The Mid-Century Modern CIVIC PHARMACY BUILDING is FOR SALE

img_9115There is probably no better example of Ottawa’s Mid-Century Modern Commercial architecture still in its original state than the Civic Pharmacy building at the corner of Holland and Carling. Looking like a scene from from the hit series “MadMen”, this iconic piece of Ottawa’s history has been a coveted piece of our past since it opened in 1960. Now up for sale at a cool $3.36 Million, this well preserved example of Ottawa’s mid-century heritage is now available to someone who will hopefully maintain this shining example of a much overlooked heritage building.

HISTORY

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A photo of the Cvic Pharmacy building as it appeared when it opened in 1960. (Ottawa Citizen)

The Civic Pharmacy Building officially opened with much fanfare on September 17 1960, with most of Ottawa remembering it for its unique multi-coloured “Googie” inspired signage affixed to its corner. “Googie” is a style of architecture that is very unique, and Ottawa is fast losing its examples. “Googie” architecture is a style of modern futurist architecture that evolved through the Atomic Age of the 1950s and 1960s culture, with jets, and the space-age being inspiration to its style.

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“Googie” architecture utilized fun colours and a “Jetsons” style.

Googie-themed architecture was a popular choice for commercial buildings of the time such as motels, coffee houses and gas stations, all part of the Mid-Century modern aesthetic.

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The original sign, whose letters used to rotate, is still in pretty good condition, but could use a restoration of its Googie inspired rotating letters. (photo: author)

The Ottawa Citizen had a two page spread printed about our Civic building’s Grand Opening Day, which included a mention of its awesome signage. 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.

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Injectables and biologicals were kept refrigerated. (Ottawa Citizen)

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 loved 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.

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On opening day in 1960, Brylcreem was on sale for 73 cents. (Ottawa Citizen)

In addition to the drug store component to the building, it also housed a 55 seat restaurant that featured imported chandeliers and lamps with copper tiles. The restaurant was a favourite hang out and place to skip class for kids from the nearby Fisher Park High School according to neighbourhood legend.

FOR SALE

Listed under the Re/Max website for sale at $3.36 Million, the building has changed on the inside dramatically, with its huge sales floor being subdivided into smaller units, but the that iconic sign that all of Ottawa adores, still remains in much its original state.

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The ad for the building states it is for sale at $3.36 million.

I would hope that a building of this historical significance is submitted for heritage approval, as it would be a shame if it was torn down for some new bland condo development. Just the sign itself is a rare example of something that binds all Ottawa residents together with the cherished memories it holds for so many.

I wish I could buy it myself and turn it into a living set piece from MadMen, complete with a cocktail lounge and 1960s style steakhouse. If the Dresden can do it in Los Angeles, I’m sure someone with vision and money could do the same in the Nation’s Capital.

Keep your eyes on this one Ottawa, it is too precious a piece of our past to see it demolished or have the sign unceremoniously tossed into a scrap heap.

 

Andrew King, March 2017. 

 

SOURCES

Google News Archive https://news.google.ca/newspapers?nid=QBJtjoHflPwC&dat=19600916&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Googie_architecture

Remax Realty https://www.remax.ca/on/ottawa-real-estate/na-474-holland-avenue-ott_1035710-lst/

 

 

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Ottawa In The Atari Age

Between 1977 and 1983, during what was called the “Golden Years” of video games, Atari was the godfather of all modern day video games selling 30 million consoles and hundreds of millions of games. At its peak in 1980, Atari games were being produced at an alarming rate involving hundreds of themes, some very obscure, and some just downright puzzling.

So what if Atari had developed a game based on the city of Ottawa? What if we never got out of 1980 and the technology and graphics of that era? What if we never advanced beyond the Atari age?

OTTAWATARI: The game that fun didn’t forget

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Found at the Great Glebe Garage Sale? A vintage 1981 “OTTAWATARI” game whose box art shows what looks to be Jim Watson behind the controls of some kind of computer console.

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The 1981 cartridge is typical of most Atari cartridges of that time. The instruction manual states the game is “Action Packed”.

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This magazine ad from 1981 showcases some of the features of OTTAWATARI in an effort to entice video game enthusiasts to purchase it in the summer of ’81.

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Screen shot of the gameplay shows the “LRT” mode. A government civil servant has to make his way across the city and avoid sinkholes while below an underground tunnel for the light-rail project is being chewed away. Points are scored for successfully jumping the holes and finishing ahead of the LRT tunnelling.

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In “Snowscape” mode, an intrepid Ottawa resident has to make it back to their Glebe home from their government job while the temperature drops. Avoiding shooting bars of windchill and icy patches on the way home keeps your point score up, but as the temperature drops, so does your health.

