Ot­tawa’s Best Se­crets

In hon­our of Canada’s birth­day, Laura Byrne Pa­quet, au­thor of Se­cret Ot­tawa, un­rav­els some of the cap­i­tal’s top mys­ter­ies

Ottawa Magazine - - THIS CITY -

Sen­sa­tional spies

In Septem­ber 1945, Rus­sian em­bassy clerk Igor Gouzenko swiped 109 doc­u­ments of ev­i­dence of his coun­try’s es­pi­onage ac­tiv­i­ties in Canada. When he had no luck in­ter­est­ing au­thor­i­ties in his stash, he scur­ried home to 511 Som­er­set St. W. and hid with a neigh­bour as his erst­while em­ploy­ers raided his apart­ment across the hall. Even­tu­ally, the pa­pers led to mul­ti­ple ar­rests and a sen­sa­tional spy trial.

Rare things

Most Univer­sity of Ot­tawa stu­dents likely never no­tice the 4,000-yearold Bronze Age bowl in a dis­play win­dow on the third floor of the Des­marais Build­ing, home to the tiny Mu­seum of Clas­si­cal An­tiq­ui­ties. Opened in 1975, the freeto-the-pub­lic mu­seum dis­plays pot­tery, tex­tiles, jewellery, and other items from roughly 2,000 BC to 700 AD. Coolest item: an an­cient pig-shaped baby rat­tle.

Stealth stat­ues

One night in 1989, artist Lea Vivot left an un­ex­pected present out­side what is now Li­brary and Ar­chives Canada: a bronze sculp­ture called The Se­cret Bench of Knowl­edge. Of­fi­cial con­ster­na­tion about this ran­dom act of art­work place­ment en­sued, and Vivot later re­moved the piece. The pub­lic missed it, how­ever, so she re­placed it in 1993 with a do­nated copy.

Vault­ing into his­tory

Dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, an enor­mous vault be­low the Bank of Canada build­ing at 234 Welling­ton St. kept gold from Euro­pean cen­tral banks safe from the Nazis. Fol­low­ing the build­ing’s re­cent ren­o­va­tion, does the vault still ex­ist? The bank isn’t say­ing; ac­cord­ing to a spokes­woman’s email, “As a mat­ter of pol­icy and for se­cu­rity rea­sons, this is not a topic we dis­cuss pub­licly.” In­trigu­ing. Does In­di­ana Jones know about this?

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