Sparks Street, Ottawa

Sparks Street, Ottawa

Sparks Street is one of the most prestigious historic streets in Ottawa, holding a number of heritage buildings. Founded in the early 1800s by Nicholas Sparks – hence the name – it was made a fully pedestrian street in 1966, which makes it one of the first outdoor malls in North America. Nicholas Sparks, one of the Fathers of Ottawa, was a farmer who in the mid-19th century cut a path through the forest toward his house that has ultimately become the well known Sparks Street.

Today, the street runs from Elgin Street to Bronson Avenue and contains a number of outdoor restaurants, beautiful works of art and many lovely fountains. One portion of the street is reserved for pedestrians, while the two final blocks west of Lyon Street form a regular road. Sparks became a bustling commercial center of the Ottawa Valley after the selection of Ottawa as the capital of Canada by Queen Victoria. A number of government offices and homes for parliamentarians were built here. The most notable of the street tenants was Thomas D'Arcy McGee, a prominent journalist, who in 1868 was killed outside his house at the corner of Sparks and Metcalfe.

In the early 20th century, the street saw booming activities. A number of Beaux-Arts buildings of that period are still visible. However, with the expansion of the city, the street became less centralized and commerce spread into the neighbouring areas. Government ministries in need of larger offices also moved elsewhere. Sparks' business was further damaged in 1959 when the streetcar line was closed.

In 1961, the street was temporarily – just for the summer – turned into a pedestrian mall in order to give the local commerce a boost. This undertaking proved successful and eventually, the street was permanently closed to vehicles. Today, the pedestrian mall extends from Elgin to Kent streets and is open all year round.

Sparks is a home to some of Ottawa's major attractions too, such as the National War Memorial and the National Arts Centre. Many of the city's oldest buildings like the Post Office, the Ottawa Electric Building and branches of several Canadian banks are located on the eastern side of the street. Some newer buildings can also be seen in this part of the mall, including Ottawa Broadcast Centre and Thomas D'Arcy McGee Building, shaped somewhat like a squat "7" and visually very captivating.

The mall and most of the buildings on the south side are owned and administered by The National Capital Commission, while those on the north side are run by Public Works and Government Services Canada. It is through the combined effort of these two bodies that Sparks street has become one of the most important tourist attractions in Ottawa.

Tip:
Keep an eye on the calendar of festivals and special events held here.

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Sparks Street on Map

Sight Name: Sparks Street
Sight Location: Ottawa, Canada (See walking tours in Ottawa)
Sight Type: Attraction/Landmark
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

Walking Tours in Ottawa, Canada

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