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History of Sparks Street

In 1821, Nicholas Sparks, a native of County Wexford, Ireland, was a farmhand for Philemon Wright. The opportunity came for him to purchase 200 acres (including a cabin with simple furnishings) from John Burrows Honey. The property lay on the Upper Canada side of the Ottawa River. Nicholas borrowed 95 pounds sterling from Philemon Wright so that he could make the purchase, sight unseen. 

When he went to claim his property, Nicholas was dismayed by the barren, desolate place and found that the land was of little worth. It was situated high above the Ottawa River and consisted of mainly limestone with only a few inches of poor topsoil. What scraggly trees and bushes there were, grew in crevices in the limestone. The property was useless for farming and had no obvious practical value. The land was Lot C, concession C, Nepean Township, which covered much of what is today downtown Ottawa, stretching from what is today Wellington Street in the north to Laurier Avenue in the south. It stretched west to modern Bronson Avenue and extended eastwards further than the Rideau Canal (to Waller) into what is today Sandy Hill. South of his land was the land of Colonel By. Today that land is in the central business core of Ottawa. 

Map drawn by Lord Dalhousie around 1824. It shows the land that he purchased for the government (marked 'Government Purchase'), as well as lots owned by Nicholas Sparks and Cpt. Lebreton, and Wrightstown across the river – Library and Archives Canada C16156 

In 1826, Colonel John By arrived to build the Rideau Canal and establish a small town. It turned out that the Sparks property lay completely within the boundaries of the newly drawn up town. Nicholas donated some land for the construction of the canal as well as the development of the small town, later to be known as Bytown. By 1836, he was able to sell small parcels of land for the construction of new homes and businesses. Over the years he attempted to develop his property as the commercial and administrative center of Bytown by establishing a market and civic buildings on his property. As a result, Nicholas became a wealthy landowner and a man of great influence in the new community. He owned the land and lived on the street that bears his name. (Source:  

Above: Ordinance Map, 1853. Source: 
Nicholas Sparks died on 27 Feb. 1862, aged 68. The Citizen reported: “He was a warm and firm friend, and his word was as good as his bond. He loved honesty and highly valued those in whom it was found.” Sparks was able to build a beautiful Georgian style stone house in 1830. This home was located near the northwest corner of what is now Sparks and Lyon, and the front entrance faced Wellington Street and the Ottawa River. (Source:   

Nicholas Sparks House, built 1830, demolished 1954.

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