LeBreton Flats

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LeBreton Flats
Location of LeBreton Flats in Ottawa
Location of LeBreton Flats in Ottawa
Coordinates: 45°24′56″N 75°43′04″W / 45.41556°N 75.71778°W / 45.41556; -75.71778Coordinates: 45°24′56″N 75°43′04″W / 45.41556°N 75.71778°W / 45.41556; -75.71778
Country Canada
Province Ontario
City Ottawa
 • MPs Paul Dewar
 • MPPs Yasir Naqvi
 • Councillors Catherine McKenney
 • Total 0.84 km2 (0.32 sq mi)
Elevation 60 m (200 ft)
Population (2011)
 • Total 373
  Canada 2011 Census
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC−5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC−4)

LeBreton Flats (also spelled Lebreton Flats) (French: Plaines Lebreton) is a neighbourhood in Somerset Ward in central Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. It lies to the west of Centretown neighbourhood, and to the north of Centretown West with "Nanny Goat Hill" as the dividing line. The Ottawa River forms the western and northern limit, with the western side being a wider area of the river known as Nepean Bay.

Originally a residential area, the most of the Flats are now taken up by the Canadian War Museum and the Lebreton Flats bandshell. About half of the total area, on the southern side, is undergoing redevelopment. The population was only 373 (2011 Census), up from 57 in 2006,[1] and 50 in 2001[2]

Early history[edit]

LeBreton Flats after the 1900 fire.

Land swindle[edit]

LeBreton Flats was named after Captain John LeBreton, one of Nepean Township's first settlers and a hero of the War of 1812.[3] In 1820, LeBreton lived at the community of Britannia, Ottawa, and overheard Lord Dalhousie explain that the intended plan for the Rideau Canal was from Dow's Lake to the Chaudière Falls, directly crossing the flats. LeBreton bought for the land for £499, before Lord Dalhousie had a chance to purchase the territory. LeBreton then offered to sell the land to Dalhousie for £3000. Dalhousie recognized LeBreton's scam and was so infuriated he decided to move the canal to Entrance Bay, the current location where the canal enters into the Ottawa River. This significantly raised the cost of the canal, as it was a longer route and additional locks were now required. At the same time, Dalhousie purchased Barracks Hill as part of the agreement, which would become Parliament Hill.[4]

19th century development[edit]

With the development of the Ottawa area, LeBreton Flats by the mid-19th century had developed into a mixed community to serve the lumber mills on the nearby Chaudière and Victoria Islands. A rail line came in with a station and yards, and industries developed in turn. There was also housing for both the workers and owners, as well as hotels and taverns.

The area was ravaged by the Great Fire of 1900, which had started across the river in Hull (now Gatineau, Quebec), but jumped over by way of the great stacks of piled lumber on the islands. The fire destroyed the neighbourhood, leaving many homeless. The area was rebuilt, but the lumber barons relocated their dwellings up into the city proper above the escarpment, leaving the workers as the remaining Flat's residents.

Urban renewal and redevelopment[edit]

Two children in LeBreton Flats in 1963, as the lands were being expropriated and the residents forced to vacate the neighbourhood.

In the 1960s, expropriation occurred in order to make room for redevelopment, including offices for the Government of Canada. Ottawa Valley artist Ralph Wallace Burton documented the neighbourhood in his Lebreton Flats series of oil sketches (now on display in Ottawa City Hall), "working just ahead of the demolition crews".[5]

As a result of disputes over the use of the land and soil contamination from the previous industrial uses, the land remained vacant for over forty years. It was used in the winter for piling snow that had been removed from Ottawa streets, with the pile often remaining well into the late spring. As a result of the runoff from this snowpile, the land became more contaminated.

Because of this, it was found that almost all of the area's topsoil would have to be removed in order for redevelopment to proceed, but the ownership had to be consolidated, since the Federal Government, the former Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton, and the City of Ottawa were all landowners. This situation was remedied with a federal agency called the National Capital Commission (NCC) acquiring all title to the land.

In May 2005, the new home for the Canadian War Museum was opened on LeBreton Flats as the first component of redevelopment. There are plans to use the remainder of the site for housing, commercial space, offices and parkland.

The southern part of LeBreton Flats between Albert Street and Nanny Goat Hill escaped the expropriation of the 1960s. In this area, brick houses and townhouses built immediately following the 1900 fire still exist alongside row housing built in the 1970s. The portion of Lorne Avenue which lies below Nanny Goat Hill is an example of the housing which filled LeBreton prior to the 1960s and is a Heritage District designated by the City of Ottawa.

The western portion of the Transitway runs through LeBreton Flats, served by Lebreton Station.