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In “RushHour” mode it’s a race against time as you wildly navigate your car down Carling Avenue. Points are lost if you hit a pothole or other cars.

Boasting over 30 different games on one cartridge, other games include “NCC” where you have to complete a project by successfully collecting 100 approvals over a 40 year span.

In “CONDO” mode, your character races against time to build a 30 storey condominium before the NIMBYS take away your bricks. In “2017” you must collect party items like a cake, fireworks, and musicians for Canada Day celebrations.

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This 1981 magazine ad includes some screenshots of the game that feature its wide range of gameplay.

Most of the games on OTTAWATARI are fun, engaging and creative, making it one of those rare cartridges you will want to play again and again. The instruction manual recommends that you blow the dust out of it from time to time so it plays properly.

All in all OTTAWATARI is a classic Atari game that has all the elements to make it a fun game for one or two players. It was rumoured sales were sluggish and thousands of unsold copies of the game were buried in a huge snowbank off Hunt Club Road, but that has yet to be confirmed.

AK-2017

*Note: This post is for satirical purposes only. Atari is a registered trademark of Atari Interactive, Inc.

Mysterious Solstice Monument in Ottawa’s Major’s Hill Park

Being the nation’s capital, Ottawa is filled with many curious structures, from incredible museums to stunning historical architecture that fills the downtown core. Yet there are other intriguing structures that go unnoticed unless a more detailed and closer inspection is made, structures that are mysterious in nature and without clear explanation.

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This image from Google Earth shows the elliptical concrete pad at the lower right and the secondary structure in the top left. (Google Earth)

Once such structure is a bizarre concrete pad in Ottawa’s scenic Major’s Hill Park. I’ve walked over it many times, but have never noticed until now the oddity of the whole thing. A glimpse at it from an aerial image illustrates its very esoteric nature.

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The concrete pad has a circle with divisional lines and a single dark line pointing towards the northwest. (Google Streetview)

It is a carefully crafted solstice monument which interprets an event that has been celebrated among many ancient cultures such as the Mayans, Egyptians and Celts. Various rituals around the solstice follow themes of religion or fertility, but why is an unmarked secret solstice structure in downtown Ottawa?

THE SITE

I have previously investigated another odd solstice site in Ottawa at the former City Hall island, in which its pyramids mysteriously align with the Solstice.  Now another site has been found, this time in Major’s Hill Park across from Parliament Hill. The park is owned and maintained by the National Capital Commission who states “Major’s Hill Park is the Capital’s first park and has been a green space since 1826 when the building of the Rideau Canal began. In 1867, fireworks and bonfires at Major’s Hill Park marked the Capital’s first Canada Day celebrations.”

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An aerial image shows the odd oval (lower right) with emanating lines/black line from a marked circle. The corner of the stone ruins of Colonel By’s original home intersects the secondary “runway” across the park, top left. (Google Maps)

The park was once occupied by the labourers of the nearby Rideau Canal and more notably it was the official residence of Lieutenant-Colonel John By until he returned to England in 1832. Once referred to as “Colonel’s Hill” Captain Daniel Bolton replaced Colonel By and he moved into his old house. Bolton was later promoted to “Major” and since then the area has been called Major’s Hill. The ruins of the original stone structure were later unearthed and are part of the park today.

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Curiously, Google Earth has placed a 360 Sphere marker at the centre of the circle of the park’s oval.

After researching the odd elliptical concrete pad at the south end of the park to determine why it was built in such an intriguing manner, I found nothing about who designed or built it so I turned to aerial imagery to see what was going on. Sure enough, it has a very specific alignment. Applying the Sun Surveyor app to the site it was revealed the structure is part of some bizarre summer solstice monument that spreads across the park.

THE SOLSTICE

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The calculated line of sight for the setting sun on the Summer Solstice from the primary concrete viewing pad that intersects three other structures. (Image: SunSurveyor)

The oval shaped concrete pad is divided into emanating lines from a marked circle with a distinct black line with dashed white lines that points to the north west. If you stand in the centre of the circle and look down that black line, your sightline carries across the park further away to a secondary concrete structure that also contains an odd “runway” that resembles an airport landing strip. This secondary runway area intersects with the stone ruins of Colonel By’s original home.

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The view looking back towards the primary oval from the secondary solstice runway. Note Col.By’s home ruins to the left of the end of the runway strip. (Google Streetview)

Once the summer solstice date of June 21 has been computed into the application we can see that the whole structure is in alignment with the setting sun on the date of the Summer Solstice. What this means is that if you are standing in the centre of the circle on the primary concrete pad looking down the black line as the sun sets on the summer solstice you would see the sun disappear in alignment with the pre-calculated and constructed concrete “runway” that stretches across the park.

