Ottawa Technical High School

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Ottawa Technical High School
Ottawa Tech.JPG

Coordinates45°25′00″N 75°42′23″W / 45.4168°N 75.7063°W / 45.4168; -75.7063Coordinates: 45°25′00″N 75°42′23″W / 45.4168°N 75.7063°W / 45.4168; -75.7063
School boardOttawa Carleton District School Board
LanguageEnglish, French

Ottawa Technical High School, more often known as Ottawa Tech, was a high school in Ottawa, Canada that originally specialized in vocational programs. The school opened in 1913 as the second public secondary school in Ottawa, and was closed in 1992. It was located on Albert Street in the western part of downtown Ottawa. The five acre (20,000 m²) campus is still owned by the board of education. It houses offices, special events, and storage, but much of it is empty


The building had originally been home to a woman's college and Ottawa Tech moved there in 1916. The original building was expanded several times and a new structure was built across the street in the 1960s. A bright orange walkway connecting the buildings over Slater Street remains a landmark.

The school originally offered both standard high school programs and courses in auto mechanics, electricity, drafting, computers, and graphic arts. When it was founded it was successful and grew to hold some 1,600 students at its peak in the 1950s. It was especially popular in the 1950s and 1960s as unprecedented, unique innovations in academic, vocational, and music programs were spearheaded and promoted throughout Ottawa by a creative, energetic, and motivational principal, Leo McCarthy.

In 1962, Ottawa Technical High School concert and stage band produced an album.

The Zenith of Ottawa Technical High School[edit]

Although Ottawa Tech seemed to decline in later years, many now regard the 1950s and 1960s as its zenith, both in enrollment numbers and breadth of course opportunities. Under the leadership of Leo McCarthy, novel changes at Ottawa Tech began to attract many students from miles around the city of Ottawa. Other high schools continued to offer, and often required, studies in Latin, an increasingly unpopular course. Leo McCarthy's pre-engineering courses at Ottawa Tech allowed university-bound students from around the city an option to combine high-level academic courses with useful technical courses e.g. electronics and machine shops, from the excellent vocational instructors at Ottawa Tech. In addition, the welcome relief from Latin courses allowed many academic students to intensively study instrumental and vocal music, and some outstanding, notable careers were launched, guided from the outset by the expertise of John P. Murdie (band and music theory) and Carman Milligan (chorus and music theory). In fact, after winning provincial and national honours at the Kiwanis Music Festival Band Competitions in Toronto, Ontario, in 1962, the Ottawa Technical High School Band went on to make history as the first Canadian high-school boys-band to embark on a European Tour in the summer of 1963, an opportunity seeded by an initial offer from KLM, Royal Dutch Airlines.

Leo McCarthy turned over his principal duties to Ross Beck in the early 1960s, but continued to be passionately involved in educational services: In 1965, Leo McCarthy was one of the 32 members of the Board of Governors of the University of Ottawa.[1] Carleton University, in Ottawa, recognized Leo McCarthy's contributions in Educational Service by awarding him an honorary LL.D. degree in 1974.[2] More recently, in 2002, the Arnold Bradley Scholarship in Geology was established by Arnold Bradley, who wished "to recognize Mr. Leo McCarthy, a former mathematics teacher and Mr. W. Morwick, a former chemistry teacher with the Ottawa Technical School, both of whom inspired Mr. Arnold's interest in science and assisted Mr. Arnold in obtaining his first position with the National Research Council."[3]

Selected Alumni of Ottawa Technical High School[edit]

View of the school from Albert Street


J.A. Berthold Carriere, C.M., M.Mus., Member of the Order of Canada, Investiture on February 22, 2002. "Bert" Carriere, Director of Music for nearly three decades, has helped establish Stratford's reputation as one of North America's preeminent drama festivals. As an arranger, composer and conductor, he has placed his distinctive stamp on more than 60 Festival productions. Known for his generosity of spirit and his professionalism, he has shared his expertise as a teacher at numerous arts education institutions and with theatre companies throughout Canada and abroad.[4]

