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The Crowded Margins of History

The Margins are more crowded than I ever expected them to be. When I started sharing a story or two  about five years ago, I didn't expect there to be much in the way of hits to the site. That wasn't entirely accidental of course. I chose to write about the sorts of thing that don't get much light on the whole and have (mostly) consciously avoided writing about things on more well-worn roads. Still, that the site crested 100,000 views (none of them mine), is something I never expected to see.

So I'd just like to thank everyone who has been reading! There will be more to come. I have one more outstanding project nearing completion and once that has been finished, there will be more stories to come. 
As a teaser, there was once a 40 foot tall spite fence between two lots on Elgin street.

Front Page: Ottawa Citizen, December 23, 1978

It may be a little trite, but one of the things I've often done is look back at the front page of newspapers for the day's date, 10, 20, 100 years into the past. The mix of stories on the front pages of the local papers has always been an interesting balance and the Citizen from December 23, 1978 is no exception. In addition to international stories like the negotiations that would soon lead to SALT II,  the crash of Alitalia Flight 4128, and John Wayne Gacy's murders, a pair of local stories made the front page.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that the local stories are where my interest is normally drawn. One of them concerns a bit of resentment from local business owners at Bayshore to mall management, who had made the decision that the mall would remain open until 10pm in order to capture more holiday shopping business. Of note, is mall manager Louis Boulanger's response to Bayshore Fish Market owner Barry Schulman's desire to close at 6pm:
Of course I did…

Blogging on the Margins

One thing I've always wanted was for the blog section of The Margins of History to be kept quite separate from the main content. I don't have any well-argued reason for it, but just feel that the stories and transcripts (or I suppose more "serious" content) should be kept separate from the quick thoughts and ephemera with more than a category tag.

There's also that thing where I've (once again) deactivated my Twitter account. If you've been following along for the last few years, this is nothing new. I've deactivated that account a number of times. What's new, I suppose, is that Twitter was the last of my social media accounts and I would like to keep it that way through 2019.

Having a specific place to share those quick thoughts and ephemera should go a long way to making sure that it happens. I've also always enjoyed reading blogs like Routine Proceedings, Alex Usher's One Thought Blog, and Brandon Donnelly's. Although I am not comm…

Another Social Media Departure

I've never had any particular fear of social media. It has served a purpose and I've had a good time over the years on many platforms. I surprised myself, however, when I decided to get myself off of Instagram this week. It was a long time coming I suppose. A number of things have changed since I joined the service in 2013.

Essentially, I found that engagement has bottomed out and like so many social media platforms, it has become more of a personal broadcast and advertising service. Communication is, in other words, mostly one way. With the rapid adoption of the Snapchat-like Stories, what did remain has mostly been taken into private conversation. With all that, I decided that it wasn't for me anymore.

I still take plenty of pictures though. They're up at, which can also be found in this site's navigation menu above.

The City of Ottawa's Views of Elgin, 1991

In 1991, City of Ottawa planners travelled the streets of Centretown, cameras in hand, documenting the neighbourhood's built heritage. Since I will be speaking for five minutes tonight at Heritage Ignite! about how Elgin street has inspired my love for Ottawa's history, I figured that it would be nice to share some of those images. They were sourced from Accession 2009.0453.1 at the City of Ottawa Archives.

Friday's Roast Beef House, now BecktaFriday's Roast Beef House, now BecktaKnox ChurchThe Diamond, now Dunn'sParty Palace, now McDonald's, Morrison'sSt. John'sMy Cousins', Yogourt Country, Elgin ArtMy Cousins'Kenniston ApartmentsStevenson's ParmacyCafé HanaHolbrook Apartments

“For Best Service”: John Lissee’s Appliances on Ossington

Kathleen and I recently took a quick vacation to Toronto (as well as Hamilton and locations across Manitoulin Island) and while walking around, noticed this well-preserved and recently-revealed sign on one of the empty commercial properties along Ossington Avenue.

I'll admit that I'm pretty annoying in these cases: although we walk all over the place, I'm always stopping to take pictures. For me, it's the signs that really make me take notice, whether they are for businesses still operating or for those long gone. Toronto's small business owners often seem to like to keep the old sign up even if the business is long gone. I have not gone for a full exploration below, so the following just comes from a brief search.

John Lissee and his wife Millie purchased the property from Abraham Weiser in November 1947,01 but did not move in until some time in 1949. At that point in time, the ground floor retail was occupied by Marcil's Baby Carriage Shop.02 In the 1951 Migh…

Another Library Card

One of the goals for my recent trip to Toronto was to get a card for the Toronto Public Library. There are certain resources that the Ottawa Public Library - digital or otherwise - will not invest in, so getting a card from a city that will for a reasonable price (for an out-of-towner) was a no-brainer.
In this case, my main aim was Pages of the Past, the back catalogue of the Toronto Star. Although the Ottawa Public Library has a subscription to the Globe and Mail's back catalogue, as a national paper, it has never been near as interested in the reporting local to Toronto.

I should note that I don't expect the Ottawa Public Library to subscribe to the Toronto Star's back catalogue.