One of the Earliest Printed Views of Ottawa
Rare early view of Ottawa, published only 4 years after the town name was changed from Bytown.
An important early view of Ottawa, some of Hull and of the Ottawa River circa 1859, including views of the Chaudière Falls and of Parliament Hill (formerly Barrack Hill) prior to the construction of the Parliament Buildings.
Queen Victoria herself chose this logging town as the future capital, based primarily along strategic lines, being far enough away from the American boarder to offer a level of security along with the recently finished Rideau Canal, providing a transportation route to Kingston and the Great Lakes.
The view was designed and drawn by the architectural firm of Augustus Laver and Thomas Stent, both of whom were relatively recent arrivals in Ottawa. The pair would shortly thereafter go one to win a design contest for a portion of the new Canadian Parliament buildings in the following years. Stent would go on to a career in New York which would including the design of the Astor Public Library, while Laver would move on to design a number of important buildings in San Francisco, including its City Hall.
The dedication of the view at the bottom reads:
To his Excellency the Right Honorable Sir Edmund Walker Head Baronet &c. &c. Governor General of British North America. This view of the City of Ottawa, the Capital of Canada, is most respectfully dedicated by His Excellency's obliged and very obedient servants, Stent and Laver.
The Ottawa area was first settled in 1800 by Philemon Wright of Massachusetts who brought 6 families and 25 laborers to start an agricultural community on the north bank of the Ottawa River at the portage to the Chaudière Falls. Wright discovered that transporting timber by river from the Ottawa Valley to Montreal was possible, and the area was soon booming based almost exclusively upon the timber trade.
After the War of 1812, the government began sponsored immigration schemes which brought over Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants to settle the Ottawa area. Along with French Canadians who crossed over from Quebec, these two groups provided the bulk of workers involved in the Rideau Canal project and the booming timber trade, both instrumental in putting Ottawa on the map.
The area grew significantly when the canal was completed by Colonel John By in 1832. It was intended to provide a secure route between Montreal and Kingston on Lake Ontario, by-passing the stretch of the St. Lawrence River bordering New York State. Construction of the canal began at the northern end, where Colonel By set up a military barracks on what later became Parliament Hill, and laid out a townsite that soon became known as Bytown. The west side of the canal became known as "Uppertown" where the Parliament buildings are located, while the east side of the canal (wedged between the canal and Rideau River) was known as the "Lowertown". Ottawa became a center for lumber milling and square-cut timber industry in Canada.
Bytown was renamed Ottawa in 1855, when it was incorporated as a city. On December 31, 1857, Queen Victoria selected Ottawa as the Capital of Canada, largely motivated by its central location between Canada East and Canada West, although it was then just a small logging town.
Following the creation of the Dominion of Canada in 1865, Queen Victoria chose Ottawa as the capital of Canada in 1867 and the parliament buildings on Parliament Hill were soon completed. Also at this time, increased export sales led it to connect by rail to facilitate shipment to markets especially in the United States.
The view is extremely rare. OCLC locates only 2 1983 reduced size facsimiles of the view. An on-line image of the map lists the source as the Library and Archives of Canada, lacking the title below the image. A similar incomplete copy was sold at Bonhams in November 2003.
Augustus Laver was apprenticed for four years to the architect Thomas Hellyer of Ryde, Isle of Wight. He then worked in various London architectural offices, before joining oined the Post Office Department as a staff architect for about two years.
In 1856, a year before leaving for the United States, Laver became a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects.
Laver did not remain long in the United States. In 1858 he moved to Ottawa, where he soon formed a partnership with Thomas Stent. Presumably both men were attracted to Ottawa because it had been selected as the permanent capital of the Canadas early that year and a building boom was anticipated. To promote the capital and their own practice, Stent and Laver published a bird’s-eye view of the city. They also produced a lithograph of a perspective drawing for their first major commission, a large villa at Rockcliffe (Ottawa) designed for Dr Robert Hunter, which was never built.
In May 1859 proposals were invited for Ottawa’s intended parliamentary and departmental buildings and governor general’s residence. Since Laver was absent from Ottawa in connection with his wedding in England, most of the work in preparing their submission fell upon Stent. The first premium for the design of the departmental buildings, now known as the east and west blocks, was awarded to their proposal, while their entry for the parliamentary building secured second prize. The winner in the latter case was the design, also in civil Gothic, by the Toronto partnership of Thomas Fuller and Chilion Jones.
Contracts for construction of the departmental buildings were let late in 1859 and the foundations were begun the following spring. By 1861, however, the work was behind schedule and it had become apparent that the costs had been seriously underestimated. Building was halted at the end of that season while a special commission made an inquiry. During the hearings, Stent was the spokesman for the partnership, a role that underlined his greater involvement in the project. The commission’s report in March 1863 found some faults in the architects’ discharge of their duties but recommended that they be re-employed. The government, however, dismissed all the architects except Thomas Fuller, who, with Charles Baillairgé*, was appointed associate architect for the completion of the work under the supervision of Frederick Preston Rubidge, the senior architect of the Department of Public Works.
Before dissolving their partnership in January 1865, Stent and Laver prepared designs for several other buildings; among these were the Finlay Asylum (1860) and the Canada Military Asylum (1862) in Quebec as well as a proposal for the houses of parliament and public offices for New South Wales in Sydney (1860).
Practicing on his own during 1865–66, Laver was the architect for extensive alterations and additions to Ottawa’s popular Russell Hotel. As well, he submitted an entry in the 1866 competition to design the New York State capitol at Albany and was awarded one of the premiums. The following August, Laver participated with Thomas Fuller, who had moved to Albany, and Arthur Delavan Gilman in preparing a revised design. Late that year he too moved to Albany where he and Fuller were in partnership.
In 1871 Fuller and Laver won the competition to design the new city hall and law courts for San Francisco. Laver moved there that October to assume responsibility for the project. From the time construction began until the still-unfinished building was destroyed in the fire following the 1906 earthquake, it, like the capitol project in Albany, was plagued with difficulties. Notwithstanding the annoyance and embarrassment of the city hall controversy, Laver went on to develop a large and successful practice in the San Francisco Bay area before his death in March 1898.
Augustus Laver seems to have been most successful with private clients and their commissions, particularly in California, although, through his alliances with such talented designers as Stent and Fuller, he was able to participate in three of the most celebrated public buildings in North America. He enjoyed the confidence of his profession as well as his partners, having, in addition to his involvement with the Royal Institute of British Architects, been president of the Pacific Coast Association of Architects and a fellow of the American Institute of Architects.
Thomas Stent was an architect in New York City. He assisted Alexander Saeltzer on the Astor Public Library and was the architect for the 1879–1881 expansion.
Stent was trained and practiced in England before coming to London, Canada West in 1855. In 1858, he moved to Ottawa.
At Parliament Hill, the team of Thomas Stent and Augustus Laver, under the pseudonym of Stat nomen in umbra, won the prize for the second category, which included the East and West Blocks. These proposals were selected for their sophisticated use of Gothic architecture, which was thought to remind people of parliamentary democracy's history, would contradict the republican Neoclassicism of the United States' capital, and would be suited to the rugged surroundings while also being stately. $300,000 was allocated for the main building, and $120,000 for each of the departmental buildings.
Stent and Laver also won the competition to build San Francisco City Hall, which was completed in 1898 but destroyed by an earthquake in 1906.