You helped us identify these old Ottawa skating scenes

We asked and you delivered: Thanks to some fine sleuthing, we now know more about these archival photos.

Information on archival photos was incomplete, some blanks remain

We knew this photo was taken near the Cartier Square Drill Hall, built in 1879, but we didn't know exactly when. Reader Jaan Kolk has given us a valuable clue. (City of Ottawa Archives)

Yesterday, we shared some charming archival photos showing skating scenes from Ottawa's past.

We had some of the wheres and whens, but there were still a few gaps to be filled. You've helped us do that.

"I lived in Ottawa from 1970-72, and remember playing hockey on an outdoor rink at a location where Minto Park is located now — near Gilmour and Elgin. It may be the same place as your rink in the 1956 photo. Just a thought," David Watts wrote.

'Orphans playing hockey' in January 1956. (City of Ottawa Archives)

Perhaps, but the rooftops in these photos appear to match perfectly.

This puts that 1956 winter scene on Slater Street near Bronson Avenue, the site of a former high school that's now a dog park and legal graffiti wall. The camera was pointing west toward LeBreton Flats.

Mike wondered whether this "gang of kids" in 1955 was photographed on Gladstone Avenue near Bronson Avenue, in what's now McNabb Park.

The city's archives say this group of kids was photographed in 1955, but doesn't say where. (City of Ottawa Archives)
Again, look at the rooftops. (Google Street View)

Another reader, Dave, was sure of it, and provided this proof.

(City of Ottawa Archives)

"McNabb Park looking east. Row houses in the back on Percy Street. Gladstone out of view on the right. Old Percy Street school just out of sight on the left. The current McNabb rec center not built yet," Dave concluded.

Check out this reader's clever deductive reasoning.


What about our top image of speed skaters racing in front of the Cartier Square Drill Hall, on what's now Marion Dewar Plaza in front of city hall?

Jaan Kolk had this to say: Skating races were held at Cartier Square as part of the Winter Carnival of 1922, and in several subsequent years. (The rink also provided free public skating.) This photo may be from the big international competition held Feb. 7-8, 1930.

An Ottawa Journal article from Feb. 6, 1930, mentions bleachers being constructed, and it looks like there are some at the left side of the photo.

This article appeared in the Ottawa Journal on Feb. 6, 1930. (Ottawa Journal)

Then there was this photo of a skating rink at Ducharme School being "blessed."

This one's labelled 'Ducharme school blessing of new rink' in 1957. (City of Ottawa Archives)

Paul Braunovan did some digging and came up with this:

There was a Durcharme Separate School at 320 Lajoie St. in Vanier that opened in 1949. 

Look at building in background of photo — the windows clearly have three rows of three windows, a bit of a space, then more three by three windows. Looks similar to this building right at Lajoie and Richelieu.

(Google Street View)

Maybe on the grounds of what is now Assumption Catholic School? Makes sense: looks like a priest blessing the rink, maybe French/Roman Catholic? 

He notes the school was named after Father Edmond Ducharme.

In fact, could that be Father Ducharme in the photo?

Manuel Prazeres had more details.

"I attended École Ducharme from 1962 to 1967. I've included a picture of the building from 2005 from roughly the same perspective as your picture but closer to the building. You can recognize the chimney and the three-panel windows. The steel chimney in the attached picture would have been something added later. From at least 1959 to past 1967 the building was painted green instead of the red you see today."

(Manuel Prazeres)

So is that Father Ducharme in the photo? Manuel doesn't think so.

"What makes the location above more probable is that I recognize the priest in the middle of the picture as most probably Curé Glaude, the head priest for the Marie-Médiatrice parish, which I attended. The Marie-Médiatrice church at that time was at 294 Cyr Ave. in Vanier, a few blocks away from your picture. I've included a picture of Curé Glaude cropped from a picture of my brother's 1961 First Communion."

Curé Glaude in 1961. (Manuel Prazeres)

Manuel believes the other priest in the photo is Curé Maurice Cadieux, then of the Notre-Dame-de-Lourde parish on Montreal Road. "This is probably the priest doing the 'blessing' of the rink," he proposed.

We didn't get them all.

Michael Neelin from Lanark Highlands, Ont., cast doubt on our original caption on this photo.

A group including Governor-General Gilbert Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound skates on the Ottawa River in 1901. Victoria Island and what's now the Chaudière Bridge are in the background. (William James Topley/Library and Archives)

"I think your caption for the Topley photo of skating on the Ottawa River incorrectly locates it. The background appears to be the two channels of Rideau Falls with Green Island in between and the bridges seen would be Sussex Drive. The river downstream from Chaudière Falls is fast water that never freezes, so less appealing as a skating outing!"

Reader Doug agreed and had these keen observations about the photo:

If you look closely at the photo:

  1. The falls are directly under the bridge-like structure.
  2. The water coming over the falls is covered with ice.
  3. In the middle-background of the right bridge there is what looks to be branches of a tree.

Because of those indicators, it could really only be Rideau Falls (see the vintage photos and picture postcards here) as the Chaudière falls bridge is in front of the falls, ice doesn't form on the falls, and the banks of the Ottawa at that point are too far north and south of the falls for there to be a tree in the background.

We still haven't quite cracked this one, but at least we have some clues.

'A group of young ladies from Ottawa Ladies College posed with snowshoes by a residential skating rink, circa 1910.' (City of Ottawa Archives)

The Ottawa Ladies College was at what's now First Avenue and Lyon Street in the Glebe.

There's a better background shot in a March 1906 photograph from Library and Archives Canada, but we're still not 100 per cent sure of the location.

(W.J. Topley/Library and Archives Canada)

Reader Doug thinks we're barking up the wrong tree altogether.

"I was looking at the Ottawa Ladies College ladies posing with snowshoes. Based on the church steeple in the background, it looks like the spire of Christ Church Cathedral on Sparks Street, based on the photo found here. So the rink would most likely have been southeast of the church but west of Bay, around Albert, Slater or Laurier."

Christ Church Cathedral, completed in 1873. (Bytown or Bust)

Some submissions have been edited for clarity and length. Thank you to everyone who submitted ideas, but we've now completed our final edit of this piece.


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