Ottawa to rename Wellington Street?

Things to Do, What's New — By lpaquet on July 13, 2010 at 4:05 am

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 Centre Block on Parliament Hill is Wellington Street's most famous landmark. Photo by Laura Byrne Paquet.

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.

The Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place daily at 10 a.m. on Parliament Hill, weather permitting, until August 7. Photo courtesy of Ottawa Tourism.


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.

Feeding time at the cat sanctuary on Parliament Hill. Photo by Laura Byrne Paquet.

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.

Turrets make the Fairmont Chateau Laurier Hotel one of Ottawa's best-known landmarks. Photo by Laura Byrne Paquet.

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?

Tags: "changing the guard", "parliament hill", "wellington street", ottawa


  • isobel warren says:

    A super addition to Ottawa’s information base. Love the upbeat tone, just-right length, and the nifty photos. Thanks. iw.

  • lpaquet says:

    Thanks so much, Isobel! Glad you liked it. 🙂

  • Kate Pocock says:

    Great photos Laura of some famous Ottawa icons — including the cat sanctuary. Didn’t know that Zoé’s Lounge at the Fairmont Château Laurier Hotel was named after Prime Minister Laurier’s wife. Makes sense. And I’ll think of her next time I have their Afternoon Tea!

  • Sandra Phinney says:

    Congratulations on your new blog Laura. Whoever is thinking of changing the name of the street clearly has waaay too much free time. I, uh, could assign that person (or people) some of my to-do list that would be a lot more profitable than wasting time pondering that silly suggestion.

    Oh well. Perhaps it’s therapeutic. Thinking up foolish things like this is better than taking up arms or doing drive-by shootings.

    I will look for the cat folks when I’m in Ottawa …. and definitely will have tea at Zoe’s Lounge. Thanks for the info.


  • Mary K. Nolan says:

    Looking good, Laura. And nicely written.

  • Mike Keenan says:

    I always enjoy your writing Laura whether it be books or blogs; nice job!

  • lpaquet says:

    Many thanks for checking out my blog and for all the kind comments, Kate, Sandra, Mary and Mike. I agree, Sandra–the folks debating this change have WAY too much time on their hands!

    The cat sanctuary is a real treat–one of my favourite Ottawa secrets. And I love afternoon tea at Zoe’s.

  • Teresa says:

    Great article! And yeah, with everything else named after MacDonald you’d think they could leave poor old Wellington alone…

    Loved the pics – miss the PH cats *sniff*


  • Carol Perehudoff says:

    This really makes me want to go to Ottawa – I haven’t been there for some time. Thanks.

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  • Tarah Alewine says:

    There are some fascinating points in time on this article but I don’t know if I see all of them center to heart. There’s some validity but I will take hold opinion until I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we want more! Added to FeedBurner as effectively

  • mesothelioma says:

    great list. Please also post an updated list when you have.


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