to feel cold air and goosebumps on the second floor where she perished.
Joseph soon built another stately stone building in Ottawa in 1868 called “Gorffwysfa” a Welsh word for place of rest, a home he built as a gift to his third wife, Hannah, granddaughter of Philemon Wright. This stone house is better known as “24 Sussex Drive” and was purchased by the Government of Canada in 1943 to become the official residence of Canada’s Prime Ministers.
Joseph Currier died in 1884 and finally came to rest next to his beloved Anne at Beechwood Cemetery where the two still continue to haunt Ottawa’s special stone buildings in their own respective ways.
If you have ever travelled in or out of Ottawa’s McDonald-Cartier International Airport, you’ve probably noticed the distinct aluminum sculpture residing at the airport’s entrance. What you might not have noticed is that these sleek geese have a unique history and that they are quietly moved twice a year…
The Ottawa Airport, or Macdonald–Cartier International Airport was previously called Uplands, or CFB Ottawa South/CFB Uplands. Once a joint-use civilian/military field, it was the busiest airport in Canada by takeoffs and landings, reaching a peak of 307,079 aircraft movements in 1959.
With the increase of civilian jet travel in the 1950s, the Canadian government decided to build a new field south of the original one, with two much longer runways and a new terminal building designed to handle up to 900,000 passengers/year.
This new airport that opened in 1960 was designed by famed Ottawa architect James Strutt, who designed many Ottawa landmarks including the concrete beach huts at Westboro Beach.
Strutt intended to create a ‘cultured atmosphere’ using modernist architecture, Canadian art, and stylish modern furniture. He wanted the new Ottawa airport to be the pinnacle of Canadian art and design and commissioned sculptor Louis Archambault. Archambault would later design sculptures for the Canadian pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal, which can be seen today on the lawn of the Museum Of History.
Archambault designed an large and striking metal architectural screen and large stylized “Canada Goose” sculpture called “Shape of Flight“. Situated on either side of the main entrance in reflecting water pools. The Shape of Flight goose sculptures are sleek, abstracted symbols of the iconic Canadian Goose.
Constructed from sharp edged curved aluminum, the goose sculpture remained at Ottawa’s airport terminal until it was renovated in the late 1980/90s when they disappeared until the latest renovation occurred. Re-opened in the early 2000s, Shape Of Flight returned to the main entrance of the airport on the grassy knoll, visible as travellers enter the stunning new terminal.
Now what is most interesting, is that the old 1960 sculpture continues to move, in fact MIGRATE like real geese, each Fall and Spring.
The Airport Authority quietly switches the goose sculptures to face the north in the spring to recreate the Canada Goose migrating back from the south, and in the fall switches the sculptures to face south when the real geese head south for the winter.
This was confirmed on Twitter by the airport, so you are not going crazy if you think you saw them facing one way one month, and the opposite way a few months later.