Although Centretown cannot be characterized as a neighbourhood that is stuffed with green space, it is blessed with two well-used historic parks (among a number of others), roughly equidistant from either side of Bank Street. The first, Minto Park, is located at Elgin and Gilmour and is the older of the two. The second, Dundonald Park, is located at Somerset and Lyon.
Dundonald Park received its current name in 1904. Although it had been used as an informal park previously (a tent city has been temporarily set up there in the wake of the 1900 Hull-Ottawa Fire - it was, in actuality a “waterworks lot”), it hadn’t yet been surveyed and was simply known as “Somerset Square” to most.
|Douglas Cochrane, 12th Earl of Dundonald|
Nevertheless, the name Dundonald was adopted and the federal Ottawa Improvement Commission (OIC – an initiative of the Laurier Government and forerunner to the National Capital Commission), which had leased the land from the city the month previous, appeared ready to commence with the construction and “beautification” of the park, as outlined in the Todd report of 1903. It would not be, however, until 1906 that Dundonald would receive attention as construction delays at the Strathcona Park project and local youth vandalism had stalled construction.
|Ottawa Journal, November 30, 1907.|
In spite of these early difficulties, the neighbourhood surrounding Dundonald Park quickly came to be considered among the most desirable areas of Ottawa in which to live. The park’s original purpose was not entirely forgotten either. In 1913, the city began a drilling project to construct civic drinking water wells for the benefit of local ratepayers. After all, indoor plumbing had not yet been widely installed through the entire city. Drilling was initially promising, easily passing the city’s bacteriological tests. However, at the initial depths reached, the well ran dry in a matter of minutes. Through the summer of 1913, engineers continued to drill deeper into the ground until, reaching a depth of over 1375 feet (and a cost of $4,000 or about $82,000 today) in November, an adequate water supply was found.
|Ottawa Journal, November 17, 1915.|
Vandalism, as it would turn out, was the most consistent problem faced by the park. I will discuss this and other issues further in Part 2, next Friday.
-- Photos & text by Christopher Ryan
See also: Ottawa Neighbourhoods Guide
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