It’s hard to imagine Americans renaming Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, or Londoners suggesting a new moniker for Downing Street or Pall Mall. But Ottawa’s city council is mulling over the Canadian equivalent: renaming Wellington Street, home to the Parliament Buildings, the Supreme Court of Canada and several other national landmarks.
The street was originally named in honour of the Duke of Wellington, the British war hero who strongly supported the construction of the Rideau Canal. Without the canal, Ottawa probably wouldn’t have grown much beyond its rowdy lumber-town roots, much less become the nation’s capital. Not surprising that the 19th-century locals named a big street after him.
A few months ago, Conservative Party strategist Bob Plamondon floated the idea of renaming the street to honour Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister…and all hell broke loose among the city’s talking heads. It’s not a bad idea to name something major after Sir John A.; after all, the Americans named their whole capital after their first president. But Macdonald already has many namesakes in town, including the airport. Do we really want to mess around with the address of Parliament Hill?
A lot of people don’t think so–including the editorial board of The Globe and Mail and, intriguingly, the good folks at the Société Macdonald-Cartier Society, a group of Macdonald fans that has launched a campaign called Save Wellington Street. But a committee of Ottawa’s city council has voted to consider the idea, so the ruckus will likely continue for most of the summer. I suppose we Ottawans need a sideshow to amuse us now that Canada Day is over and the Queen has left town.
No matter what it’s called, Wellington Street will probably be your first stop if you’re visiting Ottawa this summer. Good choice–there’s tons to see there.
Don’t miss the Changing the Guard ceremony, if only to marvel at how anyone can march around in 30ºC heat wearing a wool jacket and a big fur hat while simultaneously playing a trombone.
Take one of the official, free tours of the Parliament Buildings and Parliament Hill.
Check out the Hill’s quirkiest secret: the cat sanctuary tucked between the West Block and the Centre Block. Cheery volunteers come here daily, year round, to care for the feral cats that live in the woods behind the Hill.
Tired after all that sightseeing? Refresh yourself with a cup of tea–or something stronger–at Zoé’s Lounge, the elegant tea room at the Fairmont Château Laurier Hotel, just down Wellington Street from Parliament Hill.
Come to think of it, Zoé’s is also named after an historical figure–in this case, Zoé Laurier, the wife of a former Canadian prime minister. Can a grassroots campaign to change its name to Carrie’s (to honour last weekend’s celeb wedding between singer Carrie Underwood and Ottawa Senators‘ forward Mike Fisher) be far behind?