Re-making Sparks: Ottawa’s downtown pedestrian mall through the decades – Ottawa

Residents can have their say about the planned revitalization of Sparks Street at a town hall being held this morning.

The city wants ideas to improve how the mall functions, its programming, amenities, transportation access and more.

The town hall is being held in council chambers at City Hall from 9 a.m. to noon on Jan. 13.

Heading into the meeting, CBC spent some time in our archives, digging into the mall’s storied past. Here’s some of the more interesting video we found.

What do you think about the mall? What should change? Leave your comments below this story. 


Early stages

In the late 1950s, plans were being developed for the Sparks Street pedestrian mall, including a sculpture garden, lots of seating, flower beds, big trees and more.

Plans for a long canopy along both sides of the mall, equipped with infrared heating, were eventually scrapped.

People were still allowed to walk through the mall during construction, but it didn’t officially open until 1960.

ARCHIVES Sparks Street plans, construction, opening (1959-60)2:20

In February 1991, CBC dug into the archives and produced this The Way We Were segment about the grand reopening of Sparks Street Mall in 1967, when it was made a permanent feature of the city.

Interestingly, the mall was the envy of municipal planners from Baltimore, Md., who came to Ottawa to check it out.

ARCHIVES Sparks Street Mall reopens in 19671:23


Hippie hangout

This one is pretty funny. In June 1993, CBC’s The Way We Were produced this segment about hordes of hippies hanging out on Sparks Street in 1967.

At the time there were fears that a “hippie invasion” would descend on the capital in 1968. Officials even spoke of mysterious posters, apparently seen in the U.S., promoting some kind of hippie love-in in Ottawa for the summer of 1968.

The invasion never transpired.

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