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The path of the setting sun on the Summer Solstice as seen from the primary viewing pad showing the dark line pointing NW on the date of solstice. (Image SunSurveyor)

Now what is really fascinating, is that if you extend that sightline even further, past the secondary runway, the line perfectly intersects with ANOTHER curious structure: The statue of Samuel deChamplain at Nepean point. One alignment match could be coincidence, two is unlikely, but THREE alignment hits makes this a very planned, and deliberate calculated alignment. But why on the Summer Solstice would there be an alignment with the very prominent statue of Samuel DeChamplain on Nepean point?

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Statue of Samuel De Champlain at Nepean Point. On the Summer Solstice, an alignment with the sun and a viewing platform occurs. (Image: Wikipedia Commons)

Champlain is known as the “The Father of New France”, a navigator, cartographer, draughtsman, soldier, explorer, geographer, ethnologist, diplomat, and chronicler. He founded New France and Quebec City on July 3, 1608. This is what the history books tell us, but what could be one of his greatest secrets is that Champlain was a part of the ancient order of the Knights Templar, sent to North America to establish a new “base of operations” for the Knights of Malta, a derivative of the Templars after their disbanding in 1312.

The Knights Templar had a strong presence in a place called La Rochelle in France and it was their largest base on the Atlantic Ocean, also where they stationed their main fleet of ships. Whether by coincidence or by connection, Champlain inherited a substantial estate at La Rochelle.

CHAMPLAIN’S CONNECTION TO THE KNIGHTS

In a book written in 1890, “History of the Knights Templar of Canada”, compiled by the historians of the Order, there is a chapter devoted to the early knights exploits to North America. Champlain is stated to be the first of the Knights to reach Quebec.

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Now what is completely fascinating is a detail of Ottawa’s Champlain statue, erected in 1915 and sculpted by Hamilton McCarthy, who incorrectly placed Champlain’s astrolabe upside down in his outreached hand. Why is the astrolabe so prominently displayed incorrectly and in perfect alignment with a series of other structures on the summer solstice? Is there a connection to the order of knights Champlain was associated with?

Well a closer look at the astrolabe shows a unique shape that curiously resembles another recognizable symbol, that of cross of the Templar Knights. Coincidence?

This is all fun speculation, but now we have FOUR odd coincidences all linked to Ottawa’s grand summer solstice monument. A day revered by the Templar knights commemorated with ceremony to mark re-birth and fertility, all part of the ancient Order’s doctrine.

It seems too much of a coincidence that all these elements are associated together, all at one place and at one very specific time. A very carefully constructed, but unknown solar solstice monument that aligns with the statue of Champlain in the Nation’s Capital seems to be the work of someone that knew full well of this occurrence and worked it into the landscape for reasons that are not clear.

 

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A composite view of what the setting sun would look like setting on the date of the Summer Solstice, bizarrely in alignment with the park’s concrete runway structures.

Why anyone would go to so much trouble to construct a very esoteric unmarked solstice monument linked to Champlain is beyond me, but perhaps the NCC can can answer that question as they are the ones that own the park and constructed this unusual monument.

A MYSTERY

Is it a curious coincidence or is some organization positioning secret solstice markers throughout the nation’s capital?  As winter continues its icy grasp on the residents of Ottawa, one can only assume it is to celebrate the warmth and rebirth the summer solstice has brought to us for so many years.

Andrew King

February 2017

SOURCES

Google Maps

Sun Surveyor

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summer_solstice

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major’s_Hill_Park

http://www.ncc-ccn.gc.ca/places-to-visit/parks-paths/majors-hill-park

http://www.sospb.com

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freemasonry_in_Scotland

 

 

 

 

 

OTTAWA’S PARK OF THE DEAD

 

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This tranquil city park has a grim secret lying below the surface. (image:GoogleStreetview)

In 1920 a crew of city workers were landscaping the grounds of Macdonald Park, a large and picturesque plot of land in Ottawa’s Sandy Hill district when a passerby noticed a round object roll down an embankment. Upon closer inspection the round object was discovered to to be a human skull. The park was once an old graveyard for Ottawa’s first residents, some of whom still inhabit this tranquil PARK OF THE DEAD.

BURIED IN TIME

Macdonald Park is a quaint little Lowertown park bordered by Heney, Wurtemburg, Cobourg and Tormey streets just north of Rideau street where it meets the Rideau River. Enjoyed by locals who wander its lush grass and meandering pathways, this park was once home to hundreds of graves, and still is. Below the surface forgotten tombstones and skeletal remains of some of Ottawa’s earliest residents lie quietly below the visitor’s feet, part of a long forgotten cemetery that became a park.

