The National Capital Region (NCR) of our great country sometimes feels unexplored compared to the Rockies or the Eastern coast, which is exactly why Andrew Waldron, BGIS Heritage Conservation Program Manager for RP1 wrote and very recently published “Exploring the Capital: A Guide to the Ottawa-Gatineau Region.”
Andrew manages the Heritage Conservation Program at BGIS, which contributes to protecting and properly managing federal heritage buildings and national historic sites, while also managing movable heritage assets. BGIS manages a portfolio of 150+ buildings on behalf of PSPC, including federal heritage buildings ranging in age from pre-Confederation buildings of the 1840’s to government buildings of the 1970’s. Andrew believes that, “Preserving historic places is one of the cleanest means to a green future.”
“The book was a labour of love,” says Andrew. “I’m a public historian, which means that I try to interpret academic history into stories that get people interested and hooked.”
He timed it to be released just prior to Canada’s 150th, which had to be planned more than three years in advance to account for writing, editing, and translation (the book is available in both official languages). He describes the book as “the most recent update” on a 1983 version of “Exploring Ottawa” by Harold Kalman, which was the most relevant guide to the architecture of the city at the time.
It is unsurprising that things have changed in Ottawa since 1983 – and how. Some buildings have been demolished, and hundreds of new constructions and infrastructure upgrades have popped up in the last 30 years, including museums and a light rail train system that makes exploring easier for tourists and locals alike. In 2001, the amalgamation of Ottawa and Gatineau expanded both cities’ borders. Together, the population upped to 1.3 M residents, similar in size to Calgary and other major Canadian cities.
Andrew was a historian at Parks Canada for 18 years prior to coming to BGIS, which had him travelling cross-country to research National Historic Sites and managing the Canadian Register of Historic Places. This background and expanse of knowledge about Canada’s historic architecture is what led him to his current position managing the Heritage Conservation Program here at BGIS.
What he was missing was an updated guide to Ottawa’s more hidden architectural and historical gems, and who better to write one of those than him! “Exploring the Capital” includes 11 walking tours around the NCR and gets into the nooks and crannies of the region that would make anybody intrigued to start learning more about our capital’s history.
“I wrote this book to try to get people to understand the value of our collective, shared history,” says Andrew. “The history of these buildings, these places: they’re important to preserve and protect. I also didn’t just talk about famous or well-known places. There’s a strong history of Indigenous settlements along the Ottawa River, and there are some sites that are associated with early explorers and indigenous history in these tours. I wanted to honour those things and bring to light details that most people wouldn’t know, even when they work in heritage buildings like BGIS manages.”
The official book launch took place June 20 at the Library and Archives Canada in downtown Ottawa – which is a BGIS-managed facility on behalf of Public Services and Procurement Canada. They sold out of copies, a fact that makes Andrew incredibly proud: “I don’t want this book to be sitting collecting dust somewhere. I want people to use it to find out more about our amazing region.”
To purchase Andrew’s book and get yourself an incredible guide to Ottawa and Gatineau, click here!
You can also listen to a quick snippet about the book that aired on CBC Morning.