Major’s Hill Park

Major’s Hill Park was the location of Lt. Col. By’s family home. He lived there with his wife and two daughters until his recall to England in 1832. During By’s stay in Bytown, it was known as Colonel’s Hill, but was renamed Major’s Hill when Major Daniel Bolton replaced Lt. Col. By as Superintending Engineer in 1832. The home was destroyed by fire in 1849 and was never rebuilt.

Points of Interest

Portrait of Lt. Col. John ByEnlarge

[Source: By, John, 1832. Unknown Artist, Kingston Picture Collection, Queen’s University Archives, accession number V23 P-58]

Portrait of Lt. Col. John By

As a member of the Royal Engineers, a branch of the British military that provided engineering and technical support, Lt. Col. John By assumed the position of Superintending Engineer to the Rideau Canal. As such, By was not only responsible for overseeing the creation of the canal in its entirety, but also would eventually become the target of blame when the canal’s final cost far exceeded the Board of Ordnance’s estimates.

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[Source: “Lt. Col. John By’s Residence” [Animation]. Dr. Stephen Fai. Carleton Immersive Media Studio. 2012.; Lower Bytown (Ottawa). Philip John Bainbrigge fonds, Library and Archives Canada, accession number 1983-47-72, C-002163]

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Lt. Col. John By’s Residence

By June 10, 1827, Lt. Col. By had moved from his initial residence in Hull and relocated to his new house on Colonel’s Hill, now known as Major’s Hill Park. There is little detailed evidence of the estate, and the historical drawings that do exist often differ on the scale and size of the house, but it appears to have been a one-and-a-half storey rubble stone building with two large chimneys and a large three-sided verandah. The prominence of the location was remarked by Joseph Bouchetter (Surveyor General of Lower Canada), who visited Lt. Col. By in 1828. His personal description of the view from Lt. Col. By’s verandah speaks to the beauty of Entrance Valley and the allure of the Ottawa River.

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Sketch showing vacant land in Lower Town Enlarge

[Source: ‘Unknown Artist,“Sketch shewing a vacant spot of ground in Bytown”, The National Archives of the UK, MPHH1-690(13)]

Cholera Wharf and Lower Town Development

At the foot hill of Major’s Hill Park a landing was created for steamboats to offload cargo and passengers. During the deadly cholera epidemics, the wharf assumed the name Cholera Wharf, as passengers were screened upon their arrival to Bytown to determine if they would be allowed to disembark, or if they were to be quarantined. During healthy periods, the wharf connected travellers and tradesmen and served as a gateway into Lower Town, which was developing into a strong commercial district.

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[Source: ‘Unknown Artist,“Site for a College”, The National Archives of the UK, MPH1-1155 (2)]

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Map Showing Lt. Col. By’s Residence

As this map shows, Lt. Col. John By’s house was built on present-day Major’s Hill Park. This location would have afforded a spectacular view, overlooking the Ottawa River with the Laurentian Mountains in the distance. The Surveyor General of Lower Canada, Joseph Buchetter, described his visit to the house by saying, “From the verandah the most splendid view is beheld that the magnificent scenery of the Canadas affords.”

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Photograph of a door knock from Lt. Col. By’s houseEnlarge

[Source: Door Knocker- Lt. Col. John By’s House, 1820s, iron, Bytown Museum, H247.]

Door Knocker from Lt. Col. John By’s Residence

This door knocker is believed to be from the residence of Lt. Col. John By. The residence was built shortly after By’s arrival in 1826, and he lived there with his young family until his recall to England in 1832. The residence was destroyed by fire in 1849, leaving behind the stone ruins of its foundation.

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