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This 1885 map shows a plot of land as “cemeteries”, here circled in red.

The land became a graveyard for Bytown’s earliest settlers when the city’s first graveyard at Elgin and Sparks was moved in the 1840s from its location at the foot of Barrack Hill, a site that you may recall recently had some human bones dug up near Queen and Elgin Streets. Ottawa’s first settlers were buried at this original graveyard but were later moved to a new cemetery east of the city, to what was then called the “city limits”, that being the Rideau River. This second graveyard was opened for burials staring in 1845 and operated until the 1870s when the graveyard had to be moved yet again, this time out to Beechwood.

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“Old Cemeteries” as mapped in 1885.

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This overlay sequence shows the old graveyard as it appeared on an 1885 map, superimposed on a current aerial image that reveals the location of the park/graveyard.

Hundreds of remains had to be claimed and moved to the new Beechwood cemetery, but many souls had no one to claim them, and their remains were left behind. A report at Bytown.net mentions a time when the abandoned cemetery had cows grazing among skeletons and toppled tombstones for almost 35 years as the land sat vacant. The  unclaimed remains were left to the elements until 1911 when the City of Ottawa levelled the area for a new park in honour of Sir John A. Macdonald. Any unclaimed remains and tombstones were flattened over with a bulldozer and reburied under a new park landscape. Out of respect for those left behind, the city of Ottawa read the names, hundreds of them, at a city council meeting and recorded every name and inscription on the re-buried tombstones. Those names and inscriptions are available for viewing today at the Ottawa Room of the Ottawa Public Library Main Branch.

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This 1936 Ottawa Citizen article recounts the time a skull was unearthed in the park. (Source:Google News Archives)

Later a stone structure was placed atop a small hill, known as “Summer House”. The park enjoyed years of pleasant use until the 1920s when a 1936 Ottawa Citizen article recounted the story of workers doing some hill landscaping who accidentally unearthed the skull of one of the unfortunate souls left behind.

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The Park of the Dead, or Macdonald Park. (image: Bing Maps)

Today the quiet park sits much as it has for over a hundred years, its boundaries never shifting, and no new buildings have ever been built atop the lost souls that still lie below the surface. For those that know the haunting secret beneath, the park is a grim reminder of a time when it was where the dead were parked.

Andrew King, January 16, 2017

SOURCES

http://www.bytown.net/oldcemeteries.htm

Bing Maps

Google Maps

Google News Archives, The Ottawa Citizen, Feb.21, 1936

Map of the City of Ottawa, Published by A.S. Woodbrun. Ottawa, 1885

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/more-bones-found-during-queen-street-road-work-1.2455001

OTTAWA’S LOST GIANT “OTTAWA” SIGN

A few decades ago giant white letters that formed the word “OTTAWA” existed in a grassy field. Measuring almost 500 feet long by 100 feet tall, the massive lettering was visible from hundreds of feet in the air as aircraft flew over the Nation’s Capital. By chance on Google Maps, I found that although faint, the giant lettering is still visible today.

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The 500ft “OTTAWA” sign visible in the grass circa 1965 along with some 1950s fighter jets and transport aircraft at CFB Uplands. (image GeoOttawa)

Now in 2017, these long lost letters still remain hidden in the grass of the MacDonald Cartier Airport, a faded reminder of a time when our city was marked with giant letters to welcome visitors to our fair city while up in the air.

Probably made from white stone or chalk, the giant letters were most likely part of the Ottawa Flying Club’s original runway which opened in 1928. These letters would have also marked the site of CFB Uplands, part of the Royal Canadian Air Force  wartime training station of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan which opened in 1942.

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Fighter pilot training in Ottawa during WorldWar2. (image Library and Archives Canada/Wikipedia)

Our current MacDonald-Cartier International Airport roots go back to a time when a  combined military base and public airport terminal on the site made it the busiest airport in Canada, reaching a peak in 1959 with 307,079 aircraft take-offs and landings.

This once unmistakeable giant OTTAWA sign would have clearly welcomed visitors and returning residents back to Ottawa with its 500ft of white letters as their aircraft circled above. I for one would like to be welcomed home by seeing a giant “Ottawa” out my airplane window, and that’s what happened until the early 1970s when it looks like the letters started to fade into obscurity.

Using geoOttawa and current aerial maps, I was able to trace the fading of the letters over time, watching them almost disappear.

