Construction: ca. 1869 (Featherstone Building); ca. 1871 (101 Rideau Street); and 1908 (The Atwood)
Location: 97-99 Rideau Street (The Atwood), 101 Rideau Street, and 103-105 Rideau Street (Featherstone Building)
Dating from the late-Victorian and Edwardian eras, these three adjacent buildings on the north side of Rideau Street, west of William Street, form part of a block-long historic commercial streetscape.
Built circa 1869, the Featherstone Building (103-105 Rideau) is the oldest brick commercial block remaining on Rideau Street. John Peter Featherston (1830-1917), a druggist who emigrated from England in 1858, was the first occupant. Featherston was elected to city council in 1867 and served as Mayor in 1874-1875. His drugstore business was carried on after 1875 by William A. Lloyd, who also sold seeds and bulbs.
The commercial building next door at 101 Rideau Street was erected circa 1871. The building was occupied by bookseller Philip Naughten until approximately 1879, followed by Larose & Company, a dry goods and tailoring business. After the company’s bankruptcy in 1890 the building was occupied for several years by a succession of similar businesses.
Both buildings are good examples of mid-Victorian commercial architecture: three-storey, flat-roofed brick structures featuring recessed, segmental arched windows with keystones and a bracketed cornice.
Their neighbouring structure, The Atwood at 97-99 Rideau Street, was constructed in 1908 following a similar three-storey, flat-roofed brick design. Built as an apartment building, The Atwood featured a comparatively restrained cornice and large, superimposed double metal-clad bay windows to admit more interior light.
Significant change came to Rideau Street in 1981-1982 with the construction of the Rideau Centre, which resulted in the demolition of almost an entire block of historic buildings on the south side of Rideau Street. This extensive loss prompted the Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee to recommend designation of a number of properties on the street’s north side. The City concurred, and in 1983 the three buildings at 97-105 Rideau Street were designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act in order “to preserve the upper two storeys of the Rideau Street façade.”
That same year, Triax Development Corporation purchased the three-building block for re-development as a 17-storey hotel-retail centre. On March 20, 1983, the City approved the development. Construction soon began on Phase I, a $3-million, three-level shopping centre called 99 Rideau Shopping Mall, which incorporated the buildings’ heritage façades.
Despite extensive fire damage to the second and third floors in January, 1985, the Mall opened the following November.
A petition from the Lowertown West Community Association opposed the high-rise hotel component of Phase II, but the City approved the development agreement in March, 1986.
Months of opposition to the project by Heritage Ottawa, the “Save the Market” Committee, Byward Market merchants and the general public was spurred on by the discovery in June 1986 of a 35-foot height restriction of which the City was unaware.
Opposition to further development culminated in a public demonstrationon on June 18, 1986 by 150 chanting, placard-carrying activists, and a press conference organized by Heritage Ottawa. One month later, City Council overturned its decision and rejected Phase II of the development.
In 2008, restoration of the three heritage commercial building façades by Denys Builds Designs Renovations was awarded a Certificate of Merit and the City of Ottawa Architectural Conservation Award. The project involved restoration of damaged brick and masonry, decorative metalwork, existing cornices and brackets, and re-introduction of the secondary cornices above the storefronts. The award recognized the contribution of these heritage façades to the continuity of this historic part of Rideau Street.