Old Ottawa South is an older, established neighbourhood with a history that goes back to 1814. Populated by settlers from America, England and Wales, the Rideau Canal was dug through this area and created a natural border when it opened in 1832. By 1867 a canal bridge enabled the neighbourhood to grow as a suburb, eventually becoming part of Ottawa in 1907.
After the city extended the streetcar lines into the community, it grew rapidly into an urban neighbourhood over the next few decades. The term Old Ottawa South came into vogue in the 1990s, as the southern reaches of the city extended much further past this little community over the years.
Old Ottawa South is a fairly small and compact neighbourhood, nestled between the Rideau River and Rideau Canal on the south and north sides and stretching from the campus of Carleton University to the eastern border of Avenue Road. It is now an upper-middle class area that maintains a number of heritage buildings and homes, with a traditional main street and a variety of shops, restaurants and entertainment.
AN INTERIOR DESIGNER’S DREAM
The stretch of Bank Street that runs through Old Ottawa South has been referred to as “Antique Alley” for the density of antique stores that once dotted the streetscape. Today, only three of these shops remain due to a continuing downward trend in the antique business, but there are still some spectacular options to be found.
Yardley’s Antiques is an eye catcher, set in a large heritage building with a classic facade and storefront strewn with treasures that show only the tip of the iceberg. Not a store for the claustrophobic shopper, but the serious hunter will find three floors packed to the brim with potential treasures.
The Ottawa Antique Market—the largest in Eastern Ontario—offers a less chaotic approach, occupying a large, open hall that offers up a wide selection of furniture, fixtures and dinner ware. Champagne dit Lambert has specialized in high-end antiques since 1991, with a collection that is curated, cleaned and restored by the owner Peter McGregor.
For the forward-thinking designer, there are just as many options for modern furniture here as well. Alteriors on Bank Street, owned by Jacob Visutskie and Monika Durczak, specializes in contemporary luxury furniture. Alteriors moved from Westboro to Old Ottawa South in 2013, and will be merging with sister store Ligne Roset (currently located just across the street) in October. Ligne Roset is a contemporary line of furniture made in the countryside of France, and will be offered alongside a wide selection of unique and original Canadian brands and other furniture lines that are exclusive to the Ottawa area.
The Ottawa Tennis and Lawn Bowling Club has been a staple of the neighbourhood for 137 years. Forget any lawn bowling though, as the greens were replaced by beach volleyball courts a number of years ago as the club evolved with modern trends.
The modernization included the opening of a top-quality restaurant in the club’s second floor. The Cameron is headed by Adrian Vezina, the creative force behind The Belmont—a popular (yet tiny) foodie fixture of Old Ottawa South. Vezina embraced the tennis club’s cottage feel with a bright, open dining room and airy balcony, set with classic picnic tables that seat 200 people.
The menu boasts vintage, club-style meals (steak frites, fish and chips, burgers, etc.), backed by high-quality local ingredients, sourced from the Glebe Meat Market and Rideau Pines Farms. The club is currently gearing up for a multimillion dollar restoration that will return the heritage building to its original glory, including a high arched, wooden ceiling for The Cameron restaurant.
Nightly entertainment is never far away thanks to Ottawa staples like House of Targ, a retro arcade bar featuring pinball and classic video games, which serves handmade perogies and features live music several nights per week. The Mayfair Theatre is another heritage building that shows classic films and new releases in a vintage theatre that has remained practically untouched since it was constructed in 1932.
For drinks, check out Quinn’s, a cozy pub with a great atmosphere and a must try for the craft-beer lover. The Belmont is another cozy establishment that offers a long list of fun cocktails alongside snacks, small plates and dim sum.
Housing in Old Ottawa South is pretty similar to the nearby Glebe, having both been built as suburbs in the early 1900s. The houses are large, with healthy frontages, backyards and driveways. Most dwellings are occupant owned, with a fairly small rental market mostly taken up by students from nearby Carleton University. There has yet to be any significant condo boom in this community, and residential streets are fairly quiet with low traffic, thanks in part to a traffic-calming plan that was implemented in 2014.