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Circa 1965 (image GeoOttawa)

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Circa 1991 (image GeoOttawa)

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Circa 2002 (image GeoOttawa)

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Circa 2007 (image GeoOttawa)

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Circa 2016 (image Bing Maps)

The letters are faint, but still visible today, and with Ottawa2017 celebrations welcoming thousands of new visitors to the Nation’s Capital to commentate Canada’s 150th birthday, it might be a unique and fun idea to restore the large letters to their original splendour and  once again enjoy OTTAWA’S GIANT OTTAWA SIGN.

Andrew King, January 2017

SOURCES

GeoOttawa

Bing Maps

Google Maps

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ottawa_Macdonald–Cartier_International_Airport

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CFB_Uplands

OTTAWA’S SECRET SOLSTICE PYRAMIDS?

SOLSTICE SUN

The Winter Solstice is an astronomical event, usually occurring on December 21, that signifies the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Since ancient times the solstice has been a significant event in the annual cycle of the sun and has guided cultures in activities of celebration around such monuments as the archaeological sites of Stonehenge in England and Newgrange in Ireland. These sites, along with pyramids in Egypt and Mexico,  seem to have been carefully aligned with the winter solstice sunrise and the winter solstice sunset. It seems unusual that we would find any modern monuments designed to celebrate this ancient tradition, but whether by coincidence or deliberate planning, Ottawa seems to have its very own SECRET SOLSTICE PYRAMIDS.

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A glass pyramid part of the Old City Hall on Green Island is in alignment with the Winter Solstice sun. (Image: Google Streetview) 

PYRAMID POWER

Green Island is just east of Ottawa’s downtown core and is a significant island on the Rideau River where it converges with the Ottawa River in a dramatic dual waterfall. Once a sacred site for indigenous people, Green Island became the site of Ottawa City Hall in 1958, and in 1988 it was re-designed in a bold new plan under the pen of architect Moshe Safdie.

Safdie’s re-design of the original 1958 City Hall included a number of carefully positioned pyramids throughout the island, four to be exact, in various shapes and sizes, and at at different alignments on the island. I have always been perplexed by these unusual glass pyramids, as they seem to have little function other than to be aesthetically incorporated into Safdie’s re-imagined City Hall.  Safdie may be best known for his architecture in Montreal known as Habitat 67 which pioneered the design and implementation of three-dimensional, prefabricated units. It was a central feature of Expo 67 and an important development in architectural history. In 1988 Ottawa mayor Jim Durrell wanted to expand City Hall on Green Island and architect Moshe Safdie was selected for the redesign. Soon Safdie and the city were at odds as Safdie demanded a higher fee and wanted some unique features incorporated into the new design. The re-design cost 72 million dollars and was much larger than the city needed with much of the space sitting vacant for years.

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Green Island as seen in an aerial view showing Safdie’s design incorporating 4 pyramids, some cut in half. (Google Maps)

So why are there 4 pyramids incorporated into this building that has since been sold to the Government Of Canada? It seems each pyramid in the complex is aligned with the position of the sun on the solstice and a digital application called “Sun Surveyor” reveals the alignment.

SOLSTICE PYRAMIDS

Using the Sun Surveyor application to superimpose the position of the sunrise and sunset on the Winter Solstice reveals that Safdie’s pyramids are in alignment with both the solstice sunrise and sunset. Whether this is by pure coincidence or was carefully planned is unknown, but the application clearly illustrates these solstice alignments.

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Pyramid 1 is a large pyramid on the South End of the complex cut in half with a truncated cone. Placing the centre position on the Winter Solstice, the sun sets on exactly the westerly edge of the pyramid and there is even a landscape feature marking the sunset position.

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Pyramid 2 is a smaller half pyramid on the west side of the complex and the centre position aligns perfectly with the SUNRISE on the Winter Solstice, which is 7:40 am on December 21. Why this half pyramid’s apex edge aligns with the sunrise on the Winter Solstice seems too perfect to be coincidental.

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Pyramid 3 is a smaller pyramid on the north east corner of the complex and it is a full pyramid whose south edge corner is also in alignment with the sunrise on the Winter Solstice.

Whether Safdie intentionally positioned these glass pyramids in alignment with the solstice can only be confirmed by the architect himself, but alas, I do not have his phone number to chat with him about this unusual pyramidal alignment. In the meantime, if anyone is a morning person or plans to be there at sunset, you can go to the pyramids of Green Island and experience the rising and setting suns on the solstice from Ottawa’s very own Secret Solstice Pyramids.

