Sunday, October 12, 2008

NCC Rockeries

Today I got on the bike (for the first time this year, shame on me!) and cycled over to the NCC Rockeries, which is a narrow strip of a park built on the site of what was originally supposed to be tramway tracks in Rockcliffe Park. That plan went down the drain when it was discovered that the tramways couldn't get themselves up the hill, so the land was donated to the National Capital Commission.

I'd always thought that the ruins in the Rockeries had something to do with William Lyon Mackenzie King, but apparently not.

These columns are from the former Carnegie Public Library, which stood at the site of the current Ottawa Public Library at Laurier and Metcalfe until the early 1970's, long after the Right Honourable Whackjob had joined his dear bulldog in Heaven. I'm not sure if the broken column lying on the ground is also from the library; there's no plaque anywhere near that one, but the stone seems to be different from the standing columns.

This is Soper's Fountain, donated to the NCC by the estate of Ottawa entrepreneur Warren Soper (1854-1924). Soper is mostly remembered for launching Ottawa's first telephone service (1880) and electric tramway system (1891). He bought the fountain at the 1912 Salon in Paris.

I'm not really sure what the little cherubs are supposed to represent, whether a Greek myth or some other theme that would have been in style in 1912. There are some pseudo hieroglyphs carved into the stone, which the top cherub seems to be scrutinizing (I can think of no other reason for him to be staring at the wall that way). There's evidence of copper laurels having been affixed to the sides of the fountain at one time, though it looks like it might have been part of the overall "faux ruins" effect.

The fountain is the work of French sculptor René Bertrand-Boutée (1877-1950).

The easiest way to find the Rockeries is from the Acacia Avenue entrance (see map). If you're driving, there is limited parking at the Acacia Avenue lookout. There's a path branching off to the left of Acacia Avenue, going down into the Rockeries. The path goes through the park and comes out on the other side at Hillsdale Road, where there are a few more parking spots.

This is NCC land, so the usual rules about pets apply. There is, however, a large park where off-leash dogs are allowed next to the Hillsdale Road entrance.