As the month-long celebration of Culture Days continues, On This Spot is turning to the nation’s capital with our self-guided walking tour through Ottawa that explores Canada’s journey towards nationhood. The tour explores the city through historical then-and-now photo sets and is available for free online and through the On This Spot app.
For thousands of years, the Ottawa River has been a major artery in the extensive network of waterways that permeates eastern Canada. Indigenous groups first made use of the Ottawa for their extensive trade networks, but by the 1800s, the new frontier town of Bytown used the river as a superhighway for the shipping of lumber. This tour will explore the establishment of the violent, muddy frontier town of Bytown, following it from its humble beginnings as a lumber town through its growth into the capital of Ottawa.
The ten-stop tour begins at the mouth of the historic Rideau Canal and explores the waterway’s role in both early Canada and Bytown, and the unique factors that made Ottawa the first choice for the capital. Then, we will cross the Rideau River and stop for a brief moment of reflection at the National War Memorial, where we will learn about the role Canada played in World War I. From there, we will wander down the sidewalk gardens and patios of Sparks Street to explore Ottawa’s adolescence and troubled growth into a capital. Finally, the tour ends at Parliament Hill, where we will take in the breathtaking views of the Ottawa River and surrounding cityscape and delve into Canada’s slow and careful separation from Britain, the paranoia and icy tensions of the Cold War, and the difficulties of unifying and governing a country with two national languages, dozens of cultural and religious groups, and a geographic size second only to Russia.
Take a walk through Ottawa and stay posed for more Culture Day events in the coming weeks.