Regrettably, this last of the original buildings that once stood at this crossroad is now facing the prospect of being surrounded by a proposed four-storey apartment development that would extend along Cumberland, from Murray Street to St. Patrick Street.
Like many Lowertown corner buildings, the house has already experienced physical changes and varied uses over its lifetime. The story of some of the occupants and their enterprises reveals a little background on its evolution and the eventual acquisition of two addresses – 320 St. Patrick Street and 277 Cumberland.
Kind-Edward to St-Patrick, looking westAdelaide Marenger, widow of Antoine, gets the credit for the first grocery store on this site, operating perhaps as early as 1861. She also built the double at 281-283 Cumberland as an investment property. After the death of her husband, Adelaide operated a grocery business at 320 St. Patrick from late 1870 up to late 1880, eventually with the assistance of her son, Adolphe and his family.
When Louis Renaud with his wife Euphemie St. Germain and infant daughter Validore arrived, the family continued the grocery for a few years. By 1888, they had established a flour and feed business behind the house, at 279 Cumberland Street. The house was big enough to accommodate extended family members, and the flour and feed business was successful enough to require a clerk and a delivery person. Horses still ruled the roads and needed food, as did the chickens and pigs that people kept in their back yards. For people, flour in large quantities was needed to keep up the daily supply of bread.
In 1912, 320 St. Patrick was sold to Michel Ulric Valiquet, a physician who lived here for several decades with his wife Grace Harris and their five children. Newspaper stories about the family indicate that St. Brigid was their home parish and the children were educated at nearby schools. During the First World War, Ulric served in Europe from 1915 to 1918 as part of the Canadian Army Medical Corps and was raised to the rank of Major. On his return to Ottawa, he worked at the Department of Pensions and at the time of his death in 1932, he was a medical adviser on the Board of Pension Commissioners and medical officer for the Princess Louise Dragoon Guards. His funeral service at St. Brigid’s included an honour guard of the Dragoons and band music by the Governor General’s Foot Guard.
Over the years, the building has adapted to the needs of its owners. What started as a combined home and grocery store on St. Patrick with an adjoining flour and feed business on Cumberland became a large residence and office for a physician and his growing family. As a practicing physician, it is possible that Valiquet made changes to the building to have a discrete entrance for visits from patients.
By 1940, when Robert Beland purchased the building, he had a separate address at 277 Cumberland while 320 St. Patrick was converted to apartments, to meet housing needs generated by an influx of civil servants to Ottawa during WW II. Later, 277 Cumberland was also converted into two rental units. Happily, the building is now once again a single home for Alexandra and Armin Badzak.
As the neighbourhood evolved, there were many changes in its surroundings. One of the other long-term corner landmarks is St. Brigid’s, constructed in 1889 on the northwest corner to serve the local Irish and other English-speaking Catholics and now home to the St. Brigid’s Centre for the Arts.