Kelly-Anne Maddox takes a walking tour of Vanier
Kelly-Anne Maddox relocated to Ottawa from BC in 2010 and is busy being a mom to her one-year old daughter.
There are some neighbourhoods that call out to be explored, and others that whisper a subtle invitation.
Such is the case of Vanier, off the beaten tourist track, yet the kind of neighbourhood that, once you delve in, reveals itself to be rich in history and community spirit. Murals throughout the area tell stories of Vanier’s past and reflect its strong sense of cohesion, obvious in the mural at the corner of Vanier and MacArthur depicting citizens protesting the closing of Montfort hospital: “Montfort fermé – jamais!”
Having lived here only a year, I realized that I still didn’t know a lot about the area, and haven’t taken as much time as I would have liked to explore. Deciding to remedy my lack of local knowledge, I looked up the Vanier Museopark website and learned that the organization offers a series of four heritage walks – Richelieu Park, Beechwood Circuit, Montreal Circuit, and MacArthur Circuit – meant to bring to light the area’s lively narrative. The tours can be either self-guided by downloading the information pamphlets on the website or for $5 one can take part in a circuit led by a tour guide.
With a dog and a baby in tow, I thought it best to opt for the self-guided tour, and I started by checking out the Beechwood and the Richelieu Park circuits. My jaunt began from the Metro at Beechwood and Charlevoix, where I noticed a mural that I couldn’t even recall having caught a glimpse of before. Located on the side of the Metro facing Charlevoix, the painting depicts the former streetcar line and shops from the 1950s. Continuing along Beechwood, the tour revealed little architectural gems and I marveled at the building housing the El Meson restaurant.
Having passed by this edifice innumerable times, I had always thought it striking and beautiful, but now I learned from my pamphlet that it is over a hundred years old, dating back to 1890, and is designated a heritage property by the City of Ottawa.
The handout also noted that the El Meson mural portrays the town council of the former municipality of Vanier.
It also pointed me to the restaurant’s metal roof, distinct from others in the neighbourhood, except for that of the Saint-Charles Church, which first caught my eye last fall, illuminated at dusk, the last of the evening sun glinting off its steeple and the Parliament Buildings in the distance.
I continued on from the Beechwood circuit to see what Richelieu Park had to offer. I turned up Marier and headed to the Avenue des Pères blancs, named after the missionaries who once lived there.
Walking up to Richelieu Park along the Avenue, low-slung apartment buildings gave way to a verdant canopy of mature trees arching over the street, perfectly framing the statue of Notre Dame d’Afrique located at the end of the boulevard.
I would nomally hightail it up this street on my way to the Public Library without taking notice of the streetscape, but this time I savoured the walk, enjoying the shade, taking time to read the inscription at the entrance gates and at the base of the statue.
I also made a point of looking more closely at the Vanier Public Library building, discovering that it was built in the 1950s and was the former home to the Sœurs Antonines de Marie.
Adjacent to the library lies the spacious, sprawling maple forest which houses the local sugar shack and where in the spring we attended the maple sugar festival.
On my way back to Beechwood, I made a point of stopping at the Vanier Cenotaph at the intersection of Dagmar and Marier, appreciating the quiet and contemplative resting spot decorated with shrubs, flowers and benches.
With the baby fussing, the dog whining, and my own dogs barking, I made my way back home, satisfied with my learning experience, feeling a little more settled in my neighbourhood.
Wow, what a fantastic tour of Vanier! Thank you for sharing!