Category: Britannia Park

Britannia Unveiled

Sunday, 23 February will go down in Canadian history as the day the Canadian men won Olympic hockey gold in Sochi. It will go down in the Workers’ History Museum’s history as the day we won our first gold medal: our first permanent exhibit!

britannia“Britannia: The People’s Playground” is a wall-sized exhibit on the history of Britannia Park. Created by Ottawa entrepreneurs Ahearn and Soper to encourage the use of their streetcars at off-peak hours and weekends, Britannia soon became the spot for working and middle class people from all over the region to attend dances, concerts, and shows. Children learned to swim at the beach and families picnicked in the grounds or enjoyed the funfair.

The WHM’s permanent bilingual exhibit was unveiled by Bay Ward Councillor Mark Taylor and WHM President Bob Hatfield at the Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre in Ottawa’s West End. “We have developed travelling exhibits before, but this is our first permanent exhibit,” said WHM President Bob Hatfield. “It is an important milestone for the Workers’ History Museum.”

“Britannia: The People’s Playground” was created by WHM volunteers. Ken Clavette was the inspiration for this exhibit; he did the original research, set up the project and completed much of the early work. Sanna Guérin led the project, Christine Goneau and Emélie Perron-Clow conducted additional research, and academic support came from Bruce Elliott, John Taylor, and David Dean. Text was edited by Cydney Foote and Bob Hatfield and translated by Valérie Lalonde. The exhibit was designed and installed by André Mersereau of Chapter One Studio.

Judy McDonald from the Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre worked hard to bring this project to completion, with financial support from the City of Ottawa. It has proven to be yet another fruitful partnership between the City of Ottawa and the Workers’ History Museum.

The WHM also has a Britannia travelling exhibit that groups may borrow for display at meetings and conferences. Contact the museum for more information.

New Exhibit Uncovers Britannia’s Working Class History

The Workers’ History Museum is unveiling its permanent exhibit, “Britannia: The People’s Playground,” as part of the Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre’s 21st Annual Winter Garden Party.

When: 11:30-2:00 p.m., Sunday, February 23, 2014
Where: Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre, 102 Greenview Avenue, Ottawa
Admission: Free

“Britannia: The People’s Playground” looks at the history of this Ottawa landmark from a workers’ perspective. “In the early 20th century, Britannia Park was one of Ottawa’s greatest attractions, likened to New York’s iconic Coney Island,” explains Sanna Guérin, lead on this project and chair of the WHM’s Exhibits Committee. “For working class families living in congested urban neighbourhoods, the 5-cent fare on the Ottawa Electric Railway offered an escape to the country. It’s interesting stories like these that we strive to preserve and share as a museum.”

Visitors to the Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre will be able to view this permanent bilingual exhibit year-round. “We have developed travelling exhibits before, but this is our first permanent exhibit,” says WHM President Bob Hatfield. “We are proud to partner with the City of Ottawa and be part of the Winter Garden Party for the second year.”

WHM representatives will be at the community booth throughout the Winter Garden Party event with more information about Britannia Park and about Ottawa’s working class history. There will also be horse-drawn sleigh rides, carnival games, hot dogs, maple-syrup taffy and much more. Winter fun both indoors and out for all ages is promised, rain, snow, or shine!

By Cydney Foote

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Remembering Ottawa’s Electric Railway

Did you know that 100 years ago, Ottawa had a fleet of electric streetcars? The Ottawa Electric Railway Company’s line to Britannia Park made it an inexpensive destination for the working people of Ottawa.

The electric streetcars stopped running in 1959, but Streetcar 696 is now being lovingly restored at the OC Transpo garages. The Workers’ History Museum talked to Bruce Dudley, a former streetcar operator, about his memories of the service.

If you’re interested in Ottawa’s streetcars and the history of Britannia-on-the-Bay, we invite you to visit our exhibit at the Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre at Britannia Park, 102 Greenview Avenue, Ottawa.

By Cydney Foote