Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ottawa's Heritage Buildings No.2: The Abiwin: 283 Somerset St West

There are 312 individual buildings or properties in Ottawa that are designated "heritage" under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act. 
283 Somerset St. West
Artist: Cindi Moynahan-Foreman
(watercolour and ink sketch)
283 Somerset Street West is one of four heritage buildings located within the Abiwin Co-operative Housing Community.

283 Somerset West 
Centretown Heritage Conservation District 

Following inquiries I made to the Abiwin and with the generous assistance of the Coordinator of Ottawa Heritage Services, I learned that 283 Somerset Street West "
is located in the Centretown Heritage Conservation District (CHCD), which means that it is designated under Part V of the Ontario Heritage Act, unlike the Burpee House which is individually designated  under part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act." 

This critical clarification really helped. That meant that there would be no ready made "Statement of Cultural Heritage Value" for me to copy and paste here (there is a Heritage Survey and Evaluation Form) and I would have to research this wonderful building on my own from scratch.

History Of The
Centretown Heritage Conservation District 

To locate the original residents/occupants of  283 Somerset Street West will take a great deal more time and I will have to rely heavily on my genealogist  and research skills. I will post more of those details later as I find them.

The Ottawa City Directory 1901

Preliminary investigations show women living in the area (above): (273) Miss EJ McQuat - music teacher; (283) Miss Mary Thistle, (293) Rev. William T. Herridge (close friends of Mackenzie King; King would purchase Marjorie Herridge's summer house "Kingsmere" when she died in 1924); (299) George L Orme.(Musical Instrument Retailer & Piano Manufacturer)

For now, here is some basic information about the Centretown Heritage Conservation District (CHCD) that 283 Somerset Street West is located in:

  • The majority of buildings within the Centretown Heritage Conservation District date from the 1890-1914 period. (*Source)
  • Historically, Centretown attracted a wide variety of residents: long-term public service homeowners; short-term civil servants; and two other notable groups: the Centretown Irish and single women. (*Source: HCD P 21)
  • Historically, the levels of income it accomodated were broad - extending from modest working class tradesmen, civil servants and railway workers, to ministers, senior civil servants and lumber barons like J.R. Booth (*Source HCD P 25)

283 Somerset St West Would Become Part Of
The Abiwin Housing Co-operative 
(1980 to 2015)

This Co-operative was established in the early 1980s by Ottawa gay activists

It was the intention of the founding members that Abiwin be a harmonious atmosphere where both gay and straight people would live as neighbours and co-owners of the co-operative. A by-law was created to make sure that there would be no discrimination based on sexual orientation. This by-law exists today and has been expanded to ensure a community free from any form of discrimination.

Abiwin’s first Board of Directors was able to purchase four ideally located buildings - three on Somerset Street West (263-295) and one on Cooper Street. These turn of the century three storey buildings were renovated and paid for with the help of Canada Mortgage and Housing’s special assistance program to housing co-operatives.

Linda Wilson was on the founding board of the Abiwin Co-op and she was also the first woman president of GO (Gays of Ottawa -1983). She was also among the first women working the Gayline.

Each floor in the six-storey apartment complex has two designated wheelchair units and there are two dedicated units in the co-op for persons living with AIDs.

Heritage Ottawa - Ontario Links:
Centretown Links
Ottawa Photographer

Reference photograph used with permission from
 Christopher Ryan on TwitterInstagram and History Nerd website

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