Why I Love Ot­tawa

Ottawa Magazine - - THIS CITY - By Adri­enne Clark­son The Right Hon­ourable Adri­enne Clark­son was the 26th Gover­nor Gen­eral of Canada, from 1999 to 2005, and is the co-founder and co-chair of the In­sti­tute for Cana­dian Cit­i­zen­ship.

277 Sus­sex Street

When we moved into the at­tached house at 277 Sus­sex in 1942, it was called Sus­sex Street and had not achieved the grandeur of “drive.” It was the mid­dle house of three at­tached dwellings di­rectly across from the Royal Cana­dian Mint. One of the rea­sons I still love Ot­tawa is that sev­eral years ago, when there was a plan­ning de­ci­sion to cre­ate a bike lane and widen Sus­sex Drive and tear the three houses down, there was an out­cry from his­tor­i­cal preser­va­tion­ists and oth­ers in the neigh­bour­hood. In short, the three lit­tle houses were saved! Not only were they saved, but they were shored up and new foun­da­tions were put un­der them, and they look as though they’ll be there for some time.

A won­der­ful irony is that I re­turned to live in Ot­tawa in 1999 at 1 Sus­sex Dr., which is Rideau Hall, the res­i­dence of the gover­nor gen­eral. When I was a lit­tle child, we used to get on the street­car al­most in front of our door on Sun­day and take it down to Rock­cliffe Park, car­ry­ing a blan­ket, my mother’s favourite mag­a­zines, and a box with sand­wiches and drinks. On spe­cial oc­ca­sions, we were treated to a hot dog made on the bot­tom floor of that stone pavil­ion, and they were the best hot dogs I have ever eaten to this day. The buns were pressed in a grill with the hot dog in­side. Yum!

Never in my life did I dream that I would live be­hind those wrought-iron gates in that park with its stately col­umns.

The Cen­tral Ex­per­i­men­tal Farm

We would take the street­car from our sec­ond dwelling in Ot­tawa, which was on Lau­rier Street — a four-plex apart­ment build­ing — to what seemed like the outer lim­its of our world. We would en­ter the car, car­ry­ing a bas­ket with a pic­nic in it, and head straight to the Ar­bore­tum, where my mother was blissed out look­ing at the plants and flow­ers and mut­ter­ing to her­self and to us, “We will have a gar­den some­time.” I re­mem­ber one oc­ca­sion where we took a choco­late cake, which my mother had just learned to make, with marsh­mal­low ic­ing, and some­how it spread all over the in­side of our bas­ket. We ate it all up any­way with our fin­gers, right there in the mid­dle of that beau­ti­ful Ar­bore­tum.

Rideau Hall

This strange ever-chang­ing, ev­er­grow­ing build­ing was my home for six years. The first time I had a tour, it was very de­press­ing. How­ever, I was im­me­di­ately told that, with each gover­nor gen­eral, the in­te­rior was painted and that “re­fresh­ing” hap­pened to the rooms. Hap­pily, with a com­bi­na­tion of good will on the part of the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Com­mis­sion’s cu­ra­tors and the won­der­ful gar­den­ing staff, we were able to bring Rideau Hall back from its faded dis­tress to some of its de­served at­trac­tive­ness. We planted peren­ni­als in the gar­dens so that there would not be tens of thou­sands of gera­ni­ums and im­pa­tiens pulled out, leav­ing ugly brown beds for eight months of the year to be looked at from all the win­dows. We en­gaged in a his­tor­i­cal re­con­struc­tion of the gar­dens as they had been laid out by Lady Byng and No­rah Mich­ener. The in­te­ri­ors were painted the colours that a house of that di­men­sion in the 1840s would have been painted — ochre, yel­low, and shades of red. We had a won­der­ful time serv­ing Cana­dian foods to vis­i­tors when they came to Rideau Hall, and it was a won­der­ful way to leave one’s mark on some­thing that was his­toric and de­served not only to be pre­served but to be em­bel­lished and trea­sured.

We also got many of the pub­lic gal­leries of Canada, in­clud­ing the Na­tional Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of On­tario, and many oth­ers, to lend paint­ings on two-to-three-year cy­cles, which meant that all vis­i­tors — we raised that count to 250,000 vis­i­tors per year — could see Cana­dian art in Canada’s house. I am so happy that Michaëlle Jean and David John­ston have con­tin­ued this prac­tice!

Na­tional Arts Cen­tre and the Precinct of the War Me­mo­rial

To me, this is the heart of Ot­tawa and where I was of­ten placed as a child with my class from El­gin Street School or Kent Street School to wel­come Pres­i­dent Vin­cent Au­riol of France or Princess El­iz­a­beth, as she was then in 1951. The Na­tional War Me­mo­rial, to my mind, is the finest war me­mo­rial in the world. Noth­ing con­veys the ten­sion and the courage as well as that gun wagon and the sol­diers and of­fi­cers be­side it, un­der that Me­mo­rial Arch. Ev­ery Re­mem­brance Day for six years, I took the salute as com­man­der-in-chief of the Cana­dian Forces, and ev­ery year it was an ex­tremely mov­ing and won­der­ful oc­ca­sion. The sin­gle most mem­o­rable mo­ment of my man­date as gover­nor gen­eral was the ded­i­ca­tion of the Tomb of the Un­known Sol­dier.

On the other side was the Château Lau­rier, where I had com­peted for — and lost — the Ro­tary pub­lic-speak­ing con­test when I was 15, and where our fam­ily used to cel­e­brate my par­ents’ wed­ding an­niver­sary and oc­ca­sions like our birthdays in the Château Grill Room.

And, of course, across from the Château Lau­rier was Union Sta­tion, where I re­mem­ber go­ing with my par­ents af­ter the war to see sol­diers re­turn­ing. It was also the train that would take us to Mon­treal when we went twice a year to do some se­ri­ous shop­ping for fash­ion­able clothes. My mother alwa–ys wanted to go on the train to buy our win­ter coats at Ogilvy!

“When I was a lit­tle child, we used to get on the street­car al­most in front of our door on Sun­day and take it down to Rock­cliffe Park, car­ry­ing a blan­ket, my mother’s favourite mag­a­zines, and a box with sand­wiches and drinks.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.