42. Charles Ogilvy Limited Department Store

Construction: 1907 | 1913-1914 | 1931 and 1934 | 1960

Architects: Northwood & Noffke | Werner Ernst Noffke | Albert James Hazelgrove | Hazelgrove & Lithwick, Burgess & McLean

Location: 126-132 Rideau Street, Ottawa


Charles Ogilvy (1861-1950) was a Scottish immigrant who opened a dry goods business in 1887 at 92 Rideau Street. Founded on the motto “Good Merchandise, At a Fair Price. With Service.” the store quickly developed a reputation for good value and reliability. Success soon led to the need for larger quarters.

The new Charles Ogilvy Limited Department Store, constructed in 1907, was one of Ottawa's first steel and concrete buildings. Designed by Ottawa architects Northwood and Noffke in the Classical Revival style and known simply as “Ogilvy’s”, the building was a prominent landmark anchoring the corner of Rideau and Nicholas streets.

The three-storey building’s steel frame construction enabled an unbroken expanse of large ground-floor windows (soon to be known for their captivating displays) along the front and side façades of the structure, without the usual piers. The outside walls were built of buff, pressed brick with Indiana sandstone trimmings. Inside, the walls were lined with hollow terra-cotta brick, a fireproofing material. The building's rounded northeast corner further distinguished Ogilvy’s, as did its Greek key-motif spandrel panels and “Tree of Life” panels. 

Within six years, Ogilvy's business had more than doubled. In 1913-14, Werner Ernst Noffke (1878-1964) designed an addition in the same architectural style which extended the building southward by seven bays to Besserer Street.

Prominent Ottawa architect Albert James Hazelgrove (1884-1958) designed fourth and fifth storey additions constructed in 1931 and 1934 respectively, making Ogilvy’s the largest department store in Ottawa.

In November 1960 construction began on a two-storey addition at the west side of the main building. Designed by Hazelgrove and Lithwick and Burgess and McLean, the "Ogilvey Annex" extended behind several existing stores on Rideau Street.

Charles Ogilvy Limited merged with another department store chain in 1984, but the economic model of department store shopping was evolving in a new direction. The store closed in 1986, marking the end of an era in Ottawa retailing.

The building stood vacant until 1995 when it was purchased by the Viking Rideau Corporation, with the intention of integrating it into the Rideau Centre.

In 2000, the building was designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act for its historical and architectural significance.

Viking Rideau filed an objection to the designation and applied to demolish the building. The application was considered by City Council in February 2001, resulting in a negotiated agreement to conserve the façades of the first three storeys along Rideau and Nicholas streets, in keeping with the original 1907 design.

In the Spring/Summer 2001 issue of the Heritage Ottawa Newsletter, then-President Carolyn Quinn summarized the behind-the-scenes negotiations with the city:

"A significant compromise was negotiated between the owner, Viking-Rideau Inc., and the city that resulted in the loss of a five-storey landmark building… in exchange for the retention of one third of the original façade…

Heritage Ottawa pursued a more aggressive compromise by working with Councillor Elisabeth Arnold at the City of Ottawa's Planning Committee, We ensured the adoption of three additional conditions to the building's demolition that include insuring the owners attempt the restoration of the original façade material - as opposed to a dismantling with probable use of the materials at a later date, as was originally negotiated; that the issuance of a demolition permit be conditional on an approved site plan control application; and the demolition of any portion of the façades be subject to a "failure to comply" clause that would reflect the cost of retaining the wall on site."

In September 2012, discussions between Cadillac Fairview Corporation Limited (which purchased the site in 2011) and the City of Ottawa resulted in a memorandum of understanding dated November 8, 2012 that included the dismantling and reinstatement of the original façades. The reinstatements were undertaken in 2015 as part of a larger renovation and expansion of the Rideau Centre."

Such compromise — known as façadism — is considered by some to be "victory" for heritage buildings, especially those in downtown commercial cores. Among heritage conservation professionals it's considered an act of last resort, to be used only when all else fails in preserving a building.

The reconstructed façades now clad the exterior of the Simons store, which faces onto Rideau Street and a new outdoor pedestrian mall.