Dr. Jan Bormanis, ex officio Member of the Board of Governors, The Ottawa Hospital. As Professor of Medicine, Dr. Bormanis has held a variety of positions at university and hospital levels including Chief of General Medicine, Chief of the Division of Hematology, Director of CME at the University of Ottawa and President of the Medical Staff, Civic Campus. Dr. Bormanis' interests are in education, medical infomatics and patient care.[5]

Frank Morphy, Oboe, Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Ottawa native Frank Morphy has been a member of the Toronto Symphony since 1972. Frank studied with former TSO principal oboe Perry Bauman. Following his years at The University of Toronto, Frank played with The National Ballet of Canada, and has performed with The Stratford Festival (note: Bert Carriere), The National Arts Centre Orchestra, The Hamilton Philharmonic, The National Youth Orchestra of Canada, The Banff Festival Orchestra, and with many other organizations. Always innovative, Frank has launched into a new hobby of making timpani mallets, some of which are used by some of the finest players in Canada.[6]

Richard W. Nolan, CD,BSc. Rick Nolan graduated with a BSc in Physics from Carleton University and joined the Defence Research Board (currently DRD Canada) where he had an interesting and varied research career, finishing at the Institute for Aerospace Research at the National Research Council in Ottawa in June 2000.[7] After Ottawa Tech, Rick continued in music with the Governor General's Foot Guards Band for 36 years and in 1992 was awarded the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada "in recognition of significant contribution to compatriots, community and to Canada". Currently Rick plays clarinet, with his son Phillip on percussion, in the Centralaires Concert Band in Ottawa.[8] His 4 grandchildren are just waiting to be old enough to join in.

From the Apogee of the Glory Days to Ottawa Tech's Nadir[edit]

Beginning in the 1970s, with the growth in population of the City of Ottawa and the accelerating decentralization of education drawing students to the newer suburban schools, Ottawa Tech, along with several other highly regarded core city schools, began to lose popularity and enrollment. Ottawa Tech had, historically, never ceased to train the much-needed skilled trades personnel, but during the 1970s the academic side diminished, culminating with only 10% of students continuing on to university. With the concomitant expansion of immigration into Ottawa, some 30% of the students enrolling at Ottawa Tech were in English as a Second Language. As in the surrounding community, Ottawa Tech experienced linguistic and racial divisions within its population, which further exacerbated declining enrollment. In the early 1980s the school was heavily renovated and in 1984 the High School of Commerce was closed and business programs were added to Ottawa Tech.[citation needed] These changes failed to encourage students to choose the school. By the early 1990s enrollment in the school fell to only 450 students and the 1991-1992 school year saw only 40 new students arrive. The Ottawa Board of Education thus decided to close the school and it was shuttered in May 1992.

The five acre (20,000 m²) campus is still owned by the board of education. It houses offices, special events, and storage, but much of it is empty. The TFO series Science Point Com is filmed in the empty classrooms. The board has been pressured to sell the buildings, which in 1999 were valued at over $10 million. However the board has decided to keep the school. The facility is in good condition and many on the board feel its central location is the ideal location to someday open a new specialist school.

On June 9, 2009, local media news reports said that the site may be chosen as a location for a new downtown branch of the Ottawa Public Library.



  • Keith, Janet. The Collegiate Institute Board of Ottawa: A Short History, 1843-1969. Ottawa: Kent, 1969.
  • Wikipedia, Kiwanis Music Festival
  • Universite d'Ottawa, S.O. 1965, C. 137, Part II, paragraph 9(b).
  • Carleton University, Senate, Honorary Degrees Awarded after 1954, Part II, University and Educational Service, National and Local.
  • Carleton University, Admissions, List of Available Scholarships.
  • Wikipedia, Symphony No. 9 (Dvořák)
  • Governor General of Canada, honours.
  • The Ottawa Hospital, Board of Governors.
  • Toronto Symphony Orchestra, About the TSO, Members of the Orchestra.
  • Scientific Commons, R.W. Nolan, Publications 1998-2003.
  • Centralaires Concert Band, Ottawa, Canada.
  • Wikipedia, Laurentian High School