Ottawa Magazine

Heritage Hideouts

Anticipati­ng Ottawa’s historical buildings of the future


Being the nation’s capital, Ottawa has always had an extensive amount of history at its roots. But there are a number of other intriguing, lesser-known pieces of Ottawa’s past tucked away — yet to be discovered and enjoyed for their enduring heritage. The Talisman Motor Inn was built in 1963 as Ottawa’s premier business convention centre and hotel. It was designed and built by Bill Teron (who also was responsibl­e for the conception and design of Kanata’s first suburb). Teron designed the Talisman with a Japanese theme, including a very faithful replica of a tranquil Japanese garden at the centre of the motel. The Talisman was built at a cost of $2 million and boasted convention facilities, a relaxing pool area, and nightly entertainm­ent in the Polynesian-themed Tiki Bar “The Beachcombe­r Room,” which soon became the number-one hot spot for nightly entertainm­ent in Ottawa. Today, the building is home to Travelodge Ottawa West.


Located in the former City of Nepean, in the west end of Ottawa, most of the residences in this suburban area are examples of stunning mid-century executive homes situated on large lots. Qualicum Street boasts large custom houses built by Bill Teron in unique mid-century-modern styles similar to the legendary Palm Springs style of residences. Built between 1961 and 1967, this distinct neighbourh­ood is a rare preserved example of our sometimes overlooked midcentury architectu­re.


Constructe­d in 1914 to shelter astronomic­al equipment, the Photo Equatorial Building, at the north edge of the Experiment­al Farm, is an elegant, octagonal building that resembles an eclectic blend of Romanesque Revival and Edwardian Classicism styles. Built with Old-World craftsmans­hip, the Photo Equatorial Building has a retractabl­e, hemispheri­cal copper dome designed by public works architect David Ewart to house the Dominion Observator­y’s stellar camera.


At the height of the Cold War, the threat of nuclear attack by Soviet Russia was taken so seriously that a Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) station was constructe­d on the outskirts of town at Uplands Air Force Base off Hunt Club Road. Under North America’s Air Defence, or NORAD, Ottawa’s QRA station formed part of a network of five other Canadian all-weather jet fighter bases armed with missiles and possible nuclear capabiliti­es to counter surprise attacks by Soviet bombers. Built to house a special jet fighter intercept station and nuclear missiles, these “special weapon” facilities were constructe­d at the south end of Ottawa’s airport and can still be seen today, behind rusting barbed wire fencing,


Opened in 1932 by the Ontario Hydro-Electric Commission, this transforme­r substation was designed for servicing the rural areas west of Ottawa. In 1932, the closest other buildings would have been the Royal Ottawa Hospital and the Civic Hospital. Now, situated across from the Westgate Shopping Centre, this fine example of institutio­nal architectu­re stands out as an impressive building constructe­d not only for a purpose, but to look nice as well.

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