Federal District Plan (1922)

Town Planning in General Ottawa in Particular

            Speech delivered on June 20, 1918. Source: National Archives of Canada, MG 30 C105 Vol.1

Town planning is possibly best generalised as the adjustment or control of the “use and development of land”.


The fundamental aim of this science and art is to improve the living conditions of mankind, to abolish slums – whether of overcrowding in city or of [end of page 1] isolation in country – to enable the progressive evolution of civilization towards higher and enabling standards of life, physical, mental, and moral.

Some of you may think this is Socialism? Well, it is – of a kind – within the broad generalization of restricting private ownership in property – human and material.

It is the finest and the sanest of constructive Socialism – a kind which need not be feared, and which is coming – the kind which H. G. Wells would describe as arising from the “common sanity of mankind”. [end of page 2]

The World has been progressing in sociology, a bit halting and irregularly perhaps, yet progressing since the days of Charlemagne, who emancipated women from the status of a chattel (VIII century).

Professor Holborne Stoughton says:

“Man must have an environment, and there must be a relationship to this environment, and it must to a great extent enter into this concept of morality”.

In this light, town planning has become an important intellectual and scientific movement, fostering [end of page 3] moral evolution; and it is a great moral movement.

Basing our synthetic analysis on this natural principle that the Rays of the Sun are the ultimate source of all energy on this planet, there devolves the function of land and its duty to the State, – production, maintenance of life – the first law of nature.

Town planning is fundamentally a question of Ethics – the Ethics of shelter, practically a problem in Economics; aesthetically the art of expressing its functions with truthfulness and dignity. [end of page 4]


Ruskin crystallized economic truth sublimely when he wrote, “There is no wealth but Life”.

It is, therefore, to the maintenance and enhancement, and to the regeneration in higher forms of mind and of matter, those inseparable co-ordinated agencies of nature, that the race must look for its survival.

Town planners believe that land should not be built over to an extent excluding sunlight and air [end of page 5] from the buildings.

Life cannot thrive without sunlight and air – its exclusion, the lack of nourishment, entails the degeneration by slow starvation.

It devolves, therefore, from the nature of things that the width of streets and the proportion of buildings affect the birth rate, the death rate, and so render sad or cheerful and effective “allotted span”.

Wide, expensive streets in working home quarters incur such maintenance charges as entail high rents, high buildings – tenements – lacking in sunlight and air, in the properties of life. [end of page 6]

“The record of the Roman Empire, and of many lesser ones to date, reverting to barbarism, is ample lesson on the effects of “Commercial Cannibalism”, of economics that were incomplete and failed by lack of ethics”.

Town planning, in short, so understood, concedes to man as complete economics, the rightful opportunity to develop his soul as well as his body. [end of page 7]


National responsibility towards Ottawa entails making it irreproachably wholesome and ideally beautiful – in all respects a Capital of great inspirational value to the nation.

To this end many suggestions eventuated in a Commission and a plan.

Views of some suggestions and of the plan will be shown on the screens, elucidated by criticism, which I trust will be taken as constructive. [end of page 8]

As outlined, elemental considerations in planning range through life from birth to death, in ethics, economics, and art; architecture being perhaps the most tangible and popular manifestation of our insight into the problem of life.

Victor Hugo said, “Architecture is the great handwriting of the Race”.

By it students of architecture and archaeology, of history and economics, read the past as an open book wherein can be detected the mentality, the motives, and achievements of antiquity. [end of page 9]

Art is the simple and refined outward expression of inherent truth.

Commercialized art is to aesthetics as Commercialized vice is to ethics – a defilement.

Let us hope posterity will view us with kindly forbearing. [end of page 10]


1. Canada

Eastern Coal Situation: necessity for developing natural resources

[Item part of: Canada. Dept. of National Defense collection, Head Office Nova Scotia Steel & Coal Co. Limited, New Glasgow, N.S.]

2. Settlement

a. Atlantic Storm

b. “Don de Dieu”

[The “Don de Dieu” was the name of Champlain’s ship. Please see the Andrew Merrilees collection at the National Archives of Canada for an image of the “Don de Dieu” replica of Champlain’s ship of 1608 used in Quebec Tercentenary Celebrations. Accession: 1980-149]

c.  Plan of First Settlement, 1641

[“A First Settlement,” by W. H. Bartlett. (Source: Canadian Illustrated Scenery)
Note: Because of the harsh climate that the settlers encountered, the location of their first shelter was paramount. Building materials were not a problem in the dense virgin forest. The first shelter that was built was usually a crude and cramped log cabin. It was built of newly felled trees, which were still covered with bark]

3. France

View of Dieppe

[Hand coloured lithograph by Dolphe Maugendre]

4. Ottawa

a. Views of Old Parliament Hill

[This is a view of the parliament buildings, original Centre Block with the “Victoria Tower”, completed in 1878; destroyed by fire 1916. The architects were Thomas Fuller (1823-1898) and Chilion Jones (1835-1912).  Miscellaneous collection at the NAC. Accession: 1964-144. Reproduction: C-003760]

b. Library after fire

[This is a view of the parliament library after the fire. It is the library of parliament after 1885. William James Topley Collection at the NAC. Accession: 1936-270, Reproduction: PA-008334]

c. Reference to light wells and new layout

[This image is of the Old Parliament Buildings. Noulan Cauchon made reference to the light wells and the new layout of the buildings. NAC collection. Reproduction NACC-007236]

5. Canada

Early Architecture – “Topees”

[Cauchon was refereeing to early architecture when he used this image, National Archives of Canada PA 029766]

6. Ottawa

Wellington Street, White and Webb Scheme, 1913

            Unrelated to street system; doesn’t harmonize architecturally. Tower on four legs, 50 X 450 ft. Pillared Porticoes- nil light.

