Endangered Places: Lansdowne Park

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Aberdeen Pavilion 1903

Aberdeen Pavilion 1903

In June 2010 Ottawa City Council will decide the fate of Lansdowne Park, a significant area of public space in Ottawa’s Glebe community, a portion of which is marked for proposed commercial redevelopment. Over the past year, public consultations have been a platform for concerned citizens in the Glebe, and in other areas of Ottawa, to express their concerns over the development of this space. Now, in a final effort to stop this action, the Glebe Community Association is lobbying to have Lansdowne Park added to an annual list “endangered places” put out by the Heritage Canada Foundation. While Heritage Canada’s list does not have the power to halt development, it is hoped that an addition to the list will bring further attention to the potential risks posed by inappropriate development.

Lansdowne Park has been a played a significant role in the Glebe, and in Ottawa history for almost 150 years. The park is centrally located within the city in a space that lies adjacent to the Rideau Canal, itself a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007. Lansdowne Park houses an arena, exhibition space and multiple buildings, including the Aberdeen Pavilion, built in 1898 and the Horticulture Building, built in 1914. Both structures are designated heritage buildings. Inspired by London’s Crystal Palace, the Aberdeen Pavilion is a striking example of Victorian era architecture while the Horticulture Buildings is unique for its prairie style architecture that was originally popularized by Frank Lloyd Wright. The original purpose of the site was as a showplace for the Ottawa Agricultural Society, but it went on to become a site of the provincial exhibition, and to this day still hosts the Central Canada Exhibition every summer. The storied history of Lansdowne Park also includes its use as a training ground for Canadian troops during the Boer War, as well as the First and Second World Wars. Furthermore, the site has hosted many major sporting events including the Grey Cup and the Stanley Cup Finals.

The endangerment of Lansdowne Park comes from the proposed commercialization of the site which would see a twenty-five per cent loss of public space to private retailers and developers in order to construct 300,000 square feet of commercial space. This development would not only fundamentally change the makeup of Lansdowne Park, but also the makeup of the entire Glebe community by dramatically increasing traffic flow and threatening the small independent businesses that currently make up the neighbourhood.

In response to this threat, the Glebe Community Association has been outspoken in their reservations of the project. The request for endangered status comes from the belief that the site is historically and culturally significant and that its preservation is supported by the much of the community.

The publication of Heritage Canada’s top ten endangered sites will be made public in May.

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