LeBreton Flats

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LeBreton Flats
Plaines LeBreton - 03.jpg
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
 • MPsCatherine McKenna
 • MPPsJoel Harden
 • CouncillorsCatherine McKenney
 • Total0.84 km2 (0.32 sq mi)
60 m (200 ft)
 • Total620
 Canada 2016 Census
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)

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. 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, much of the northern portion of the Flats is now occupied by the Canadian War Museum and the National Holocaust Monument.[1] Pimisi station, a station on Ottawa's LRT system, is also in LeBreton Flats. About half of the total area, on the south side of the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway, is undergoing redevelopment. The population was 620 (2016 Census)[2], up from 373 (2011 Census), and 57 in 2006[3] and 50 in 2001.[4]

Early history

LeBreton Flats after the 1900 fire.


LeBreton Flats was named after Lieutenant John LeBreton[5] (1779-1848), one of Nepean Township's first settlers (c. 1819) and a hero of the War of 1812, as an officer in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and between April and October 1812 he acted as adjutant to the Voltigeurs Canadiens. LeBreton purchased the area in 1820, a purchase which has been described as solely for the purpose of capitalizing on the construction of the planned Rideau Canal.

The account, according to his detractors,[who?] goes as follows. In 1820, LeBreton lived at the community of Britannia, west of 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 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 land speculation 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 neighbouring Barracks Hill as part of the agreement, which would become Parliament Hill.[6]

For his part, LeBreton vigorously maintained that he had purchased the land fairly at a public auction and that he had been grievously wronged by Dalhousie and those in the community who took the Governor General's side. LeBreton claimed he was one of the few to grasp the commercial value of the flats and that he had begun to make offers to acquire land there as early as 1818, well before the canal was approved or any route revealed. LeBreton presented Dalhousie with a lengthy written defence against the allegations. These arguments Dalhousie somewhat peremptorily dismissed, entrenching the notion of LeBreton as a swindler in local legend.[7]

19th-century development

By the mid-19th century, LeBreton Flats 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 crossed 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 Flats' residents.

Urban renewal and redevelopment

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".[8]

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 Government of Canada, the former Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton government, 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 ran through LeBreton Flats, which served Lebreton Station. The Transitway was replaced by the Confederation Line light rail, which opened on September 14, 2019.[9]

As of the Canada 2006 Census, 57 people were living in LeBreton Flats.[10] 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.[11]

RendezVous LeBreton

In 2015, the NCC put out a request for submissions to redevelop the south and south-western sections of LeBreton Flats, north of Albert Street, 21 hectares (52 acres) in size. Four groups submitted proposals:

In April 2016, the NCC selected the RendezVous LeBreton proposal, which included 4,000 housing units, park space, a recreation facility with services for the disabled, a library (just off the defined redevelopment lands) and a new arena for the Ottawa Senators team in the NHL.[12] A completion date was not announced.

In January 2018, the NCC reached an agreement with RendezVous to redevelop LeBreton Flats in a two-phase operation. However, before construction could begin a conflict between the development consortium parties led to that project being cancelled by the National Capital Commission, who then conducted a new series of public consultations which resulted in a new Preliminary Master Concept Plan being approved in January 2020. The plan divided the undeveloped land into four sectors, with the intention of determining, in the first half of 2020, the order in which the various parcels of land will be developed, and parks and public spaces created.

Pooley's Bridge

Pooley's Bridge

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 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.[13][14]

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".[13] 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.[15]

Pooley's Bridge is one of six stone arch bridges in the Lebreton Flats, all built circa 1873. All are Heritage Bridges and are designated to serve as pedestrian/bicycle facilities only.[13] 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; the 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.[13]

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, the City of Ottawa filed an Application to Alter and make repairs to five other stone arch bridges in the area in 1999. The repairs required at the five stone arch bridges were relatively minor, but expensive.[13]

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.[16] The bridge was on the road from Wellington and Bank en route to the Union Bridge (see Chaudière Bridge).[17] It was between Upper Town and LeBreton Flats, and appeared in a Chesterton painting.[18]

Tailrace whitewater course

Downstream of Pooley's Bridge and the Pumphouse lies the Tailrace. The Ottawa River Runners made the Tailrace into a Class 2 whitewater course with natural and artificial obstacles for competitions and practice.[19]


The Ottawa Bluesfest 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.[20]

See also

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



  1. ^ "National Holocaust Monument unveiled in downtown Ottawa". September 28, 2017.
  2. ^ https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/dp-pd/prof/details/page.cfm?Lang=E&Geo1=DA&Code1=35060399&Geo2=PR&Code2=01&Data=Count&SearchText=35060399&SearchType=Begins&SearchPR=01&B1=All&Custom=&TABID=3
  3. ^ Canada, Government of Canada, Statistics. "Statistics Canada: 2011 Census Profile". www12.statcan.gc.ca.
  4. ^ "Census tract profile for 0047.00 (CT), Ottawa - Gatineau (CMA) and Ontario". www12.statcan.ca.
  5. ^ "Biography – LE BRETON, JOHN – Volume VII (1836-1850) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography".
  6. ^ Woods 1980, p. 48.
  7. ^ Hill, Hamnett P., pp. 24-39
  8. ^ Midcentury Modernist. "Ralph Burton on Lebreton Flats". urbsite.blogspot.com.
  9. ^ Watson, Jim (August 23, 2019). "Line 1 opens on Sept. 14". octranspo.com. Retrieved August 23, 2019.
  10. ^ "Census tract profile for 0047.00 (CT), Ottawa - Gatineau (CMA) and Ontario". www12.statcan.ca.
  11. ^ Kelly Egan, "Early inhabitants revel in the city life" Archived November 5, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Ottawa Citizen. October 17, 2008. Retrieved October 17, 2008.
  12. ^ Fedio, Chloé (April 28, 2016). "Ottawa Senators-backed bid top choice for LeBreton redevelopment". CBC News. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
  13. ^ a b c d e "Rehabilitation of Pooley's Bridge and Five Stone Arch Bridges - Lebreton Flats - Public Hearing" (PDF). Region of Ottawa-Carleton. April 21, 1999.
  14. ^ "Pooley's Bridge Rehabilitation, 2001". Barry Padolsky Associates Inc. Archived from the original on March 30, 2012. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  15. ^ "Report to Planning and Environment Committee and Council, 27 March 2007". City of Ottawa. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  16. ^ Mika, Nick; Mika, Helma (1982), Bytown: The Early Days of Ottawa, Belleville, Ont: Mika Publishing Company, ISBN 0-919303-60-9
  17. ^ Haig, Robert (1975), Ottawa: City of the Big Ears, Ottawa: Haig and Haig Publishing Co.
  18. ^ John H. Taylor (January 1, 1986). Ottawa: an illustrated history. J. Lorimer. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-88862-981-4.
  19. ^ "The Pumphouse". Retrieved September 19, 2017.
  20. ^ "RBC Royal Bank Bluesfest – Ottawa Festival Facts". Bluesfest. Archived from the original on April 3, 2013. Retrieved March 24, 2013.