Homes and Gardens

THEN AND NOW: From Georgian-style funeral parlour to art deco condo towers

The Hudson Park. Photography by Miv Fournier

By Phil Jenkins

Cities grow in two directions — outward and upward. In the process of the condo-ization of downtown, rather like taking old perennials out of a flowerbed and planting new, taller ones, samples of the architecture of the past are disappearing. And so we look both up and back, at five condominium developments that are already up — or soon will be — to discover in words and pictures the buildings that went before them.

MCEVOY SHIELDS / HUDSON PARK I AND II

It is not often that a funeral home, a building dedicated to the care of the deceased, is replaced by a tower dedicated to sheltering the living, but that is what happened on Kent Street. In 1939, on the site of a former row of family homes, the two McEvoy brothers built one of the city’s first custom-designed funeral homes. The funeral parlour resembled a fine two-storey Georgian house, one that might have served as a set for a Jane Austen film. A gabled, columned entrance hosted the solid wooden door, flanked by twin rows of tall, shuttered windows.

The brothers McEvoy lived on the upper floor of their place of work, in side-by-side apartments, and later gained a partner, Mr. Shields. Business was steady, but gradually changes to Kent Street slowed things down. The street went one-way, and the increased volume of traffic made getting out of the parking lot a waiting game and turning into it a risky business.

Thus, when an offer was made in 1999 by the developer Charlesfort to acquire the McEvoy-Shields lots, the owner, Andy Doyle, was agreeable. The architectural firm of Barry J. Hobin & Associates, with Gordon Lorimer taking the lead, seized the chance to do something special on a prime upper-town site. It is a welcome part, 80 years later, of Ottawa’s meagre stock of art deco architecture. Perhaps the best approach to the Hudson towers at 235 and 245 Kent is along Nepean Street, walking east. Look up at the peak of the twin towers 19 floors above the asphalt, and it’s easy to think you are back in Jazz Age New York.

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