Swap Box Tour

Every few years my kids do a thorough clean&purge of their rooms as they grow and their interests evolve. This often results in a number books, toys and trinkets they have outgrown but are still functional. Swap boxes are great for such occaisions. Here’s how they work: usually streetside, passersby are enticed to open them up. If something in there strikes their fancy they can exchange it with something else.

We were inspired to put up a swap box in front of our place after discovering a number of others around town that had been created by the late street artist Elmaks. Since then many more swap boxes have appeared. Most of them are specific to the exchange of books, but they work on the same principle. There is even an online group you can register your book swap box called Little Free Libraries. Here’s an article in the Kitchissippi Times on some of those local little libraries.

UPDATE, October 2018: I’ve been adding stops along the route as new boxes are being discovered. If I’ve missed any please feel free to send me a note and I’ll include it on the route.


First stop – Cambridge St North, just north of the Chinatown Arch!

Cambridge box2
Cambridge Street North Swap Box, updated Christmas 2018.

Next stop, corner of Primrose & Arthur. Now THIS is a multi-compartmental swap box extravaganza!

UPDATE-May ’17: The little black doors were removed over the winter. 

Primrose & Arthur Swap Box
Primrose & Arthur Swap Box

Down Nanny Goat Cliff, at the corner of Preston and Elm, there sits the cleverly converted newspaper box Book Exchange. There’s even a bike rack, lest you wish to dwindle while perusing the selection of swappable tomes, or pop in to the Preston Food Market for a Kit Kat.

Preston & Elm book exchange
Preston & Elm book exchange

Next it’s over to 125 Young St where sits this cute swap box.

125 Young St.jpg
125 Young St

Two blocks east and one block south you to this great swap box at 249 Loretta Avenue.

249 Loretta

Back over to Bayswater, just north of Sherwood Drive, you will find this box with Tudor detailing, complementing the same style of the house in the background. There are mini solar panels at the base of the box and a string of red lights along the top so I’m guessing nightime visitors get an extra treat!

Box on Bayswater

West on Bayswater, then up a hill brings you this tall box on Gwynne Avenue with lots of shelves for an assortment of book sizes. Lots of sweet detailing on this one.

38 Gwynne Avenue

Back to the north side the Queensway along Fairmount, then a couple of blocks west along Gladstone gets you to this next box on Melrose Avenue with a clever take on the ‘A-frame’.

A-Frame Box on Melrose Avenue

Heading a few blocks north into Hintonburg brings you to this pair of book boxes at 50 Ladoucer. I didn’t notice specific instructions but I’m guessing, based on their contents, that the smaller grey one on the right is for kids books while the bigger yellow one with table legs is for older readers.

Boxes at 50 Ladoucer in Hintonburg

A bit further west in Hintonburg you will find a box near the corner of Oxford & Pinehurst. This one has quite a history.  In the Fall of 2016 someone complained about it’s original sprawling bungalow styling to city by-law and the owners were told to take it down by September 16th. Fortunately there was a last minute stay of execution and it got a reprieve. They then replaced it with a more compact design that is there now.

New Hintonburg box
Hintonburg Swap Box before….and after

Heading west, we discover our next swap box just south of Wellington on Mayfair, where sits another super sweet Little Free Library. This one is hosted by one of the finest elementary school teachers we’ve had the good fortune to get to know.

Madame Vicky's Swap Box
Madame Vicky’s Swap Box

Our route takes a slight deviation to visit a couple of boxes, starting with this great Little Library box on Kenora St.

Kenora St. box

Next one is on Ruskin Street. Now this one has a bit of a disturbing history – someone with arsonist tendencies was caught on tape setting a previous incarnation of the box on flames! But the udaunted swap box owners said ‘Screw you arsonist!’, and rebuilt their box.

UPDATE – 2018: The original route used the Harmer St pedestrian bridge over the Queensway to get to and from the Ruskin St box. That pedestrain bridge is being replaced and won’t be ready for another 2 years, so the present route as per the above map, goes along the Holland Avenue detour bike lanes.

