Bordered by the Ottawa River an Gatineau, Quebec, Ottawa is Canada’s thriving capitol city. Canada’s fourth largest city, Ottowa is unique among North American cities in that it is bilingual. While English is the first language of many, French is just as common, and most residents can understand both.
The Algonquins called the river Kichissippi, translating to “Great River”. The first European to travel up this river, Etienne Brule, passed by the site Ottawa would occupy on travels to the Great Lakes in 1610. Samuel de Champlain wrote about the waterfalls and other natural formations in the area, as well as his encounters with the Angonquins who occupied the area in 1613. Many missionaries would follow their paths in later years.
The first settlement was established in 1800 by New England resident Philemon Wright. Five families and twenty-five laborers began to create a farming community called Wrightsville. Wright established the Ottawa Valley timber trade, which would go on to become the area’s most important economic endeavor.
In 1826 Bytown was established because of work on the Rideau Canal (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Bytown transformed into modern day Ottawa. The canal, built entirely by hand, was meant to secure safe travel between Montreal and Kingston on Lake Ontario. It was completed in 1832, by which time Bytown’s population had grown to 1,000 residents. When it was incorporated as a city in 1855, it was renamed to Ottawa.
Queen Victoria chose Ottawa as a capitol for the Province of Canada in 1857. It was chosen because its position on the river allowed for easy transportation, and yet it was also easily defensible. It is also a good midway point between Toronto and Quebec City. As a smaller city it was also believed it would be less prone to political riots, unlike previous Canadian capitols.
With lumber trade being one of the area’s biggest economic activities, lumber mills became incredibly common the 1850s. Lumber barons established some of the largest mills in the world at this time. In 1854, rail lines connected Ottawa with the transcontinental railroad, opening new opportunities for trade, tourism, and travel.