When Britannia opened in 1900, it was not a public park but the latest addition to a business empire. Likened to an octopus with far-reaching tentacles, Ahearn & Soper owned Ottawa Light, Heat & Power, the electric streetcars, the streetcar factory, and a company that sold land along the line for housing developments and cottage communities. Ahearn & Soper also owned the companies that both manufactured the streetcars and powered them. They profited from daytrippers, commuter fares, and land sales, as well as concessions and auditorium fees from the park.
Growth towards the west
Construction of the OERC Britannia line allowed Ahearn & Soper to develop the western suburbs along the tracks. The seasonal park Britannia and its long tram line functioned at a loss, but as of its creation, the Ahearn & Soper company planned, in collaboration with Ottawa Land Association, to develop suburban communities along the line. The company played a leading role in the development of communities such as Hintonburg for the working class and Britannia Village and Westboro for the middle class. After all, these people would make the shuttle to Ottawa each day.
Drawing them in
Before unions succeeded in winning the weekend, most people worked five and a half days a week. Sunday afternoons were for recreation, but few venues were open. Through their political clout, Ahearn & Soper operated Sunday streetcars, allowing paying customers access to Britannia’s green space for picnics, a swim, and entertainment.
The Ottawa Electric Railway subsidized annual “Little Folks” excursions – a free streetcar ride and ice cream – to lure the families of the poor back to the park as paying customers.