Philomène Terrace

This impressive eight unit stone row at 363-383 Daly Ave. was built in 1874 by Honoré Robillard in the Norman style, a style more reminiscent of buildings in old Québec City and Montreal than Ottawa. It is one of only a handful of stone houses to have been built in Sandy Hill[1]. A stone mason, the son of a stone mason (his father Antoine had been involved in the construction of the Rideau Canal and Notre Dame Basilica), Robillard was also a businessman and politician.


Philomène Terrace stands out for its two-foot thick stone walls, its classical symmetry, its stone gables and multiple chimneys. Inside, these houses feature open curving staircases, high ceilings, plaster rosettes and crown mouldings, high baseboards and ornate radiators. The servants’ quarters and the kitchen were originally in the basement and were accessible through a back staircase. The front verandas and the rear additions were built in the 1880s.


Robillard named the row after his first wife Philomène who died in 1879 in an accident  at the age of 39, after having borne him 7 or 9 children (the records disagree). Robillard remarried but did not have children with his second wife.


Robillard had a varied career. At the age of 17, he travelled to Australia to look for gold. A few years later, he participated in another gold rush, this time in British Columbia. When he returned for good to Ottawa in 1864, he acquired a quarry in Gloucester Township. He was named a colonel in the militia and a judge of the peace. Eventually, he entered politics, being first elected reeve in Gloucester, then the first francophone member of the Ontario Legislature (1883 – 1886).  In the 1883 provincial election, he ran as a Conservative against his younger brother Alexandre, a Radical, who then won the seat after Honoré left provincial politics. Finally, he represented Ottawa in the House of Commons (1887 – 1896).


In September 1886, Robillard and a business colleague purchased from the federal government the timber rights to 79 m2 of the Whitefish Lake First Nation Reserve near Sudbury for $399. Ten months later, Robillard and his colleague sold these same rights for an estimated $50,000. The matter was raised in Parliament and the Opposition accused the government of buying the support of a francophone businessman who might otherwise have opposed its suppression of the 1885 Riel rebellion. The Superintendant of Indian Affairs at the time, and the man held responsible for the sale, was Sir John A. Macdonald. In 2007, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that the federal government owed the Whitefish Lake First Nation millions of dollars in compensation for having breeched its fiduciary duty.


Robillard died in 1914 at the age of 79. He is buried in Notre Dame Cemetery.


[1] Stone houses that remain in Sandy Hill include Besserer House (149 Daly Ave.), the former Anglican bishop’s palace (161 Daly Ave.) and Winterholme (Sir Sandford Fleming’s house at 213 Chapel St.).