Andrew King, December 21, 2016 

SOURCES

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_G._Diefenbaker_Building

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moshe_Safdie

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_solstice

Bing Maps

Google Maps

Christmas Log: How An Ancient Pagan Solstice Ritual got to be a log on your dinner table

Victorian Yule Log Christmas card c 1870

A brief history of a bizarre Christmas tradition

A walk through the aisles of a grocery store during the holiday season is always filled with delectable treats centered around various Christmas traditions. One such item that has always intrigued me has been the Yule Log. A log. That you eat. Why in the Charles Dickens would you want to eat a log? Well, it turns out this tradition dates back thousands of years and here’s what it’s all about…

LOG IN

The Yule Log tradition appeared thousands of years ago in ancient Celtic/Scandinavian/Germanic tribes celebrating the Winter Solstice. They would find a giant tree trunk and set it on fire on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. This pagan tradition was to celebrate re-birth and these ancient people thought by burning certain types of trees such as elm, oak, beech and cherry trees it would help bring about mystical good luck in the days to come after the solstice.

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During the time of these ancient celebrations both December and January were called Guili or “Yule”, and it was when this magical log was burned, one could count on a return of both light and heat from the sun’s rays.

yule-log-wallpaperLike most pagan traditions, they were quashed when Christianity took over, but then adopted by Christianity to fit into the agenda of the Catholic Church. The Yule Log celebration was no exception and in the 12th century the ceremony became Christian-ified with families hauling home huge logs with the youngest sibling riding it home, who brought good fortune and luck for the coming season. Once home, the medieval families would burn the massive log to bring positive future outcomes for all that were present.

 

The tradition carried on through the centuries and in the 1800’s the Yule log was recorded in “Christmas Observances” by J.B. Partridge with the following ritual as the proper way to celebrate the Yule Log:

•The Yule log is brought in, and is at once put on the hearth.
•It is unlucky to have to light it again after it has once been started, and it ought not go out until it has burned away.
•To sit around the Yule log and tell ghost stories is a great thing to do on this night, also card-playing.
•Just before supper on Christmas Eve while the Yule log is burning, all other lights are put out, and the candles are lighted from the Yule log by the youngest person present. While they are being lighted, all are silent and wish. The wish must not be told, but you see if you get it during the year. As soon as the candles are on the table, silence may be broken. They must be allowed to burn themselves out, and no other lights may be lighted that night.

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Bringing in the traditional Yule Log.

As time moved on, large log burning fireplaces in the family home gave way to smaller hearths and so the Yule Logs got smaller. Then as we moved into the 20th century, fireplaces were replaced by furnaces and stoves, requiring the tradition to adapt once again. This time a smaller Yule Log was placed on the dinner table and candles places on top of the log surrounded by candies and treats that were handed out on Christmas Eve.

Soon the traditional real wooden table log was replaced by a cake log, which is our current incarnation of this ancient pagan ritual. The cake log is usually covered in chocolate icing and scraped with a fork to resemble the tree bark.

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One of the last places to celebrate the real Yule Log was in Quebec so it is no surprise that most Yule Log cakes are produced by Quebec companies such as Vachon, who continue the tradition with their own version of the Yule Log that you see in the grocery store aisles. Both Dairy Queen and Baskin Robbins also offer Yule Logs as ice cream logs that probably should not be lit on fire.

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Vachon still makes a Yule Log cake during the Christmas season available at your grocers. (Image: Vachon.com)

LOG ON

So there you have it, the history of the Yule Log, once an ancient pagan tradition of setting fire to a giant log to worship the sun that has now evolved into a cake you eat and wash down with a glass of egg nog…egg nog…now there’s another story…what is nog?

Merry Christmas!

Andrew King

 

SOURCES

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yule_log

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yule_log_(cake)

https://whydyoueatthat.wordpress.com/2011/12/08/day-8-buche-de-noel/

Baffin Island Mystery: The unusual 700yr old carving of a robed figure with cross

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The robed carving dated to the 13th century with an etched cross found on Baffin Island (photo: historymuseum.ca)

In storage at the Museum of History just across the Ottawa River from the Nation’s Capital lies an intriguing artifact labeled “KeDq-7:325”. If you type that number in the museum’s website search engine you reveal a fascinating entry about a mysterious 14th century wooden carving found on Baffin Island of a person in a tunic with a cross on their chest.

Further research reveals that The Canadian Journal of Archaeology Number 2 published in 1978 describes the recovery of a 6cm wooden figure from Baffin Island in the summer of 1977. While the rest of us were lining up to see Star Wars that summer, Deborah Sabo was at the settlement of Lake Harbour uncovering the remains of a Thule Culture village that contained 21 stone structures referred to as the “Okivilialuk Site”, a village  dated to be from the 13th century. Upon investigation of one of the stone structures, a wooden carving was recovered which depicts a figure clad in a strangely European looking tunic with a cross on the front, leading researchers to believe Europeans were interacting with the Thule people at that time.

