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, August 2019: 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!
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.
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.
Next it’s over to 125 Young St where sits this cute swap box.
Two blocks east and one block south you to this great swap box at 249 Loretta Avenue.
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!
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.
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’.
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.
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.
Across the transitway there’s this fine tall box on Northwestern Avenue.
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.
Our route takes a slight deviation to visit a couple of boxes, starting with this great Little Library box on Kenora St.
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!
Over to this very beautifuly painted box on Evered Ave.
A mere couple of blocks west brings you to this stragetically place box on Kenwood near Edison.
The next one is a super sweet little swap box on Cole Avenue.
Just a few blocks south/west brings us to this elegantly designed box. It’s got a corrugated pitched roof, a clear plexiglass door sans casing, and some nicely detailed colour coordinating.
The box on Mansfield has a bench to rest on while perusing the shelves. One shelf accepts exceptionally tall books.
The tour heads westwardly to our next cute little library at 2125 Knightsbridge Rd. In the summer they’ve put water bowls for dogs, a nice neighbourly touch.
A few blocks south-west brings us to this book box on Midway Ave near Ancaster.
Based on design similarites I have a sneaking suspicion that the next one just a few blocks away in Apple Orchard Park came from the same designer.
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.
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.
The second is at 30 Harrison St that cleverly uses the JUTIS frosted cabinet door from Ikea.
Next stop is requires working ones way across nasty Baseline Road AND Greenbabk Road to this one at 2423 Ryan Dr. This grand unit has a nice bench too!
Our tour heads east to this swap box at the corner of Sherman and Navaho Drive which has a little path leading up from the intersection.
Once again back onto The Experimental Farm Pathway before detouring onto this box painted all white on Kingston Avenue!
Our next box is further south, at the corner of Eleanor Drive & Burris Lane tucked in between a fence and telephone pole.
A block south at the corner of Trillium Drive and Wallford Way sits this box. There’s a one page instruction & description sheet 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.
UPDATE – Late Fall 2018: This box was no longer there – hopefully it was just taken in for the winter and will re-appear in the Spring.
The next most excellent box is on Bowhill Avenue.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Our next box is just a few blocks south on Broadway Avenue.
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.
A short loop through the Alta Vista neighbourhood first brings us to this beautiful box with glass bead roof tiles on Featherstone Drive.
Our next stop on our Alta Vista loop brings us to this sweet one at 1647 Pullen Ave. Tons of TLC has been put into the painting details. gotta go see it to believe it.
A few blocks west brings you’ll find this Little Library on Devon St with a mini-bike weathervane keeping it company!
A little bit further north-west gets us to this swap box on Bloor Ave with quite an impressive base support structure.
Continuing on our loop through Alta Vista brings us to this cleverly designed mobile unit on Knox Crescent.
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.
A bit north east on Belgrave Road lives this fine box, cleverly modeled after the house infront of which it sits.
One and a half blocks north at 75 Marlowe sits Mike’s Tiny Library. Super sweet!
Further east on Bower Street we find another fine box.
Close by on Drummond Street there sits this dynamic box-within-a-box.
Cross the Rideau Canal at the pedestrian/cycling Corktown bridge, cut north across the Ottawa U campus, then head east through the Sandy Hill neighbourhood along Wilbrod which is a one way street with a bike lane. Head one block north on Cobourg St where you will find this great box near the north/east corner of Stewart. It has hi-vs stickers on it’s legs, and a fine stepping stone to allow smaller readers to peruse the titles.
There are two fine boxes over in Overbrook. Cross the Rideau River across the fabulous Adawé pedestrian/bike bridge. To to the bridge head west along the Stewart St bike lane for one block then turn left onto Augusta Street. Augusta ends at Wilbrod but there’s a little paved path that takes you through from Wilbrod to Laurier. Cross Laurier and down the hill along Golbourn to Somerset. The Adawé bridge is at the eastern end of Somerset. 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.
Just a few blocks north there sits this generous little library on Ontario Street.
Heading further east for quite a spell, one finds this hearty box at 20 Appleford St in the Cardinal Heights neighbourhood.
Next, over in Vanier there is this colourful box at 355 Pauline Charron Place.
To get to the next box at the corner of Vachon & Dagmar I cut through the grounds of their old Père Blancs monastry grounds which is now a City of Ottawa park.
Back to the Rideau River pathway, which we follow downstream, and cross the river along the St Patrick Street bridge. Ride down the bike lane along St Patrick towards our next box 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.
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.
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.
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.
Next stop is in Centretown’s Dondonald Park.
Our next box is just a few blocks south on McLeod Street, which can be reached vis the bike lane along Percy Street.
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!
A short detour west gets you to this box at 23 Balsam St.
Our next stop is this Mini Library, corner of Cambridge St N and Christie. This one takes taller books too.
Our tour began with a box for all swapable items and it ends accordingly with this one just down the street at 265 Cambridge St North.