Naming Sandy Hill’s streets

Although Sandy Hill is one of Ottawa’s oldest neighbourhoods, it is not reallyold. Yet, it is surprising how many Sandy Hill streets have disappeared or changed names over the past hundred and fifty years. They are clearly not the permanent feature of our urban landscape we imagine them to be

As Sandy Hill’s first land-owner and developer, Louis-Théodore Besserer got to name several streets himself. He named two streets (Wilbrod and Theodore, now Laurier East) after two of his sons, Daly after a government administrator in Quebec City and Stewart after his land agent. Ottawa’s other large private landholder at the time, Nicholas Sparks, also got a street name in Sandy Hill (Nicholas St.) even though his holdings were west of the Canal.

Not surprisingly, given Canada’s membership in the British Empire, many streets have been named to honour British leaders (Nelson, Russell, Goulburn) or the British royal family (Charlotte, Cornwall, Cumberland, Cobourg, Wurtemburg).

Only a few of Sandy Hill’s streets bear names with purely local origins: Chapel St. received its name because a Wesleyan Methodist church had been built on it close to Rideau St. in 1827. Range Rd. (formerly Salisbury Ave.) marked the western boundary of the Dominion Rifle Range for over 20 years. Fountain Place, close to Cummings Bridge, marks a former spring. Farmers from Eastview would water their horses there before heading to the Byward Market. A few streets honour former mayors (Friel, Waller), a local businessman (Blackburn) and a former City clerk (Henderson).

Several street names have changed over the years, sometimes subtly: King St. became King Edward Ave.; Ann St. changed to Mann Ave. (there were a lot of streets in Ottawa named Ann in those days). Some changes were made to accommodate new administrative boundaries: until 1880, the short stretches of Besserer, Daly, Stewart and Wilbrod west of Waller St. all had different names because Waller St. represented the dividing line between two different concessions. Some changes have been made to honour a political leader (e.g., Theodore became Laurier, Gloucester became Friel). More recently, the University has changed some street names on its campus (e.g., Marie Curie, Séraphin Marion, Copernicus, Louis Pasteur) to reflect their new status as private streets.

Some Sandy Hill streets no longer exist: Hastey St., which ran south from Laurier Ave. is now mostly a pedestrian walkway on the University campus. Mosgrove St. used to run south to George St., west of Nicholas St. — the Rideau Centre now occupies that land.  The block-long James St. is now part of the Department of National Defense complex between Laurier and the Mackenzie King Bridge. McDougall St. was a short street that used to run into Nicholas St. between Osgoode and Somerset.

We may not give much thought to Sandy Hill’s street names but they tell of our history, our British colonial past, the local leaders who distinguished themselves, and changes in land use.

Origin of Sandy Hill street names

Current name



Augusta St. Londinium Augusta, London’s name in Roman times
Besserer St. Louis-Théodore Besserer, first land owner in Sandy Hill
Blackburn Ave. Robert Blackburn, local wood merchant
Chapel St. A small Wesleyan Methodist chapel was built on the street close to Rideau St. in 1827
Charlotte St. Princess Charlotte (1796 – 1817), only child of King George IV
Cobourg St. Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was the official name of the British Royal family until George V changed the name to Windsor in 1917 during World War 1.
Cumberland St. Duke of Cumberland. A peerage usually conferred to junior members of the British royal family
Cunningham St. Walter Cunningham, alderman. The street no longer exists.
Daly Ave. Sir Dominick Daly, Provincial Secretary for Lower Canada before the 1841 Act of Union. The part of Daly Ave. West of Waller St. was called Baldwin until 1880
Fountain Place A spring used to run at the foot of what is now Besserer Park
Friel St. Formerly Gloucester St. Renamed in 1880 after Henry Friel, Mayor of Bytown (1854) and Ottawa (1863, 1868-1869)
Goulburn Ave. Henry Goulburn, British Conservative politician who became Chancellor of the Exchequer (twice) and Home Secretary. He was also involved in negotiating the Treaty of Ghent that ended the War of 1812.
Hastey St. Robert Hastey, Alderman, Controller and Mayor. The street no longer exists.
Henderson Ave. John Henderson, former Manager of the By Estate, City Clerk, 1891 – 1915
King Edward Ave. Formerly King St. ,renamed in 1906 after King Edward VII
Laurier Ave. E. Formerly Theodore St., after one of Besserer’s sons. Renamed after Sir Wilfrid Laurier in 1904
Mann Ave. Formerly Ann St. Renamed in 1912 either (i) Sir Donald Mann[2], Vice-President of the Canadian Northern Railway, or (ii) after General Gother Mann, Inspector General of Fortifications in the 1820s
Marlborough Ave. George Spencer-Churchill, fifth Duke of Marlborough. Winston Churchill was the Duke’s great-great-grand-son
McDougall St. Francis McDougall, hardware dealer and mayor (1985-86). The street no longer exists
Mosgrove St. William Mosgrove, lawyer, Carleton Country Judge (1889-1903). The street no longer exists.
Nelson St. Admiral Horatio Nelson, Great Britain’s most famous military hero
Nicholas St. Nicholas Sparks, one of Ottawa’s first land-owners
Osgoode St. William Osgoode, Chief Justice of Upper Canada (1791-94) and Lower Canada (1794-1805). Osgoode Hall is Toronto is named after him
Range Rd. Formerly Salisbury St. Renamed Range Rd. in 1913 to commemorate the firing range in what is now Strathcona Park
Rideau St. The Rideau Falls (named by Champlain when he travelled up the Ottawa by canoe because they looked like a curtain) and the Rideau River
Russell Ave. Lord John Russell, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies 1839-1841; Prime Minister in 1865
Somerset St. 12th Duke of Somerset, First Lord of the Admiralty 1859-1866
Stewart St. Merchant, member of the Legislative Assembly, land agent to the Besserer Estate. The part West of Waller St. was called Albert until 1880.
Sweetland Ave. Dr. John Sweetland, Sheriff of Carleton County (1867)
Templeton St. Origin unknown. May be related to the former village of the same name, now part of Gatineau.
Waller St. Formerly Ottawa St. William Waller was mayor of Ottawa in 1877 and subsequently registrar of Carleton County
Wilbrod St. One of Besserer’s sons. The part West of Waller St. was called Slater until 1880
Wurtemburg St. A southern German kingdom allied by marriage to the British crown through Queen Mary, wife of King George V

[1]Much of the information in this table comes from Brault, L. (1946), Ottawa Old and New (Ottawa Historical Information Institute)

[2]Alexander Ross. Ottawa Past and Present. Toronto: Musson Book Co., 1927.

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