With the only confirmed Norse settlement in North America located at L’Anse Aux Meadows in Newfoundland dated to 1000AD, this would mean there were European visitors to Canada roaming about in the 500 years between the Norse arrival at L’Anse Aux Meadows and European explorer John Cabot in the 15th century.

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The tunic clad figure was found near Lake Harbour (marked in red) on Baffin Island. (Google Maps)

The wooden figure depicts a person in some kind of tunic with a bordered edge and a split in the middle as well as an etched cross symbol on the chest. Researchers of the time believed it to be a depiction of a Greenland Viking with the tunic resembling the yoked hoods worn in the 11th to 13th centuries. With the Norse sagas mentioning a visit to a place called “Helluland”, this could refer to Baffin Island with the carving done by the native people on the island depicting this Norse visit as described in the sagas. A Norse robe with a split in the centre and cross as depicted has yet to be found in my research.

The Museum of History now contains the carving within its collection and describes it as being carved between 1250-1300AD and is of a Norse visitor to Baffin Island, which is intriguing, since the only confirmed evidence of pre-Columbian contact in North America has been through the artifacts recovered in Newfoundland. A representative from the museum tentatively stated that the figure is thought to be made from White Pine, a species of tree not found in the Arctic, or anywhere near Baffin Island for that matter.

The wood used to make the carving, if proved to be actually White Pine, Pinus Strobus,  is a type of wood that is only found in a select area of the continent. This means the wood for the carving made its way to Baffin Island via trading, or it was a piece of driftwood or even the visitors depicted in the carving brought it themselves. (map of White Pine distribution below)

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Distribution of White Pine, the wood purportedly used for the figure carving. The areas of White pine are no where near Baffin Island in the arctic which means the wood used for the carving made its way there through other channels. (image: Wikipedia)

Speculation can also lead to another depiction in the carving, as it resembles closely the  Knights Templar, whose tunics of the 13th and 14th century do have a split in the centre and have a cross on the chest like that of the figurine.

An enduring legend states that the Knights Templar joined Henry I Sinclair, Earl of Orkney after the knights were condemned and exiled from Europe by the Pope and King Philip IV in 1307. Sinclair gave the exiled knights refuge and with his new friends the Templars, Henry Sinclair supposedly sailed with the vast religious relics and treasures of the Templars to North America in the 1300’s. The alleged trans-Atlantic journey had them exploring Greenland and the coastal regions of Canada where they established settlements and lived out their days among the natives. This theory is highly contested, and currently there has yet to be found any proof of this 14th century Templar voyage, although a Templar coin was recently recovered on Oak Island in Nova Scotia.

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The official museum information regarding the recovered figure from Baffin Island (from historymuseum.ca)

Whether the little wooden carving is of a robed Christian Viking, a European monk, a Templar knight, or just a Thule native in an odd coat, one thing is for sure, the people residing on Baffin Island in the 1300s carved a representation of a visitor in a tunic with a cross on their chest at a time in history when such characters were not supposed to exist in North America.

It has been confirmed with the Museum of History that this intriguing object known as KeDq-7: 325 will ultimately be displayed with its provenance when the museum re-opens its Canada Hall in 2017. This grand hall will depict our country’s ever evolving history, featuring items that can be readily explained, and perhaps those that remain unexplained.

Andrew King, November 2016

SOURCES

http://www.historymuseum.ca/collections/artifact/482525/?q=keDq-7%3A325&page_num=1&item_num=0&media_irn=379962

https://www.jstor.org/stable/23006521?seq=1#fndtn-page_scan_tab_contents

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_I_Sinclair,_Earl_of_Orkney

 

 

 

 

 

THE NUCLEAR REACTOR THAT WAS ONCE AT TUNNEY’S PASTURE

SLOWPOKE REACTOR

Sketch from The Canadian Association Of Mechanical Engineers of what the Tunney’s Pasture nuclear reactor looked like.

(This information comes from an earlier OttawaRewind post written in 2014. You can read the full article here.)

Recently the National Capital Commission revealed plans to make Tunney’s Pasture the site of the new Civic Hospital campus. The current Tunney’s federal government complex is a mix of mid-century and 1970s office buildings and towers, a boring collection of grey concrete. Something that is of more excitement however, is the fact that the area was once home to a nuclear reactor.

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Atomic Energy of Canada Limited Buildings located on the Tunney’s Pature Complex that housed the SLOWPOKE nuclear reactor 1971-84.

