Author Topic: ARMCHAIR MAYOR: One way to rediscover Sparks Street  (Read 29 times)

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ARMCHAIR MAYOR: One way to rediscover Sparks Street
« on: October 11, 2018, 10:18:21 AM »
ARMCHAIR MAYOR: One way to rediscover Sparks Street

On Oct. 22, citizens of Ottawa elect a new city council. To help guide discussion, we’ve asked people for ONE idea that would make the city a better place ‚Äď without necessarily breaking the bank. Today, musician¬ Thomas Brawn, a flute busker on Sparks Street since 1978, touts an informative app for visitors to the city’s […]

On Oct. 22, citizens of Ottawa elect a new city council. To help guide discussion, we’ve asked people for ONE idea that would make the city a better place ‚Äď without necessarily breaking the bank. Today, musician¬ Thomas Brawn, a flute busker on Sparks Street since 1978, touts an informative app for visitors to the city’s most historic thoroughfare.



Perhaps it is some deep inner connection with history that drew me into the world of classical music performance, but from my childhood’s musical beginnings in Port Colborne and Sarnia, I landed at the University Ottawa to study concert flute in the mid-1970s. I wanted to play in an orchestra.


I tried busking on Ottawa’s famous Sparks Street on a lark one hot summer’s day in 1978 ‚Äď a gem of a discovery. I could actually practise my art and earn some serious coin. I also made valuable contacts, some which continue to pay off to this day. Further, I was now free to relax and enjoy this city. I¬ have “always found” the old buildings with their carved stone accents interesting.


As a classical flute student and now a professional flutist who has played in opera, symphony, recording and recital (as well as literally thousands of casual chamber music jobs), I have been immersed daily in the histories left by the likes of J.S. Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and others. No surprise that, busking on Sparks Street, I would also be constantly curious about its architectural and social history too.


For instance, Nicholas Sparks: Like, who was that guy? And what about¬ J.L. Orme & Sons, on Sparks in the 1860s?¬ I own a vintage wooden flute and two piccolos sold at their store in 1867.¬ Walking down Sparks today, you’d not find out about these people.


Meanwhile, look up, way up, to the carved stone gargoyles, lions, panels, statues, medallions and busts to be seen on many buildings on Ottawa’s oldest business street.¬ 


The fierce lions that guard the entrance to Canada Post at Elgin and Sparks: Who were their craftsmen? Who commissioned them?¬ And, by the way, just who were Metcalfe and O’Connor?


Riding the crest of 63 Sparks is a stone sculpture of a woman with an anchor at her feet. I have no idea what’s she’s about, but I’d like to know. Now pan down a floor …”Bible House”: What’s the story there?


65 Sparks is a vintage painted brick building with original street level facings with beautifully arched windows higher up, but of different styles and designs as you go up in floors. Were they built at the same time? And what was the original colour of the now hidden brick?


At the northwest corner of Sparks at Metcalfe, an edifice boasts stone carving galore. There are, for instance, five busts of bearded men. Two of them, one smiling and one not, are missing their moustaches.¬ Story, please, story!


As we stroll west on Sparks to O’Connor, we gaze up at a world of banks with Greek columns and carved sculptures, panels and medallions depicting I know not what.¬ And across from the Bank of Nova Scotia, the Hardy Arcade … former home of “Le Groupe de la Place Royale” and “Morrow’s Nut House” and the world’s best maple walnut ice cream. Who was Hardy?


I really want to know, and my four decades of tooting and interacting with the world’s tourists tell me they would like to know as well.


So, I propose that the City of Ottawa create an app for tablets and smartphones which would relate, detail and animate the architectural, historical and social history of any Sparks Street address you might enter. This information and animation would come courtesy of The Ottawa Historical Society, Public Archives, The Museum of Canadian History and the former Ottawa Journal and current Ottawa Citizen.


The app would be multilingual, to serve the myriad of countries our tourists come from. Fund the app with pop-up ads featuring stores and services nearby. List nearby information kiosks, public potties, telephones, defibrillators. The app would not only help in tourism before, during and following trips, but would be an educational platform for schools. It might also remind you of other gems nearby.


The “Ottawapp” would be a translatable platform; next, we could work on an app for the ByWard Market, whose grand old buildings also suffer from ground-level modernist muffling. Ottawapp could be franchised to jurisdictions everywhere.



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