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Ottawa in the Late-19th Century: Fascinating Historic Photos Show What the Canadian Capital Looked Like Over 120 Years Ago

Ottawa is the capital city of Canada. It was founded as a town in 1826 by and it prospered on the lumber trade. The town was renamed Ottawa in 1855, and incorporated as a city. The city name Ottawa was chosen in reference to the Ottawa River.

The city grew and developed rapidly; the construction of the parliament buildings on Parliament Hill began in 1860. The Ottawa Academy and Young Ladies’ Seminary was established on Sparks Street in 1861. Ottawa became part of the transcontinental rail network in 1886. The construction of a vast public transportation network began in the late-19th century when Thomas Ahearn founded the Ottawa Electric Railway Company in 1893.

Here below are some stunning historical photos that will take you back to the old Ottawa in the late 19th century soon after it was incorporated as a city. Vote your favorites and don’t forget to share.

#1 Elgin St. from Wellington with the City Hall on the left background, 1890s

Elgin St. from Wellington with the City Hall on the left background, 1890s

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#2 Parliament Building, Ottawa, 1860s.

Parliament Building, Ottawa, 1860s.

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#3 Horses dragged the trolleys on the tracks, 1871

Horses dragged the trolleys on the tracks, 1871

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#4 The Ottawa Normal School, June 1890s

The Ottawa Normal School, June 1890s

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#5 Entrance to the Rideau Canal, 1890s

Entrance to the Rideau Canal, 1890s

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#6 Home for friendless women, Wellington St. 1891

Home for friendless women, Wellington St. 1891

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#7 Horse drawn cab stand in front of the East Block, 1897

Horse drawn cab stand in front of the East Block, 1897

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#8 Metcalfe corner of Sparks, 1895

Metcalfe corner of Sparks, 1895

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#9 Metcalfe St. looking north to Sparks St., 1890

Metcalfe St. looking north to Sparks St., 1890

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#10 A camp scene, with a group of hunters gathered around a campfire next to their tent, Ottawa, 1860.

A camp scene, with a group of hunters gathered around a campfire next to their tent, Ottawa, 1860.

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#11 Floating timber down the Ottawa River, 1860.

Floating timber down the Ottawa River, 1860.

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#12 Log rafts floating on the Ottawa River, 1860.

Log rafts floating on the Ottawa River, 1860.

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#13 Construction workers on timber transportation boats on the Ottawa River, Ottawa, 1880.

Construction workers on timber transportation boats on the Ottawa River, Ottawa, 1880.

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#14 A small bridge along the Rideau Drive, Ottawa, 1890s.

A small bridge along the Rideau Drive, Ottawa, 1890s.

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#15 Orme’s Piano Store on Sparks St., 1897

Orme's Piano Store on Sparks St., 1897

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#16 Parliament Hill, 1890s

Parliament Hill, 1890s

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#17 Russell Hotel, 1893.

Russell Hotel, 1893.

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#18 Russell House Hotel at Sparks St. southeast corner and Elgin St., 1882

Russell House Hotel at Sparks St. southeast corner and Elgin St., 1882

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#19 Russell House Hotel, 1898

Russell House Hotel, 1898

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#20 Sailing canoes on the Ottawa River, 1889

Sailing canoes on the Ottawa River, 1889

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#21 Skiing in Rockcliffe Park, 1890s

Skiing in Rockcliffe Park, 1890s

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#22 Sparts street, 1890s.

Sparts street, 1890s.

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#23 Teacher’s College, 1895

Teacher's College, 1895

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#24 The main building of the Central Canada Exhibition, 1890s

The main building of the Central Canada Exhibition, 1890s

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#25 Timber Slide at Chaudiere Falls, 1890

Timber Slide at Chaudiere Falls, 1890

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#26 Icemen cutting blocks of ice from the Ottawa River near the Prince of Wales Br., 1890s

Icemen cutting blocks of ice from the Ottawa River near the Prince of Wales Br., 1890s

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#27 Looking west on Wellington St, 1890s

Looking west on Wellington St, 1890s

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#28 Macadam Rd. being built now Main St. in Old Ottawa East, 1890s

Macadam Rd. being built now Main St. in Old Ottawa East, 1890s

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#29 Ottawa Electric Railway streetcar in Britannia Park, 1890s

Ottawa Electric Railway streetcar in Britannia Park, 1890s

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#30 Ottawa Ladies College hockey group, 1899

Ottawa Ladies College hockey group, 1899

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#31 Horse drawn passenger car, 1877

Horse drawn passenger car, 1877

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#32 Looking east on Sparks Street, at Bank Street, 1890s

Looking east on Sparks Street, at Bank Street, 1890s

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#33 Gentlemen contemplate the beauty of the Chaudiere falls on the River Ottawa, 1860.

Gentlemen contemplate the beauty of the Chaudiere falls on the River Ottawa, 1860.

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#34 A man fishing near the Chaudiere Falls on the Ottawa River, 1860.

