Friday, 29 June 2012

Help us preserve the history of Ottawa's small businesses and retail districts

How well do you know the history of Ottawa’s retail districts?

Walk down Bank, Elgin, Rideau or any of Ottawa’s other commercial streets and you’ll pass buildings with varied and colourful workplace histories: that top-end vacuum cleaner retail store that was once a photography shop was built originally to house a bank. This fancy restaurant used to be an auto showroom. That construction company office was a funeral monuments and tombstone outlet, and before that it was a gas station.

The Workers History Museum’s new venture, Life on Main Street, examines a series of interesting commercial buildings in downtown Ottawa to discover their history as businesses and workplaces.  The project looks at the types of businesses and shops which occupied these buildings overtime, the types of jobs performed there, and the special architectural features of the building. The collected material will be archived for future projects and research. 
The WHM will collaborate with Ottawa business owners to produce various products to feature each building, including: written and photographic material on display in storefront windows; a virtual exhibit; and video commentaries from business owners, employees and clients.

The initial building to be featured for the Life on Main Street project is 231 Bank Street, currently home to Wallack's Art Supplies.  Research began on the Wallacks building in earnest in May 2012, with completion slated for winter 2012/13.

To contribute to the Life on Main Street project or suggest unique buildings or businesses in Ottawa, please write us at with “Main Street” in the subject line.

Follow the progress of this project on Twitter using hastag #MainStreetProject

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