UPDATE – Fall, 2018: A super cute little box for little swapable items has been attached to the side of the big box!

Swap boxes at 125 Ruskin

Over to this very beautifuly painted box on Evered Ave.

531 Evered Ave
Box on Evered Ave

The next one is a super sweet little swap box on Cole Avenue.

Cole swap box.jpg
Cole Avenue Swap Box

The box on Mansfield has a bench to rest on while perusing the shelves, one of which can accept tall books.

Mansfield Box.jpg
Mansfield Avenue Bench & Box

The tour heads westwardly to our next cute little library at 2125 Knightsbridge Rd. This one isn’t bolted down so I’m guessing in comes in and out at the whim of the prperty owner. So I don’t know if it will be there at all times. Water bowls for dogs is a nice touch.

2125 Knightsbridge Rd

Heading even further west, mostly along the Ottawa River Pathway, gets us to the Bayshore Park Community Garden & Oven which also has this big multi-layered swap box.

Swap box at the Bayshore Park Community Garden & Oven

Circling south into the Leslie Park neighbourhood brings us to two more boxes. The first is at 32 Abingdon Dr with a traditional styled hinged door.

32 Abingdon Dr
32 Abingdon Dr

The second is at 30 Harrison St that cleverly uses the JUTIS frosted cabinet door from Ikea.

30 Harrison St
30 Harrison St

Our tour heads over to and along the Experimental Farm Pathway before exiting towards Sherman Drive. This swap box at the corner of Sherman and Navaho Drive has a little path leading up from the intersection.

Navaho and Sherman
Box at Navaho and Sherman

Once again back onto The Experimental Farm Pathway before detouring onto this box painted all white on Kingston Avenue!

1237 Kingston Ave
Swap Box at 1237 Kingston Ave.

Our next stop is further south, at the corner of Trillium Drive and Wallford Way. A one page instruction & description sheet is posted on the inside of the door, including a note on how the builders called on the services of a structural engineer friend who helped with the design of the box! The self closing hinge and neoprene lining keeps the door from slamming shut.

Trillium & Wallford
Trillium Drive and Wallford Way

The next most excellent box is on Bowhill Avenue.

Box on Bowhill Ave

Another Little Library  may be found at 97 Four Seasons Dr, not far from the Bowhill Avenue box. This one is not attached to the ground but is instead attached to the base of a pedestal table.

97 Four Seasons Dr
Little Library at 97 Four Seasons Dr

There are some boxes further south-east. To get there I crossed the Rideau River at Hogs Back Falls and followed the route shown on the map. A more detailed description of this section of the ride can be found on this link , albeit in reverse. A slight detour over the Airport Parkway pedestrian bridge brings you to this proudly Canadian swap box on Cahill St.

1035 Cahill
1035 Cahill St

Back over the pedestrian bridge, there’s this cute box in Greenboro on Tammela Court. This sweet model opens from the top. It had been raining for a few days when I visited so a bit of water had gathered in the bottom. I’m sure it gets filled up with books in times of fair weather.

Tamella Court
Box on Tammela Court

The next few boxes to discover are in the Glebe. This one’s on Fourth Avenue, just east of Bronson. (I don’t reccomend riding along busy Bronson. Walk your bike along the sidewalk for a short block after crossing Bronson at the Madawaska/Fifth Avenue lights).

Little Library on Fourth Avenue

Next swap box is one block over and a bit east on Fifth Ave. This one cleverly recycles hidden Ikea hinges to avoid the door being left ajar.

Glebe Little Library
Little Library on Fifth Avenue

Our next box is just a few blocks south on Broadway Avenue.

Broadway Little Free Library

Up and over the Rideau Canal along the Bronson bike lane brings us to Old Ottawa South. After cutting through Old Ottawa South through Brewer Park and an assortment of residential streets there is a short side trip over the Rideau River to visit this robust Little Library on Pleasant Park Road. The most convenenient access to Alta Vista along this route is along the awful narrow Bank Street bridge over the Rideau River. Walking your bike along the sidewalk bridge is usually the safest option.

