History of Manor Park
(excerpt from the Manor Park Chronicle of March, 1986; “The Tale of Manor Park Village”, The Chronicle, 1988; Bob Belcour)
With the establishment of the earliest precursor of the NCC in 1899, the Ottawa Improvement Commission listed among its goals the establishment of a new park. By 1903 titles had been purchased on six different parcels of land between Rockcliffe Park and the rifle ranges, bounded on the north by the Ottawa River, at a total cost of $35,253.36. This acreage of parkland was christened National Park.
Drainage tiles had been laid and a two-mile extension was constructed onto the existing road to serve this new park. Brush was cleared for bridle paths; walking paths with rustic bridges of wood and stone were laid out; a racecourse was built, which one writer of the day declared was “the fastest mile-long speedway in all of Canada.” As well, a new tramway was built so the public could have access to the park’s amenities. The total cost of these improvements to what was commonly called the Mile Circle Park was to be $124,808.79.
Manor Park was the first post-war subdivision in Ottawa. It was featured in a three-dimensional model displayed in the A. J. Freiman department store (now The Bay on Rideau) in 1947. In 1949, a small pond still existed near Farnham and Dunvegan, and Cunningham’s riding school was next to the cemetery gates at Hemlock and Beechwood. Signs in Manor Park instructed riders to walk their horses in the residential area.
To give some context to this growing metropolis, a basic 3-bedroom house cost $9,685; a house with dormers and a fireplace cost $10,015, while taxes were $12 per month. Ice blocks for the icebox were delivered four times a week at a cost of about $4 per month! Babysitting in 1951 paid $0.25 per hour, with an extra $0.25 for lunch. And Manor Park had 3 roads leading to the community, all unpaid and full of potholes.
The year 1952 saw the first May Fair held by the home and school association. It had originally been scheduled for the school gymnasium, but last-minute plans for varnishing the floor forced the May Fair into the classrooms. The move did not hamper the enthusiasm of the participants, and the fair was a rousing success netting $750. It was decided that the May Fair should be an annual event. The second Fair netted $975 and the profit has continued to grow over the years.
During the winter, in the ’50s as now, the outdoor ice rink was a centre of continuous activity. All house league hockey games were played outdoors during evenings and on Saturdays. The old wooden hut with its hot stove was an attraction on cold winter evenings. March 1952 was the date of the first ice carnival held under the auspices of the MPCA. Prizes were awarded for the best costumes. This annual event is still enjoyed each winter in Manor Park.
The ’50s were also a time of activity for local churches. On Sunday, January 20th, 1952 the church of St. Columba on Sandridge was dedicated. The church had formerly been the old Manor Park School and had been recently purchased by the congregation at a cost of $45,000.
In February 1953, the cornerstone was laid for the new Our Lady of Mount Carmel Roman Catholic Church. The previous month, the nine-room Our Lady of Mount Carmel School had opened.
Many things about the neighborhood of Manor Park have remained the same throughout its history, at the same time we see urban growth providing a few dramatic changes. Although lots sold for as little as $1500 “back in the day”, we now see new developments happening around us such as the redevelopment of the former Rockcliffe Air Base, now Wateridge Village. What has not changed, however, is the passion residents have for their community and the charms of living within a Village.
Interested in learning more about the City of Ottawa? Check out the following link: How Ottawa became Canada’s capital.