A number of years ago, when we were living in New Edinburgh, there was an article printed in the community newspaper about the locations of some now-vanished places in the neighbourhood.

One of those places was a mica factory which the article placed in the south-east corner of the intersection of Crichton and Dufferin Streets.

When I was a child, the mica factory had stood up until the year before we moved into the neighbourhood and for many years the site was simply an empty lot full of dog shit and weeds…. and flakes and chunks of discarded mica. It stood, not on the south-east corner, but the north-east corner. In fact, the year before we moved and the year before the building was torn down, Mom and I had waited for a bus right outside the factory and I sat on the front step. We must have been there to register my sister at the school across the street, Crichton Street Public School (now hidden from that vantage point behind a condominium — that stands in what was the Girls play yard.).

My mother called the community newspaper and spoke to the editor, one of the many newcomers to the neighbourhood, probably living in the now-upscale end of the neighbourhood. My mother was told “You don’t know what you’re talking about…” and hung up on.

The fact that we had lived in the neighbourhood for over 30 years at that point was irrelevant… what mattered to the editor was that, as the “authority” on the Yuppified enclave that had moved from being a working-class neighbourhood to the exclusive and upscale home to the well-heeled, she was right and we were wrong.

The fact that the mica factory existed didn’t really MATTER as much as “Look how far we’ve come”.

Sadly, more and more of Ottawa’s past is disappearing. If it is recorded, the lost becomes a mere footnote to the “progress”. Memories of the past become quaint anecdotes for people like the editor of the community newspaper to toss about in order to give the community cache without actually having to see the déclassé underpinnings of what the well-heeled call “their little enclave”. “Isn’t that quaint [thank God they tore that monstrosity down!]”.

The systematic erasure of our past and replacing it with the rosy faux memorial, often misplaced to across the street or footnoted “close to this spot” because we either can’t quite recall where it was or something too grandiose to allow the spot to be pinpointed, is sad and duplicitous.

“Vanished Ottawa” will attempt to accurately locate and record the vanished and vanishing.


All photos, unless otherwise stated, are the property of myself. Please do not copy or use any of the photos here without asking. I am more than happy to give permission but I prefer to be asked. Please have the courtesy to ask.


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