History

This land where Britannia stands was once a part of a large estate, owned by Captain John LeBreton in 1818. John LeBreton advertised the sale of real estate in the village area in 1828. LCol Joseph Bouchette referred to Lac Deschênes as Chaudiere Lake in 1832. Around 1876, an apple orchard near the head of the rapids was undermined and washed away during a big flood.

The Britannia Methodist Church formed in 1873 and is celebrating its 140th anniversary in 2013. The Church grew out of services held in the home of Ira Honeywell, the first settler in Nepean Township. Members had been meeting in homes since 1869. In 1911, the Neogothic Britannia Heights Methodist Church was erected at Carling & Richmond. Renamed the Britannia United Church in 1920 after the amalgamation of the United Church of Canada. After her congregation moved to Britannia United on Pinecrest Road in 1961, the building was used to sell Macintosh & Watts china, to sell paintings and as a construction shack until it burned down in 1975.

It was once a small mill owned by Mr John Jamieson to the west of Ottawa. A cottage town and boating club developed around the site of the old mill; Mr. John Jamieson made a pretty resort out of what was once a sand beach.

The Britannia Yacht Club was established in 1887. The Club house still retains its historic appearance. Members of the club have won many championships and Olympic gold medals. Canada’s only Gold medal winner from the 1936 Summer Olympics,Frank Amyot, paddled these waters in the 1920s and 1930s. The Club’s Dragon Lounge’s bar was fashioned out of a dragon sail boat. The Clubhouse was included amongst other architecturally interesting and historically significant buildings in Doors Open Ottawa, held June 2 and 3, 2012.

The Britannia Bay post office was established in 1889, under the community’s first postmistress Mrs C Hand.

The “G.B. Greene”, known as ‘Queen of the River,’ a double-decked side wheeler steamer built by the Upper Ottawa Improvement Company in 1896, took up to 250 passengers up the Ottawa River to Chats Falls on daily pleasure excursions. Although she was dismantled in 1946, her anchor remains at Britannia Beach today.

In 1899, the Ottawa Electric Railway Company built a street-car line to Britannia. In 1899, the Metropolitan Power Company was formed to construct a power house just north of the Britannia Boathouse Club with a 2000-foot canal to extend to the lower end of the Lac Deschênes Rapids. The area became popular at the turn of the century because the Ottawa Gas and Electric company extended the trolley line and created an amusement park at Britannia beach to encourage users of the trolley system to use the system on weekends. A cottage and beach community resulted.

The first trip of the Ottawa Electric Railway Car 202 Britannia-on-the-Bay on the Britannia Line was 13 January 1900.The electric line to the village on Britannia Bay was open for regular traffic in the spring 1900.

By 1904, the trolley company had built a wide pier 1,000 feet long out into the river. Along the east side, there were cottages, and the Boat club house. Along the south side, the land between the road and the lake has been turned into a park, with pavilions and bath houses. The beach was ideal for bathing, since people could wade out almost to the end of the pier without danger. The village, with its two churches and neat cottages, was one of Ottawa’s most fashionable suburbs in 1904. Justice Mosgrove had a 35 acre grape farm, not far from Britannia Park, on the river.

Albert Bedingfield’s stencil designs, now in the Library and Archives Canada collection, were published by Britannia-Bay, Ottawa, Ont.

During World War II, the Princess Alice Barracks Cabin at Britannia Bay provided a summer home for Royal Canadian Air Force (Women’s Division) personnel near the Britannia Boating Club’s facilities for tennis, dancing and boating. Rented from the King’s Daughter’s Guild of Ottawa, the cabin featured 60 beds, a separate cookhouse and dining pavilion. The cabin had served the King’s Daughter’s Guild of Ottawa since 1913 as a Fresh Air Cottage for mothers and undernourished children. After the war, the Fresh Air Cottages were rented to families as year round apartments. During a kitchen fire at the Fresh Air Cottage on Dec 11, 1952, Roger Murphy, aged 2 died and 26 residents were left temporarily homeless. The Fresh Air Cottage on Cassels Street, was expropriated and demolished, and is now part of the conservation area around Mud Lake.

Rapid growth in all directions during the 20th century meant that it was soon surrounded by the western suburb of Nepean. Larger, modern houses were built in between cottages. Nowadays it is simply an out-of-the-way part of west end of Ottawa, featuring among other things Barks and Bubbles dog-washing business,Regina Street Public School, a movie theatre complex, Britannia Baptist Church, a Britannia Conservation area centred on the National Capital Commission’s (Mud Lake), and Britannia beach.

Although Thomas Ahearn’s hydroelectric project was abandoned as unfeasible, the unfinished canal was used in 1951 by Past Commodores Thomas G. Fullerand Reginald G. Bruce with volunteer labour provided by Club members as the basis of the Britannia Yacht Club protected harbour. Today, the BYC harbour provides 250 wet moorings, fuel and pump out facilities, for both sail and power boats.

The Britannia water filtration plant commissioned and constructed between 1956 and 1959 is one of two water treatment plants that serve City of Ottawa’s residents. The 23,000 m2 plant, which is situated on 18.7 hectares of city property draws from the Ottawa River and treats an average of about 200 megalitres of water a day. The plant was included amongst other architecturally interesting and historically significant buildings in Doors Open Ottawa, held June 2 and 3, 2012.

The neighbourhood has a perhaps one of its kind 1967 EXPO style dome covering a local children’s hockey rink that made it to the top 500 architecturally significant buildings in Canada in 2002 as voted by CIRA.

In 1976, an article in the Ottawa Citizen described real estate prices in Britannia and in the older Britannia Bay area: semi detached houses ($48,000), duplexes ($65-70,000), 3 & 4 story apartment buildings and is surrounded by highrises; 15 three story townhouses on Kehoe ($95-100,000); older converted cottages ($38-45,000); and two story townhouses on Bradford rented for $250-300 a month. In 1976, schools in the neighbourhood included Regina Public School, Grant School (now closed) and St. Leonard’s School.

The neighbourhood and, is the former home of the Ottawa Folk Festival at Britannia Park.

In 2003, Canadian Hydrographic Service published “1550, Britannia Bay to Chat Falls”, which was 4 maps on 1 sheet; Previous editions of the cartographic material were produced in 1961, ’62, ’69, ’73, ’77, ’82, ’86, and ’96.

In 2003, the City of Ottawa erected a Heritage Designation plaque for William Murphy House, 127 Britannia Road.

In 2010, the City of Ottawa erected a Heritage Designation plaque for Old St. Stephen’s Church, 181 Britannia Road. “Built in 1892, Old St. Stephen’s Church was one of two churches built to serve the fashionable 19th century resort community of Britannia, and is the only one remaining today. A vernacular interpretation of the Gothic Revival style, it features the pointed-arch windows and door, simple rectangular form and tower commonly associated with the style. Old St. Stephen’s Church is now a private residence.”

Source: Wikipedia  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Britannia,_Ottawa

See also Mike Kaulbar’s website for a history of Britannia: https://britanniaottawa.wordpress.com/

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