City sets out to protect its hydro heritage

The substation on King Edward Avenue shortly after its construction in 1931. Along with four other working hydro substations, the building is now in line for heritage designation. Photo: City of Ottawa

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

CBC NEWS, By Kate Porter

The city is looking to designate five hydro substations built nearly a century ago as heritage structures, a move intended to protect the architectural history of Ottawa's earliest forays into the electricity business.

All five buildings are still used by Hydro Ottawa to reduce the voltage coming from transmission lines before the electricity is transmitted to homes and businesses.

Electricity came to Ottawa in 1882 when two carbon lamps were installed on LeBreton Flats, heritage planner Anne Fitzpatrick told the city's built heritage subcommittee on Tuesday. It became a lucrative business, and soon a privately owned monopoly.

In 1905, city council held a special meeting to buy the electrical company, which led to a dramatic drop in electricity rates for residents.

The substations are now owned by Hydro Ottawa, which agreed to the heritage designations on the condition it not be prevented from emergency demolitions if it needs to "preserve public safety and the continuity of critical hydro electrical services."

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Heritage Ottawa is pleased to support the designation of these industrial buildings.

For more information about their history and heritage significance, see the City's Staff Report and Heritage Surveys.

UPDATE:  At its meeting of February 26, Ottawa City Council voted to designate the five hydro substations under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act.