Box along Pleasant Park Road

A short loop through the Alta Vista neighbourhood brings us to this beautiful box with glass bead roof tiles on Featherstone Drive.

1621 Featherstone Dr
Box on Featherstone Drive

Back on the north shore of the Rideau River,  our next stop brings us to 146 Sunnyside Avenue. Big footprint shaped concrete pavers invite passersby to peruse the shelves.

Just direct your feet to the Sunnyside of the street

A bit north east on Belgrave Road lives this fine box, cleverly modeled after the house infront of which it sits.

Box on Belgrave Road

One and a half blocks north at 75 Marlowe sits Mike’s Tiny Library. Super sweet!

75 Marlowe
Mike’s Tiny Library

Further east on Bower Street we find another fine box.

Bower St box

Close by on Drummond Street there sits this dynamic box-within-a-box.

Box on Drummond Street

There are two fine boxes over in Overbrook. Ride along the canal, cut through the Ottawa University campus, down Somerset Street East, and over the Rideau River across the fabulous Adawé pedestrian/bike bridge. Weave your way along a few residential streets to this fine Little Library on Queen Mary Street. There’s even a chair to relax in once you get there.

Little Library on Queen Mary St

Just a few blocks north there sits this generous little library on Ontario Street.

Ontario Street Little Library

I made my way over to the corner of Vachon and Dagmar in Vanier to discover this fine box full of books with a fine magnetic latch that keeps the door closed on windy days.

Little Library in Vanier, corner of Vachon & Dagmar

There’s another fun box in Vanier, at 355 Pauline Charron Place. To get there I rode up Père Blancs Avenue and cut through the grounds of their old monastry which is now a City of Ottawa park.

355 Pauline Charron Pl
Prenez un livre, laissez-en un! 355 Pauline Charron Pl.

Next stop is around the other side of Beechwood Cemetery where this Little Library is attached to the wall beside the entrance to the Manor Park Community Centre, just off Thornwood Road.

Little Library at the Manor Park Communtiy Centre

Rolling along the west bound Beechwood Avenue Bike lanes and then those along St Patrick St brings us towards our next box at  260 St Andrew St.

260 St Andrew St
Box amongst flowers at 260 St Andrew St

Next stop is in Sandy Hill infront of St Paul’s Eastern United Church on Cumberland Ave. At the time of my discovering this box the doors had unfortunately ripped off this generously proportioned unit. Hopefully they will be replaced.

Cumberland St
Box on Cumberland St

Time to retrace our route back to the Rideau Canal before riding south into the Glebe. This sweet is box located at the corner of Strathcona and Metcalfe.

Library Bibliothèque at the corner of Strathcona and Metcalfe
Library Bibliothèque at the corner of Strathcona and Metcalfe

The next two boxes are neighbours on Argyle which is accessible via the bi-directional bike lanes along O’Connor. The first, introduced in the summer of ’17, is this brightly painted number.

Box on Argyle

The second box on Argyle has a little clock in the gable, and the surrounding landscaping is beautiful. There are also garden chairs to sit on while contemplating a potential swap.

Box on Argyle
Box on Argyle

Next stop is in Centretown’s Dondonald Park.

Dundonald park
Swap box in Dundonald Park

Our next box is just a few blocks south on McLeod Street, which can be reached vis the bike lane along Percy Street.

577 McLeod
Fun Little Library infront of 577 McLeod

Another fine Little Library can be found on Arlington a few blocks west of Bronson. The Percy Street bike path gets you to Arlington and there are traffic lights at Arlington and Bronson  to get across busy Bronson.

There is a solar panel powering a light that turns on once you open the door to the box when it’s dark out. TRÈS cool!

Box at 430 Arlington during the day….and at night!

A short detour west gets you to this box at 23 Balsam St.

Books box at 23 Balsam St

Last stop is the Mini Library, corner of Cambridge St N and Christie. This one takes taller books too.

Mini Library at Christie & Cambridge St N
Mini Library at Christie & Cambridge St N

Et voila!

Author: ottawavelo


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