Take a stroll through the streets of Stittsville

With the COVID-19 pandemic now more than a year old, CBC Ottawa is trying to inject some life into those stale neighbourhood walks by having local experts guide you through their communities. First up: Stittsville.

CBC Ottawa series aims to inject some life into the neighbourhood walk

Stittsville historian Barbara Bottriell's neighbourhood walk includes sites like the Butler House, the Trans Canada trail, and a local florist's shop located in an old bank. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

We're more than a year into the pandemic, and there's a decent chance the trusty neighbourhood walk — one of our few consistent outlets for physical exercise and mental stimulation — is starting to feel a bit stale.

Well, we want to help.

Over the next few weeks, we'll be rolling out curated neighbourhood strolls designed to give you new insight into the streets you've been trudging along all these months.

If you live in these neighbourhoods, you can enjoy them while obeying the stay-at-home order. If you don't, well, at least know that order shouldn't last forever.

First up: local historian Barbara Bottriell takes us on a short jaunt through her community of Stittsville.

Barbara Bottriell stands on the porch of the Butler House, one of Stittsville's oldest buildings, but also one with a tragic backstory. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

A good starting point, Bottriell says, is the Royal Canadian Legion Branch on Stittsville Main — and not just because it has a handy parking lot.

The legion hall was originally the lodge for Protestant Irish settlers who were part of the fraternal Orange Order. But the building's cornerstone was installed by one of the few Roman Catholics in the region —a sign, Bottriell said, of a religious conviviality that was somewhat unusual for the time.

From there, head south down Stittsville Main to Abbott Street and cross at the lights. You'll find yourself at the foot of the Butler House, a stately brick building with a grim backstory.

The house was initially a hotel owned by the Butler family. But one afternoon, their teenaged daughter caught her foot in the nearby railroad tracks and couldn't free herself.

Sadly, she was struck and killed by an oncoming train, a sombre detail commemorated on a plaque outside.

"[The family] didn't want to live there anymore beside the railroad tracks and the hotel. So they moved away," Bottriell said.

Walk This Way: Get a glimpse of history in Stittsville

2 years ago
Duration 2:26
Local historian Barbara Bottriell took CBC News on a walk through Stittsville, pointing out a historic hotel with a grim backstory, a former rail line and a flower shop in a former bank vault.

Next, turn right and head down the forested Trans Canada Trail, which happens to sit right along where those trains used to rumble.

The last train came through in January 1990, and the tracks were pulled up almost immediately. It's actually been a boon to Stittsville, says Bottriell, as the rail bed was later turned into the recreational path — and while it's always been popular with cyclists and pedestrians, it's become even more heavily used during the pandemic.

Once you've had your fill of the trail's tranquillity, make a 180 and head back toward Stittsville Main, where you'll then head south toward Pretty Pots Flower Shop

The shop is actually situated in a former 19th-century bank. Bottriell says in normal times, the florists would show you how they store flowers in the former vault.

A heritage plaque affixed to the Pretty Pots Flower Shop explains how the building once housed one of Stittsville's oldest banks. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Finally, head back north on Main and cross again at the Abbott Street intersection. That'll deposit you at the foot of Village Square Park, where a historical plaque fills you in on the history of the Great Fire of 1870.

The fast-moving fire ravaged the former Carleton County, tearing through "old Stittsville" to the north. It killed at least a dozen locals, Bottriell said, and essentially destroyed the fledgling town. One month later, the railroad was completed — and people rebuilt around it.

With thousands of new families relocating to the community over the past few decades, Bottriell hopes her walk shows them that Stittsville is more than just another fast-growing suburb.

"I hope that they have a feeling that they live in a place, a real place, with some real history to it, some real character," she said. "And that they'll be willing to perhaps fight, if necessary, to keep the heritage."

Barbara Bottriell says she hopes that as Stittsville continues to grow, new residents are taught about the community's long history. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Illustration by Matthew Kupfer

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