Rediscover New Edinburgh by strolling through this historic neighbourhood. Travel back in time 170 years while taking a closer look at... more » some heritage gems. Most of these remarkable buildings are located within the original settlement of New Edinburgh, which was founded in 1832 by Scottish stonemason and entrepreneur, Thomas McKay.
McKay had been a major contractor for the Rideau Canal, including the entrance locks by Parliament Hill. When construction was completed in 1832, he encouraged his workers to settle on the land he had purchased around the Rideau Falls. There was plenty of work to be had in his numerous mills and factories.
In 1838, McKay completed construction of his splendid new mansion, Rideau Hall, which added some prestige to the neighbourhood. He died in 1855, and when Ottawa was chosen in 1857 as the capital of Canada, the government leased and then purchased Rideau Hall as the official residence of the Governor General. The Vice- Regal presence provided a further boost to New Edinburgh, which saw more houses and services being built for the gentry. The Village of New Edinburgh was formally incorporated in 1866. Twenty-one years later, in 1887, it merged with the City of Ottawa.
History? What History?
The New Edinburgh we see today is generally regarded as an up-market neighbourhood of fine houses and gardens, quaint lanes, large areas of parkland, and enjoying a pretty setting by the Rideau River. This is a far cry from New Edinburgh’s origins as an industrial centre. Many of the early residents were mill workers who lived in modest homes or rooming houses. They were employed in the heavily industrialized corridors along the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers, where the Rideau Falls supplied power.
Missing from this walking tour are the brewery and distillery, the saw mill, the grist mill, the flour mill and bakery, the woollen mill and cloth factory - all established by Thomas McKay. He was also instrumental in bringing the first railway into Ottawa in 1854, with the Bytown & Prescott line running along the banks of the Rideau River through to New Edinburgh’s mills.
Most signs of New Edinburgh’s industrial golden age have long since disappeared. The factories and mills have been demolished and cleared, to be replaced by the Embassy of France, the old Ottawa City Hall, and NCC green space. The old railway bed has become a recreational trail through the parks, although the last traces of its old bridge can still be seen heading across to Lowertown.
What we still have in some number, however, are homes, churches, and schools from throughout the different phases of New Edinburgh’s history. It has been estimated that the former Village of New Edinburgh (roughly Sussex to Dufferin, Stanley to MacKay) still contains 150 homes dating from the 19th Century. You’ll see plenty of these on the self-guided walking tour described in the following pages.
What’s in a name?
The street names of New Edinburgh’s old village were not chosen at random - most have a close association to Thomas McKay and his family, or to our immediate neighbours, the Governors General of Canada. Thomas McKay’s name provides something of a puzzle. Have you noticed that the street named after him is spelled “ MacKay” ? And it’s “MacKay” United Church. Well, Thomas was born and died as a “McKay” but for whatever reason following his death, his family adopted the form “ MacKay” .This is why you’ll see the name spelled differently in different places.
One advantage of creatingyour own village is that you get to name streets after your own family. So, in addition to MacKay Street, we have streets named after fourof Thomas McKay’s children - John, Charles, Alexander, and Thomas. “Crichton” was the maiden name of his wife, Ann. “Keefer” was the surname of his son-in-law.
Other streets have a royalconnection, with (Queen) “Victoria” as well as “Stanley” and “Dufferin” named after Governors General.
The Walking Tour
We have lots of well-maintained old homes throughout New Edinburgh, and the whole area that used to form the original Village has been designated a Heritage Conservation District. We also have many award winning infill and renovation projects involving historic buildings. Then there are the lanes, with their own unique story to tell. So much to see in the neighbourhood - so how to decide what to include in a walking tour?
For this first effort, we’ve decided to keep things simple. We have selected the 17 properties that have been recognized individually by the City and Province as especially deserving their heritage status. There are 11 residential buildings, 3 schools, 2 churches, one bridge.
These are some of the best examples in New Edinburgh of buildings from different eras and they are also some of the best-documented. They provide a great introduction to our local history, but no doubt you’ll make your own discoveries en route.
On the accompanying pages you will find a photograph and street address for each of the heritage properties so you should have no problem identifying them. Also included is a brief description of their special features and history. Most of the buildings - but not all - will have a bronze heritage plaque that explains a bit more about them.
The text in this guide is an excerpt from the “New Edinburgh Heritage Walking Trail” guide, published by the New Edinburgh Community Alliance (NECA), in 2010. The text was authored by Paul McConnell and Inge Vander Horst, Co-Chairs, NE Heritage and Development Committee. This walking tour was made available online by New Edinburgh resident, Chris Straka. A PDF version of this guide containing additional information about the history of New Edinburgh, photographs, illustrations and maps is available from the NECA website: www.newedinburgh.ca less «