A man fishing near the Chaudiere Falls on the Ottawa River, 1860.

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#35 Bussell House, Ottawa, 1860s.

Bussell House, Ottawa, 1860s.

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#36 Prince of Wales pictured in Ottawa, 1894.

Prince of Wales pictured in Ottawa, 1894.

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#37 New Edinburgh flood, 1890s

New Edinburgh flood, 1890s

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#38 Ottawa in 1866

Ottawa in 1866

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#39 Rideau Street, 1876.

Rideau Street, 1876.

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#40 Rideau Street, 1898.

Rideau Street, 1898.

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#41 Family at Majors Hill Park, 1894

Family at Majors Hill Park, 1894

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#42 Skiing in Rockcliffe Park, 1895

Skiing in Rockcliffe Park, 1895

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#43 Snowstorm on Sparks St. late 1890s

Snowstorm on Sparks St. late 1890s

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#44 Sussex St. and George Street, 1890s

Sussex St. and George Street, 1890s

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#45 The Grand Hotel on Sussex Dr. at Rideau St., 1890s.

The Grand Hotel on Sussex Dr. at Rideau St., 1890s.

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#46 View from the Victoria Tower of the old Parliament in 1889

View from the Victoria Tower of the old Parliament in 1889

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#47 Town Hall on Main St., 1895

Town Hall on Main St., 1895

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#48 Along Sparks St., 1890

Along Sparks St., 1890

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#49 Construction of the Victoria Museum, 1899

Construction of the Victoria Museum, 1899

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#50 Sussex street and George Street, Ottawa, 1890s

Sussex street and George Street, Ottawa, 1890s

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#51 The first theater on Old Sparks Street, Ottawa, 1890s

The first theater on Old Sparks Street, Ottawa, 1890s

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#52 Timber Slide in Ottawa, 1890s

Timber Slide in Ottawa, 1890s

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#53 Wellington St., Ottawa, 1890s

Wellington St., Ottawa, 1890s

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#54 Bank St. at Sparks, 1890s

Bank St. at Sparks, 1890s

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#55 Britannia Beach, Ottawa, 1890s

Britannia Beach, Ottawa, 1890s

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#56 Britannia Pier, Ottawa River, 1890s

Britannia Pier, Ottawa River, 1890s

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#57 Broad St., Lebreton Flats, Ottawa, 1890s

Broad St., Lebreton Flats, Ottawa, 1890s

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#58 Butchery on Richmond Rd. in Westboro, 1890s

Butchery on Richmond Rd. in Westboro, 1890s

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#59 Byward Market, Ottawa, 1890s

Byward Market, Ottawa, 1890s

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#60 Chicken vendor in the market on York St., Ottawa, 1899

Chicken vendor in the market on York St., Ottawa, 1899

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#61 Cows on Fifth Ave., Ottawa, 1899

Cows on Fifth Ave., Ottawa, 1899

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#62 Daly Building, 1899

Daly Building, 1899

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#63 Daly Building, 1899

Daly Building, 1899

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#64 Downtown Ottawa, 1899

Downtown Ottawa, 1899

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#65 Dow’s Lake causeway, 1890s

Dow's Lake causeway, 1890s

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#66 Election Day in front of Ottawa East town hall, 1890s

Election Day in front of Ottawa East town hall, 1890s

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#67 Election Day in Ottawa, 1890s

Election Day in Ottawa, 1890s

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#68 Elgin St. looking south from Wellington Street, 1890s

Elgin St. looking south from Wellington Street, 1890s

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#69 Elgin St., Ottawa, 1890s

Elgin St., Ottawa, 1890s

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#70 Maplelawn in 1890s

Maplelawn in 1890s

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#71 Metcalfe St. on a snowy day, 1890s

Metcalfe St. on a snowy day, 1890s

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#72 Ottawa Post Office burns in 1899

Ottawa Post Office burns in 1899

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#73 Race Weekend in Ottawa, 1890s

Race Weekend in Ottawa, 1890s

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#74 Richmond Rd. near Ottawa, 1899

Richmond Rd. near Ottawa, 1899

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#75 Ruins of the Gilmour Hotel on Bank Street, 1890s

Ruins of the Gilmour Hotel on Bank Street, 1890s

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#76 Snow clearing on Sparks St. in Ottawa, 1899

Snow clearing on Sparks St. in Ottawa, 1899

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#77 Stonemasons working on the building of the Victoria Museum in Ottawa, 1890s

Stonemasons working on the building of the Victoria Museum in Ottawa, 1890s

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#78 A bear hunting scene in Ottawa, 1860.

A bear hunting scene in Ottawa, 1860.

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#79 Construction of the Alexandra Bridge, 1898-1900

Construction of the Alexandra Bridge, 1898-1900

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#80 Dominion Day in Smiths Falls, 1897

Dominion Day in Smiths Falls, 1897

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#81 Sparks St., Ottawa, 1899

Sparks St., Ottawa, 1899

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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