Many Ottawa cyclists will have noticed this beautiful old house located at the western end of the Laurier Bike Path overlooking Nanny Goat Hill. A recent real estate posting for the house claimed it was designed by architect John W.H. Watts , one of the most successful architects in Ottawa at the turn of the last century. Watts was born in Teignmouth, England in 1850 and died on August 26, 1917. He came to Canada in 1873.
The following 13km bike tour visits a number of buildings designed by Watts, starting with the grand old house at Laurier and Bronson.
This map indicates our starting point as a green house icon. The purple line is our bike route. The one-block section of the route shown in orange is where I recommend walking your bike along the sidewalk for reasons explained below when we get there.
The next two houses are located along Wilbrod Street in Sandy Hill. To get there, bike east along the plowed Laurier Bike Lane as far as City Hall. Just beyond City Hall take the exit off Laurier towards the Queen Elizabeth Driveway.
Cross the Queen Elizabeth Driveway and ride along the Rideau Canal Western Pathway which is cleared in the winter. Head up and over the Corkstown pedestrian/bike bridge, then cut through the Ottawa University Campus to get to Wilbrod Street.
Head east along Wilbrod, which is a one way street with a bike lane. The bike lane wasn’t entirely cleared of snow when I last rode this route, but it’s still a relatively quiet residential street.
The first of Watts’ designs we come to along Wilbrod is Australia House. Built in 1910, it became the residence of the Australian High Commissioner in 1940 after its previous occupant, the Consul General of Germany, was expelled from the country after the declaration of war in 1939.
Continue along Wilbrod to its eastern end where you will discover the magnificent Fleck- Paterson House. Completed in 1903, this house was built by lumber baron J.R. Booth for his daughter Gertrude and her husband Andrew Fleck. It presently houses the Embassy of Algeria.
Our next stop is the former Adath Jeshurun Syngogue on King Edward Avenue in Lowertown. Completed in 1904 it was home to Ottawa’s first Jewish congregation.
To get there from The Fleck Paterson House ride one block north along Charlotte Street and turn onto Stewart Street. It’s a one way heading west- bike lane included! Cut north along Chapel Street which crosses Rideau Street into Lowertown. Circle along Beausoleil Drive to York Street and continue west for a couple of blocks to King Edward Avenue.
The section of the route along King Edward on the above map is drawn in orange. That’s to distinguish it as a short portion of the tour I recommend disembarking and walking your bike along the sidewalk for half a block to view the old synagogue. I do not recommend riding along King Edward Avenue as it is a brutal thoroughfare with speeding vehicules of all sizes including transport trucks heading to and from Gatineau across the MacDonald-Cartier Bridge.
Continue walking your bike across Rideau Street, then along Rideau Street a short distance to Nelson Street. Mount your bike and head right back up into Sandy Hill along Nelson to rejoin Stewart Street. Cut through the Ottawa University campus and back across the Rideau Canal over the Corkstown bridge. Cross Queen Elizabeth Driveway into the Golden Triangle neighbourhood to MacLaren Street.
Head west along MacLaren to Metcalfe Street where you will discover the majestic house Watts designed for lumber baron John Rudolphus Booth. It was completed in 1909. More about this house can be found here.
Our final building on this tour is the Glebe-Saint James United Church on Lyon Street. To get there continue west along MacLaren to O’Connor Street. Hop onto the bike lane along O’Connor and head south under the Queensway into the Glebe neighbourhood. O’Connor suddenly loses its bike lane just south of the Queensway, however continue to follow it as far as First Avenue. Turn right onto First and ride all the way to Lyon where you will see the beautiful old Glebe-Saint James United Church.
To complete the loop back to our starting point, continue west along First to Percy Street. Ride north along Percy where a bike lane starts just as you head back under the Queensway. Continue along the Percy bike lane to Flora, then turn right onto Flora for a block to Bay Street which has a bike lane heading north. Ride along Bay all the way to where it meets up with Laurier, two blocks east of the house at Laurier and Bronson.
I’d like to thank Hans for putting me onto the story of the big old house perched up on Nanny Goat Hill that is up for sale (UPDATE: Fall 2019- sold). Hopefully it will be preserved by future owners. I’d also like to thank David Jeanes of Heritage Ottawa who provided me with information on John W.H. Watts and the other fine buildings he designed within Ottawa.
If you are interested in checking out the interiors of some these buildings I suggest keeping an eye out for the annual Doors Open event when many exceptional local buildings are opened to the public.