Upper Town

Upper Town, situated west of Entrance Valley, was the area where the wealthier citizens of Bytown resided. Owned by Lord Dalhousie on behalf of the Ordnance Department, the land was plotted in anticipation of Upper Town’s growth and development. The residences that would come to occupy this area – larger and more ornate than those found in other settlement areas, particularly Lower Town – would over time come to represent Bytown’s prosperity.

Points of Interest

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[Source: Ottawa, Canada West, – Upper Town, looking west. Wightman fonds, Library and Archives Canada published holdings project, Library and Archives Canada, accession number: MIKAN 2956658, C-010386; Ottawa City, Canada West (Upper Town). Edwin Whitefield, Charles Berkeley Powell fonds. Library and Archives Canada, accession number R11188-2, C-000601]

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View Showing Upper Bytown

Although the Rideau Canal did not serve its original military purpose, it did breathe new economic life into Upper and Lower Canada. As Bytown grew, so too did the diversity of work available to those who lived there. A mere 50 years later, the town would look very different than it did prior to the construction of the canal.

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[Source: “Upper Bytown [Ottawa, ON] boundaries as marked on the ground and laid agreeably to the M. G. & Board’s order”, 1850, Library and Archives Canada, 77803/9 CA , NMC [Not given]; Ottawa City, Canada West (Upper Town). Edwin Whitefield, Charles Berkeley Powell fonds. Library and Archives Canada, accession number R11188-2, C-000601; Wellington Street near Bank Street, Ottawa. C. Sedley fonds, Library and Archives Canada, accession number 1992-675-2, C-001548; “The Development of Upper Town” [Animation]. Dr. Stephen Fai. Carleton Immersive Media Studio. 2012.]

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The Development of Upper Town

Once Lt. Col. By had finished his survey of Upper Town and marked off lots with stakes and pickets, those families with prestige - as well as the economic means to build houses and develop the land - quickly bought up the land parcels. Located on higher ground to the west of the proposed canal site, these lots were larger, considered healthier because they were on drier land, and therefore more valuable to potential settlers.

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Painting of Wellington Street, Upper BytownEnlarge

[Source: View of Wellington Street, Upper Bytown [1845]. Thomas Burrowes fonds. Archives of Ontario, C 1-0-0-0-10.]

View of Upper Town

The Upper Town demographic, which mirrored that of upper-class English society at the time, was mostly Protestant. A Presbyterian Church on Wellington Street and a Methodist Chapel were soon built to serve the burgeoning community. The early buildings were mostly built of stone or brick, reflecting the higher economic stature of the Upper Town community.settlers.

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Photograph of a card case and cards from 1820 to 1840 made of tortoise shell, brass, mother-of-pearl, and paperEnlarge

[Source: Card Case and Cards, 1820- 1840, tortoise shell, brass, mother of pearl & paper, Bytown Museum, J59.]

Business Card Holder and Calling Cards

In early Bytown, ornate card holders such as this one would have been quite common among businessmen and entrepreneurs. Although Lower Town was seen as the commercial district of Bytown, Upper Town was home to many of the local businessmen and landowners. This business card holder is particularly significant as it still contains the calling cards of its owner, Mr. James Fitzgibbon, Master Carpenter to the Rideau Canal project and one of Lt. Col. By’s employees. It is beautifully crafted from tortoise shell, brass, and mother-of-pearl.

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Photograph of a camphene lamp made of metalEnlarge

[Source: Camphene Lamp, n.d., metal, Bytown Museum, L1.]

Camphene Lamp

Camphene lamps, such as the one shown above, were common in the mid-1800s. The camphene fluid used to fuel these lamps was primarily a form of distilled turpentine, which was used until other burning fluids, such as kerosene, became popular later on.

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