A brief history of Mechanicsville

Mechanicsville is the area to the west of downtown between Scott Street and the Ottawa River. Its western border is Parkdale Avenue, and its eastern boundary is Bayview. The area (never an incorporated village in its own right) was annexed by the city of Ottawa in 1911—four years after Hintonburg was annexed.

By 1881, it was successfully occupied by 34 French-Canadian families, most of whom worked at the mills and the railroad adjacent. They built the houses themselves, mostly of wood, by increment as they could afford to, often without basements because the rock was so near the surface. One of the most prominent families was the Vachons, who still inhabit the area and after whom an apartment building is named. The Vachons’ original house remains on Carruthers at Burnside. One of their main occupations, as mentioned earlier, was getting ice out of Lazy Bay, to sell.

The origins of Mechanicsville’s name are unclear, but it probably reflects the fact that it was home, early on, to blue-collar labourers and, in particular, those who worked in the lumber and railyards. The name appears on a plan of subdivision as far back as the 1870s, and it was used for this part of the city in Belden’s Historical Atlas of Carleton County in Nepean Township in 1879.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the NCC demolished a large section of the neighbourhood along the waterfront in order to build the Ottawa River Parkway. This created parkland, but it also created a physical barrier between Mechanicsville and the river. In the 1970s and 1980s, the expansion of Scott Street and the development of the Transitway along the old rail line further served to cut off this community from Hintonburg.

What remains of Mechanicsville is mostly residential. Buildings are generally the wood-frame and wood siding construction of the 1900s, laid out on grid streets. To the east is an older industrial area along Bayview. Tall apartment buildings create a wall along the western and northern sections of the neighbourhood. This high-density zoning was requested by area residents in the 1970s as a bid to forestall further land expropriations by the NCC. 

Dwelling Units Hintonburg Mechanicsville
Total number of occupied private dwelling units 3,975 1,280
Owned 1,550 320
Rented 2,425 955
% rented 61.0% 74.9%