The year was 1970 and the Atomic Energy Canada Limited, or AECL, was placing a SLOWPOKE-2 class nuclear reactor at Tunney’s Pasture. According to The Canadian Society For Mechanical Engineers documents, this nuclear reactor was installed in Tunney’s Pasture at 20 Goldenrod Avenue. It was constructed as a commercial testing reactor to determine its feasibility. This nuclear reactor was in full operation after it reached critical mass in 1971 until 1984 when it was then moved to another test site located in Kanata, later decommissioned in 1992.

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Aerial image showing the proximity of the Remic Bunker to the Tunney’s Pasture Nuclear Reactor site.

The reactor, nicknamed SLOWPOKE, (an acronym for Safe LOW-POwer Kritical Experiment) which used 93% enriched uranium. The reactor core sits in a pool of regular light-water, 2.5 m diameter by 18 feet deep, which provided cooling. The reactor built at Tunney’s Pasture achieved “Critical Mass” or the point at which a nuclear reaction is self-sustaining on May 1 1971 and continued operating until 1984.

The oddly shaped circular concrete bunker that remains on the shore of the Ottawa River directly opposite the old nuclear reactor site was built at the same time as the reactor in 1969-70. It was built to facilitate the increased “cooling” needs of Tunney’s Pasture, one of them you could speculate being the addition of a small nuclear reactor.

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The mysterious concrete bunker at Remic Rapids has perplexed many a passerby.

The pumping station bunker and pipeline were finished in 1970 and the reactor began operating a year later. Whether or not the bunker pipeline bringing cooling water to Tunney’s Pasture was directly related to the addition of a nuclear reactor remains speculation but it is interesting to note the proximity and similar timeline of both projects.

You can follow the intake cooling water pipe by tracing a path that follows a series of manhole covers that lead from the river to the Tunney’s Pasture site.

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The buildings where the nuclear reactor once existed have since been demolished, and it is currently an empty gravel parking lot, and possibly soon to be part of the new Civic Hospital plans recently announced.

 

Andrew King, November 2016. 

 

SOURCES

geomap Ottawa

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SLOWPOKE_reactor

http://www.newspapers.com/newspage/44420893/

http://www.yorku.ca/slater/documents/CSME-Slater.pdf

http://media.cns-snc.ca/history/canadian_nuclear_history.html

Google Maps

Bing Maps

The Mysterious Spectra-1 Hovercraft Made In Ottawa

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The Spectra-1 made in Ottawa in a photo from the 1971 sales brochure of it on the Ottawa River. Note the Champlain Bridge in the background (from decastris.com)

The year was 1970 and on River Road south of Ottawa a company was building hovercraft vehicles. Dubbed the “Spectra-1”,  this unique vehicle was straight out of a James Bond film of the same era. The product of Modern Hover Vehicles, a company that existed on paper at the address of 1078 Queensdale Ave.in Blossom Park, but that address has apparently never existed.

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Sales brochure of the Spectra-1 (from decastris.com)

Introduced in 1970 as the “Spectra-1”  with an air cooled 18.5 HP Single Cylinder hover engine and similar propulsion engine, this orange fiberglass bodied hovercraft would travel at speeds of up to to 45 MPH on land and on water up to 40 MPH, yet over ice the Spectra would reach a blazing 60 MPH.

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More info on the Spectra-1 made in Ottawa.Note Champlain Bridge in photos. (from decastris.com)

The Modern Hover Vehicle sales brochure touted the Spectra-1 as the “in thing for the in people” and photos show the hovercraft traveling over the rapids of the Ottawa River at the Champlain Bridge area.

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A provocative image from the Spectra-1 sales brochure with a frozen Ottawa River in the background (from davidsleds.mysite.com)

This Ottawa company building these craft on River Road then improved on the Spectra-1 by introducing the Spectra-2 which was developed in 1973. The Spectra-2 used bigger 2 stroke engines and incorporated an enclosed plexiglass cockpit windshield for the driver.

The Spectra-2 was, according to their sales brochure, “The most advanced light hovercraft in the world” and was for applications in the geological, armed forces, police and rescue fields of use.

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The Spectra-2 with enclosed canopy. (from decastris.com)

The company, Modern Hover Vehicles, had an address of 1078 Queensdale Ave. but that address does not seem to exist according to Google Maps. A fellow on Twitter said he had acquired a Spectra-1 in a trade and is in the process of restoring it, but that is the only one I have ever seen.

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A Spectra-1 in the United States awaiting restoration. (photo submitted by Matt Norman via Twitter)

It is unclear what ever happened to the mysterious Ottawa born Spectra Hovercraft, the company that made them, or if any others are still in existence.

Andrew King, November 2016

SOURCES

http://www.decastris.com/hcc/builders/mhv/spectra1.htm

davidsleds.mysite.com/