National Geographic : 1947 Nov
Exploring Ottawa much of its old atmosphere and its slow tempo. The depression of the thirties began to change the pace of Ottawa and also its ex terior appearance. With the creation of gov ernmental machinery to cope with the eco nomic problem of that time, new blood was added to the civil service, new offices were opened, and new ideas began to operate in the executive and the legislature. But this was only a minor installment in the greater changes ahead. When war came in 1939, Ottawa found it self politically, spiritually, and physically in a state of sudden revolution. All the concen tration of wartime power in the central gov ernment, all the burning energy of the Cana dian people to create the nation's gigantic war program were reflected in a quick migration to the capital. The best financial, economic, industrial, and scientific brains of Canada were conscripted to manage this program. Ottawa was no longer merely the political capital but the temporary home of business leaders, professors, scientists, and soldiers. With their growing staffs, with some 20,000 new Government workers, they crowded the narrow business streets, they overflowed all the office space, they occupied every available house, apartment, and room. Many lived in summer cottages and ancient attics. The Government was compelled to erect temporary office buildings of wood, incon gruous in a capital of stone. Even some of the sacred squares of the city were used as sites for these war structures. When peace came, Ottawa looked forward to an easing of the strain, but it has not yet come about. To the old-time resident of the city, to the veteran philosophers of politics who sit glued to the leather chairs of the Rideau Club and watch Parliament across the street with gen eral disapproval, it is becoming clear that Ottawa will never return to its old shape or its old quietude. Government Workers Jam Streets While the Government demobilizes the ad ministration of war, it is establishing a huge new administration of peace. The popula tion shows no sign of decline. Traffic arteries were designed for a country town and cannot satisfactorily contain the movement now surging through them. Dur ing the next few years it will be necessary to perform a major surgical operation on the business district. Plans for such reconstruction have long been designed, and a miniature model of the Ottawa of the future has been exhibited to Parliament to stimulate its interest and en courage its financial support. Much has been done already. Looking from the Hill westward along the river cliff, you see the massive row of buildings reared in the immediate prewar years to house the growing government departments. Viewed from the opposite shore, it presents a splendid sweep of towers which might all have been built at the same time. Unhappily, the Quebec shore does not fit into this design. The factories of Hull, the smokestacks, and the new houses offer a bleak contrast to the southern bank of the river. Yet at night, from a high window in the Central Block, the lights of Hull and the blink of the Chaudiere power stations glistening on the river have a fairy look (pages 568-9). Vistas of England and France Turning now eastward, you observe from the top of the Hill a fascinating contrast of English and French feeling which vividly represents the two major peoples of the nation. The eastern slope of the Hill, directly be hind the East Block, drops suddenly in a wooded bluff to a narrow ravine. Cut into the ravine are the stone locks of the Rideau Canal, like a giant stairway. The little stone house of the caretaker, the well-kept lawn and flower beds about it, the little boats moving lazily up and down give this spot an utterly English look. Here you might be a hundred miles away from the traffic of Wellington Street and be side some placid English stream. Col. John By's pioneer feat of engineering has no mili tary value now, but his canal remains a quaint ornament in the heart of the capital. Move a few yards away to the other side of the ravine and you might be in Provence. Sheer out of the ravine rises the huge but delicate bulk of the Chateau Laurier. It is a modern hotel, owned by the Canadian people through their national railway system, but it could be the residence of a French aristocrat before the Revolution. Its swelling round towers and its pointed green steeples are taken straight out of France, the ancestral home of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the Canadian statesman whose name it bears (Plate VI). Inside the Chateau you will find probably the most representative cross section of mod ern Canadian life anywhere available. From every part of the nation men of every sort pass through the Chateau lobby. The student of Canada will observe here nearly every Canadian type, from the French-Cana dian farmer to the English-looking fruit grower from the Okanagan.