Investing in history

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A talk with The Heritage Canada Foundation

The three-story red brick house on 5 Blackburn Ave. is an example of The Heritage Canada Foundation’s efforts to preserve historic sites.

The house on 5 Blackburn Avenue

Constructed in 1905, over the past millennium 5 Blackburn has served as home to businessmen, war veterans and the offices of the Italian embassy. World War I flying ace Captain William “Billy” Bishop also resided there with his family during the 1940’s, according to the Heritage Canada Foundation’s (HCF) website.

HCF purchased 5 Blackwood in 2001, and the property became the organization’s national headquarters until August 2011 when they sold it.

“We’re constantly evaluating and rethinking our approach and owning that building at 5 Blackburn was really a demonstration of our commitment to historic buildings,” said Natalie Bull, executive director of HCF.

“We invested heavily in the building while we owned it and then we sold it to an owner who really also had the means to invest in it and to continue to maintain it. The best thing we can do is get historic buildings into the hands of the best owner and really make sure the buildings have a use, that’s really the key.”

Bull said 5 Blackburn was too big for the HCF to use as their headquarters building and she is pleased that the building can be used effectively by others.

5 Blackburn Avenue

In 2005, the house was designated by the city of Ottawa under the Ontario Heritage Act. The document for designation stated, “The building is worthy of heritage designation because it illustrates the urban development of Sandy Hill in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and is a good example of the late Queen Anne Revival style. The scale and richness of materials and architectural details of 5 Blackburn are a reminder that this area was once a neighborhood of large, single-family houses.”

The building now serves as offices for other Ottawa businesses.

HCF now works out of their office on Bronson Avenue, still working to preserve historic sites across Canada like 5 Blackburn.

An interview with Natalie Bull

Click here to listen to an interview with Natalie Bull about The Heritage Canada Foundation, the current projects and her vision for the year ahead, including hope for preserving lighthouses, implementing a tax incentive and the Heritage First policy.

The curious squirrels in Sandy Hill

When taking a walk through Strathcona Park, one will notice all of the leaves on the ground, the ruins play structure and the Lord Strathcona fountain.

Stephen Brathwaite's play structure

One will also notice the squirrels.

When walking through the park for my first time, one of its most memorable features was the dozens of squirrels running through it. Up a single tree was more than ten squirrels.

Squirrels in Strathcona Park

Joanna Roberts, a park visitor sitting on a bench facing the Rideau River, says she loves Sandy Hill but is suffering from a headache and cannot say more about the neighbourhood than that. She apologises and begins reading a novel. Despite the headache, she smiles broadly when one black squirrel hops up onto the bench and stares at her for a moment before scurrying away.

The most remarkable thing about the squirrels is their odd behaviour. While other Ottawa-squirrels run away when approached by people, the ones in Sandy Hill seem to be much braver.

Strathcona Park

A group of three young people take a break from playing Frisbee in the park, and one sits under a tree several feet from her friends. Sitting there for less than five minutes, a brown squirrel runs up to her, sits back and watches her. The girl laughs and the squirrel takes a few seconds before going away.

It was not uncommon for a squirrel to come up to people walking through the park, coming as close as one small footstep away. The reason why they behave this way is unclear.

A very friendly little one

Perhaps they are curious, or unafraid of the visitors. Or maybe they’re just protecting their nuts.

About the Neighbourhood

Between the Rideau Canal and the Rideau River is the Ottawa neighbourhood of Sandy Hill.

The area, named for its hills, is filled with flags from countries around the world for all the embassies in it.

Embassy Row on Range Rd

The community is particularly popular with students because it is the home to the University of Ottawa. Laura Rodriguez, who is studying biology at the school, just moved to Sandy Hill from Toronto in September. She says she likes the area, but admits that students aren’t always completely welcome in the neighbourhood.

“It’s nice here, and definitely convenient being a five minute walk from the school,” she says.  “There is some tension. University students like to be loud and party, but not everyone appreciates that.”

Strathcona Park, popular with joggers, dog-walkers and nature-lovers, offers somewhere nice and peaceful to come to, she says.

Strathcona Park

Aside from the university, Sandy Hill is also home to The Heritage Canada Foundation, the Canadian headquarters of Amnesty International and Laurier House, formerly home to prime ministers Sir Wilfred Laurier and William Lyon Mackenzie King and now  museum.

Laurier House