On Labour Day, I hopped on my bike for one of my favourite rides – across the island to the Long Island lock station. It’s a peaceful ride on rather crumbly but unbusy streets, past David Bartlett park, and down a dirt road that leads to the very northern tip of Long Island.
The first time we explored that path back in 2010, I was enchanted by the abandoned house at the end of the dirt path. I wondered who lived there and how long it had been abandoned. We often meander that way, either on our bikes or on foot, and I always meant to take pictures of the house and it’s out-buildings. Early in the summer, I happened to meet a fellow who lives just down from the locks on Nicholl’s Island (have you ever seen this little patch of heaven on the Rideau? It’s like cottage country in the city!) and he told me enough about the abandoned house so that I could google it.
Rowat House was built in the 1860s, right about the same time as Manotick’s famous Watson’s Mill. The city of Ottawa was petitioned in 2011 to designate the house a heritage building, and I was able to find a lot of little snippets of the history of the house, the lock station, and the immediate neighbourhood, all of which fed into my fascination for the history of Manotick and the Rideau Canal.
Apparently the house was occupied until at least the mid to late 1990s by descendants of the original owner, William Rowat, who opened a grocery and dry goods store in the former village of Long Island (on the east side of the Rideau River) in the 1850s, and then bought 40 acres at the tip of Long Island itself in 1860 for $1200, where he built his family home.
I’m not sure what happened in the last decade, but the house was in considerable disrepair by the time we “discovered” it in 2010. It really did feel like a discovery, because the house is on a walking trail (only emergency vehichles on their way to Nicholl’s Island are allowed to use the road that drives over the dam that joins Nicholl’s Island to Long Island) and nearly swallowed up by the surrounding trees. I found these heritage photographs of the house in its heyday in the city of Ottawa report and was going to write a blog post contrasting how the house looked then and how it looks now:
But, alas. On Monday I came zipping down the dirt road on my bike, scootched past the gate, and stopped with my mouth open in shock. The house was gone, absolutely gone, without a trace. The outbuildings were gone, too. This is what it looks like now:
I can’t believe there isn’t a hint of the house left. Tristan and I rode out there not more than four or five weeks ago, so they moved pretty darn quickly to take it down. I can’t find any mention of the decision to tear it down online either.
I’m not quite sure why I feel such a deep loss over this. We’d only been admiring the house for a few years, and it was coincidentally only in the last few months that I’d really gotten a sense of the place. But it makes me so very sad that it’s gone.
It’s not the only disappearing house in Manotick. I’d been curious about this tiny little house on Bridge Street, obviously abandoned and overgrown, since we moved here in 2010.
It disappeared this summer, too, to make way for a block-long senior’s home. And there’s the silo on this barn that collapsed in 2011:
I can’t figure out if I’m happy to have the photos preserving these lost beauties or concerned that I’m condemning them with my camera!
Are you interested in the history of the Rideau Canal and Manotick? I’ve been rather obsessive in my research over the last couple of years and have learned a lot of interesting stuff! Leave a comment if you’d like me to share more, or even better, if you have any info to share about the former Rowat house or the history of Manotick and Long Island!
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