Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Chambers of the Heart

top storey, Palladian windows in decorative pediments
This is the most astonishing building. It's holding its own against the every changing backdrop of higher and higher reachers at the corner of Elgin and Queen Street in Ottawa.

This is the Central Chambers, and it is a NHS for a number of good reasons. It stands in a remarkably intact grouping which are visible in a page from my 1920s Ottawa souvenir booklet.

I guess this Streetview capture would be a roughly comparable current view, the National Arts Centre having entered stage left in 1967. I've been trying to figure out what the structure on the right is in the old photo. I'm pretty confident it's the old Post Office (1876-1936) which was demolished to expand Confederation Square, and I think this photo which sadly, I cannot copy, proves the point.

And the site Ottawa Past and Present shows a building directly opposite, which I will track down and identify sometime.
But back to The Chambers. Here's the full reveal at Canada's Historic Places. The writers use the word 'splendid' several times. Not undeservedly.

The view at left is fascinating for me, showing the upper storeys, as during my Ottawa years I had only a street facade acquaintanceship. I do believe there was an Indian textile and fashion importer on the ground floor.

A 2005 plaque commemorates the "successful restoration of the Scottish Ontario Chambers, the Central Chambers and the Bell Block...with special note made of the "reconstruction of the distinctive corner tower and cornice."

Central Chambers
My summer acquisition Exploring the Capital explains that the striking Queen Ann style red brick Central Chambers (1893) bedizzened with oriel windows and Queen Ann decorative excess is but one piece of a complex called The Chambers, which consists of the modern infill behind, this exuberant red brick block, another large block at the corner of Sparks and Elgin Streets called  the Scottish Ontario Chambers and a small plain connecting structure, the 1867 Bell Block.

Moorish maybe?
vaguely Venetian

Scottish Chambers, Bell Block (1867) to left
  It is the Scottish Ontario Chambers whose corner tower was replaced and honoured in the 2005 plaque. This Historic Places photo shows the Victorian Italianate building without the tower, a sadly depleted structure indeed.

The Scottish Ontario Chambers, constructed in 1883 by a land speculation company is/are distinguished by the high ground storey of stone housing (of all things) an Irish pub, and repeated arched windows highlighted with polychromatic brick on the upper floors. The heavy brackets supporting pediments at each corner and  decorative cornice have been restored, the Mansard corner tower reinstated.

Scottish Chambers upstaged by wrapped Postal Station B
The plain ('modest' as Andrew Waldron describes it) buff brick and stone Bell Block between the two Chambers now serves as the common entrance to the complex of modern tower, and the two red brick two Victorians. All owned and operated by the National Capital Commission, major landlord for much downtown property.

Incidentally in my prowling about for answers to the mystery building photo in the 1920s souvenir guide above, I came across an interesting Ottawa blog, Urbsite. I'll capture the address here, so we may all revisit.

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely, bedizzened gift on Christmas morning! Love this fabulous building. Thank you.