As of the Canada 2006 Census, 57 people were living in LeBreton Flats.[6] The portion of LeBreton Flats that had been expropriated and left vacant in the 1960s welcomed its first residents in 2008, as the first condominium building constructed in the first phase of the redevelopment neared completion.[7]

Pooley's Bridge[edit]

Pooley's Bridge(45°25′00″N 75°42′39″W / 45.416594°N 75.7108°W / 45.416594; -75.7108), Ottawa's oldest bridge, is a stone arch bicycle/pedestrian bridge located in Ottawa's LeBreton Flats east of the Canadian War Museum and south of the Portage Bridge. The three span closed spandrel stone arch structure, built in 1873, was designated as a heritage structure by the City of Ottawa in 1994. It is located beside the Fleet Street Pumping Station (Ottawa's original water works) at the end of Fleet Street.[8][9]

The bridge is located at 9 Fleet Street, at the southwest edge of Bronson Park. It is very near and southeast of LeBreton Flats' first new condo unit. It is south (but beyond some grassy area) of where Wellington Street meets the Portage Bridge. The city describes it as "over the channel tailrace of the Fleet Street Pumping Station".[8] The City waterworks building, including the pumping station and the aqueduct were designated as heritage in 1982 under the Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act.[10]

Pooley’s Bridge is one of six stone arch bridges in the Lebreton Flats, all built circa 1873, all are Heritage Bridges and all are designated to serve as pedestrian/bicycle facilities only.[8] The five other bridges are all single span stone arch bridges over the aqueduct, west of Pooley’s Bridge. They are: Canada Central Railway Bridge, Broad Street Bridge, Lloyd Street Bridge, Grand Trunk Railway Bridge and Lett Street Bridge. The first bridge is owned by the National Capital Commission, second, third and fifth by the City of Ottawa and the fourth bridge is under the Region’s ownership. The third, fourth and fifth bridges are connected.[8]

The condition of Pooley’s Bridge has been of concern for a number of years. It was necessary to undertake the controlled removal operations on the bridge in 1994, to ensure public safety. Due to anticipated failures, it was necessary in 1999, for the City of Ottawa to file an Application to Alter and make repairs to five other stone arch bridges in the area. The repairs required at the five stone arch bridges were relatively minor, but expensive.[8]

Pooley's Bridge in Bytown, an earlier bridge, was built in 1836 by Lieutenant Henry Pooley and assigned by Colonel John By who gave it the name after seeing the unpeeled log structure.[11] The bridge was on the road from Wellington and Bank en route to the Union Bridge (see Chaudière Bridge).[12] It was between Upper Town and LeBreton Flats, and appeared in a Chesterton painting.[13]


The Ottawa Bluesfest, a music festival, takes place at Lebreton Flats annually. Performances by many famous and local musicians occur during this 12-day music festival in the month of July.[14]

See also[edit]

View of LeBreton Flats in December 2005, prior to redevelopment.


  1. ^ http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2011/dp-pd/prof/details/page.cfm?Lang=E&Geo1=CT&Code1=0882&Geo2=CMA&Code2=505&Data=Count&SearchText=&SearchType=Begins&SearchPR=01&B1=All&Custom=
  2. ^ http://www12.statcan.ca/census-recensement/2006/dp-pd/prof/92-597/P3.cfm?Lang=E&CTCODE=0882&CATYPE=CMA
  3. ^ Gillis, Megan. Road map of city's past. Ottawa Sun. June 27, 2005. Retrieved July 12, 2007.
  4. ^ Woods, 48.
  5. ^ http://urbsite.blogspot.com/2010/03/ralph-burton-on-lebreton-flats.html
  6. ^ Statistics Canada
  7. ^ Kelly Egan, "Early inhabitants revel in the city life". Ottawa Citizen. October 17, 2008. Retrieved October 17, 2008.
  8. ^ a b c d e http://www.ottawa.ca/calendar/ottawa/archives/rmoc/Regional_Council/12May99/Tcr35.pdf
  9. ^ http://www.padolsky-architects.com/htmlfiles/bridges/pooleys.html
  10. ^ http://www.ottawa.ca/calendar/ottawa/citycouncil/occ/2007/04-25/pec/ACS2007-CCS-PEC-0008.htm
  11. ^ Mika, Nick; Mika, Helma (1982), Bytown: The Early Days of Ottawa, Belleville, Ont: Mika Publishing Company, ISBN 0-919303-60-9 
  12. ^ Haig, Robert (1975), Ottawa: City of the Big Ears, Ottawa: Haig and Haig Publishing Co. 
  13. ^ John H. Taylor (1 January 1986). Ottawa: an illustrated history. J. Lorimer. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-88862-981-4. 
  14. ^ "RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest - Ottawa Festival Facts". Bluesfest. Retrieved 24 March 2013. 


  • Jenkins, Phil (1996), An Acre of Time, Toronto, Ontario: Macfarlane Walter & Ross 
  • Woods, Shirley E. Jr. (1980), Ottawa: The Capital of Canada,, Toronto, Ontario: Doubleday Canada, ISBN 0-385-14722-8 
  • Hill (1876-1942), Hamnett P. (September 8, 2010), Robert Randall And The Le Breton Flats; An Account Of The Early Legal And Political Controversies Respecting The Ownership Of A Large Portion Of The Ottawa by Hamnett P. Hill, Ottawa, Ontario: Nabu Press This is a reproduction of a book published before 1923. 

External links[edit]

  http://www.facebook.com/lebretonflatsremembered   [<-- For extensive discussion on the history, archival material and photos of the Lebreton Flats]