The Historical Society of Ottawa was founded in 1898 as the Women's Canadian Historical Society of Ottawa. Its objective then was to increase public knowledge of Canadian history through publications, meetings, and tours, and although the name was changed in 1955 to our current title, our objective is much the same. Now, both men and women make up the membership and the executive, and we focus more on the history of Ottawa and region rather than on a broader perspective.
The Society is open to all, irrespective of race, religion or any other detail that might deter one from joining. We hold monthly meetings between September and June each year featuring guest speakers, (check here to see our latest schedule) and our meetings are free to the public as well as to our members. Also, members receive quarterly newsletters and the Society organizes twice-yearly one-day bus excursions to historic locations throughout the Ottawa Valley.
Check here to view the extensive list of pamphlets the Society has been producing since the 1980s. In addition to these, we offer awards to university and high school students for history-related projects.
In the past, the society founded and operated the Bytown Museum by the Rideau Canal locks in downtown Ottawa and we continue to have a close relationship with the museum, a wonderful storehouse of artifacts from the city's past.
Ottawa: A Pleasing Mixture of Old and New
Rising fifty metres above the Ottawa River, the cliff on which the Parliament Buildings sit offers a commanding view of the river below. In the lower left-hand corner of this photo you can see the Bytown Museum building which was used by the builders of the Rideau Canal as their headquarters during its construction.
Both in winter and summer, the Rideau Canal gives enormous pleasure to residents and visitors alike. Whether skating in the winter or boating in the summer, the canal is a major attraction in Ottawa.
During the summer months, tourists enjoy rides on the tour boats that show visitors the scenic and historic highlights of the city's centre.
The photo on the right looks north along the Rideau Canal toward the Chåteau Laurier Hotel in the distance while the bulbous shape of the convention centre is also clearly visible in the picture. The photo on the left is a close-up photograph of the convention centre showing its very distinctive shape.
The Rideau Canal cuts through the heart of Ottawa and all along its route through the city, there are numerous attractive sights to enjoy. On the left, the Bank Street bridge arches gracefully over the canal while on the right, the canal passes through the "notch of the mountain", a particularly difficult stretch of the canal to construct because of all the rock that had to be removed.
Each Spring, the city comes alive with thousands and thousands of tulips. What started as a gift of gratitude by the Dutch royal family for their safe accommodation in Ottawa during the Second World War has grown into a major springtime festival that each year welcomes thousands of visitors who flock to the city to enjoy the spectacular colours.
At any time of day, a visit to the tomb of the unknown soldier at the National War Memorial is a very memorable event. However, a vist at night when a single shaft of light illuminates the tomb, is especially moving.
The National War Memorial occupies a central place in the heart of Ottawa, just a few steps away from Parliament Hill. Built to honour the memory of all those who served during the First World War, it was officially opened by His Majesty, King George VI, the first reigning monarch to visit Canada.
It wouldn't be an Ottawa summer without the red-coated officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the equally brightly coloured uniforms of Ceremonial Guard of the Canadian Forces. Throughout the summer months, there are many opportunties to see them march past.
November 11th, Remembrance Day, is the day that Ottawa and the nation stop to thank and honour the memory of the hundreds of thousands of men and women who both served their country and gave their lives during wartime. The boom of the guns and the thousands of poppies left on the tomb of the unknown soldier at the National War Memorial are yearly features of this day.
The building on the right is called the Cartier Square Drill Hall. It's from this building each morning during the summer months that the soldiers involved in the Changing of the Guard ceremony depart for their march to Parliament Hill. The fountain on the left, a close neighbour to the Drill Hall, was a gift from Britain. It's a fountain that used to play in Trafalgar Square in London. Now its a comfortable landmark in the heart of Ottawa.
July 1st, Canada Day, brings hundreds of thousands of people to the city's centre to enjoy all the activities put on to celebrate Canada's birthday.
Since our founding and throughout our history, the Society has been pleased to enjoy the patronage of the current governor general, and we are happy that this tradition continues today with the patronage of the current vice-regal representative, His Excellency, the Right Honourable David Johnston.