Community streetscape design – Clemow Avenue

By Andrew Elliott

Elliott, Andrew 231

231 Clemow is the former home of Bryson Graham of Bryson Graham Dry Goods Department Store.
Photo: Andrew Elliott

As many people know, the Glebe developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a streetcar suburb. In particular, when Clemow Avenue Driveway was developed between 1904 and 1914, its advertisers were quick to trumpet its relative proximity to the Bank Street streetcar line that could take people downtown in less than 20 minutes. Add to this the fact that leading Canadian architects were commissioned to design grand-looking homes facing the street, and followed detailed house design rules known as restrictive covenants. Streetscape design features – such as regularly spaced trees and lampposts, and no telephone poles – were ingenious, and today continue to be a marvel. All this was enabled by a public-private partnership: a federal agency and private developers worked to ensure the streetscape would be aesthetically beautiful over the long term. This is an example of how neighbourhood planning can be both progressive and proactive.

And of course, it worked! Since then, Clemow Avenue Driveway has been home to a veritable Who’s Who of Ottawa. A roster of leading businesspeople, judges, bank managers, doctors, high-ranking civil servants, and local and national politicians have lived there.

Renowned Residents of Clemow Avenue

1910 – 1920s

  • 164 Clemow at Percy was home to H. Shaver, secretary to Clifford Sifton, federal Minister of the Interior.
  • 204 Clemow was inhabited by Alexander Johnston, Deputy Minister of Marine and Fisheries.
  • 208 Clemow was the residence of Albert Horton, Chief Editor of Hansard for the House of Commons and later the Senate Reports.
  • 221 Clemow was lived in by both W.E. Matthews, head of a pork packing business empire and later head of the Federal District Commission, and Nelson D. Porter, an Ottawa mayor.
  • 231 Clemow was the dwelling of Mr. Graham of Bryson Graham Dry Goods Department Store.
  • 234 Clemow was the domicile of Percy Butler, chief representative of Grand Trunk and later Canadian National Railways.

1930S – 1950s

  • 207 Clemow was the abode of Thomas Crerar, Minister of Mines and Resources.
  • 211 Clemow was the residence of James B. Gardiner, the long-serving Minister of Agriculture.
  • 222 Clemow was the home of J.B. Harkin, retired from founding Canada’s modern National Parks Service and Historic Sites and Monuments Board.
  • 227 Clemow was the address of Angus MacDonald, Minister of National Defence for Naval Service.

Though meant to be a pleasant driveway for cars, this street never gained the throughway status that has occurred along other NCC driveways. Then, 1970s traffic calming measures made the street one of the quietest and – ironically – one of the most walkable in the neighbourhood.

Thanks to the original planning covenants, the street is still a desirable place to live, and has remained unscathed by the unfortunate teardowns and infill projects that have occurred on other streets. Perhaps the experience with Clemow can teach us something about how to plan the rest of the Glebe. Next month we can consider the planning exercises of the 1970s and the state of heritage and planning in the Glebe today.

Working with the Glebe Heritage Committee, archivist Andrew Elliott has been uncovering new information about the social history of several Glebe streets that will be shared on the Heritage Ottawa site and in an open house.

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