[ National Archives of Canada,  NA L-14903 ]

7. Brussels

Palais de Justice, focal point, street end

8. Ottawa

a. Comparative view (Parliament Hill buildings)

            Webb plan and existing buildings do not harmonize

            River should be plane of composition.

b. Mont St. Michel

[Cauchon used comparative view of Parliament Hill and Mont St. Michel. He wanted to show that the river should be the plane of composition. He discussed the idea that the Webb plan and existing buildings do not harmonize]

9. Illustrations (good composition)

a. Durham Cathedral

[Noulan Cauchon’s personal book collection, the National Capital Commission Library. Book is title: Statham, Hethcote (1912). A Short Critical History of Architecture. p.312]

b. Carcasonne-towers “flanking”

[Carcasonne towers, 1883, By Leroy Milton Yale, M.D. (1841-1906) available at http://ronaschneiderprints.com/C19_YaleCastleTower.htm]

c. Tibet—Potala, 1641-1701

10. Ottawa

a. Map “Federal District”

b. Map, 1912, “King’s Way”

[Cauchon showed this image in his 1918 speech to illustrate different proposals for Ottawa railways. The image is a proposal for King’s Way, boulevards up to Lyon and Elgin Sts. Proposed 15/1/12]

c. Map, 1913, Triway Bridge to Hull

d. Railways and Boulevards

e. Severance by G.T.R. and by C.P.R.

[Diagram showing the way in which Ottawa is cut into nine parts and Hull into four parts by railway lines and waterways. Original diagram used in page 33 of the Report of the Federal Plan Commission on a General Plan for the Cities of Ottawa and Hull: 1915, by Edward H. Bennett]

f. Aeroplane and view of Ottawa

11. Paris

Champs Elysees vs. Lyon Street (Ottawa)

[Champs Elysees. Noulan Cauchons personal book collection, the National Capital Commission Library. Book title: Robinson, Charles. Modern Civic Art or The City Made Beautiful. New York: Arno Press, p. 218]

12. Ottawa

a. Mr. Cauchon’s Park System

b. Topography of vicinity

c. Rock outcrop

d. Topography of city

e. Aeroplane view, Chaudiere

f. Diagram – Traffic Study and Nepean Bay as park

13. Ottawa Commission Plan

a. Freight yards, Sandy Hill

b. Bridge St., Hull

[Drawing No. 7 of the Report of the Federal Plan Commission on a General Plan for the Cities of Ottawa and Hull: 1915, by Edward H. Bennett]

c. Elimination of G.T.R. tracks

d. Relocation of C.P.R. tracks

14. New York

High Buildings

15. Paris

Dispositions for more light

[Noulan Cauchon would have likely discussed the importance of zoning for light]

16. Vienna

Public building, lacking light

17. Vancouver

C.P.R. Hotel – good lighting

[Cauchon discussed good lighting when he showed a slide of the C.P.R. Hotel Vancouver. Item part of: Albertype Company collection Canadian Pacific Railway Hotel Vancouver (graphic) ca. 1900-1925 / Vancouver, B.C.]

18. Ottawa Commission Plaza

a. Triangular light wells

[Drawing No. 15 of the Report of the Federal Plan Commission on a General Plan for the Cities of Ottawa and Hull: 1915, by Edward H. Bennett]

b. Heavy traffic to Wellington St.

[Drawing No. 14 of the Report of the Federal Plan Commission on a General Plan for the Cities of Ottawa and Hull: 1915, by Edward H. Bennett]

19. Shadow Diagrams

a. Orientation for sunlight

b. Avoidance of light wells

c. New Government Office Building

[Langevin Building on Wellington Street in Ottawa; constructed in 1883. The image is taken from Wright, Janet (1997) Crown Assets, p.39. The Original image is credited to M. Trepanier, Parks Canada, 1993]

20. Washington

Emergency Temporary buildings

[Gutheim, Frederick (1977) Worth of the Nation: The History of Planning for the National Capital. Page 151]

21. Ottawa Commission Plan

a. Comparative profiles

[Drawing No. 17  of the Report of the Federal Plan Commission on a General Plan for the Cities of Ottawa and Hull: 1915, by Edward H. Bennett]

b. Charm of old buildings

[This image is of the Old Parliament Buildings. NAC collection. Reproduction NACC-007236]

c. Central diagonal-futile

[Plan of municipal and railway centre, First period. Drawing No. 6(A)  of the Report of the Federal Plan Commission on a General Plan for the Cities of Ottawa and Hull: 1915, by Edward H. Bennett]

d. Chateau extension

[Plan of municipal and railway centre, Final period. Also shows the chateau extension.  Drawing No. 6(B)  of the Report of the Federal Plan Commission on a General Plan for the Cities of Ottawa and Hull: 1915, by Edward H. Bennett]

e. Arch bridge on curve

[Drawing No. 14 of the Report of the Federal Plan Commission on a General Plan for the Cities of Ottawa and Hull: 1915, by Edward H. Bennett]

f. Depressing canal

[Drawing No. 5  of the Report of the Federal Plan Commission on a General Plan for the Cities of Ottawa and Hull: 1915, by Edward H. Bennett]

22. Rome

a. Forum Civic Centre

b. Traffic features

23. Ottawa Commission Plan

a. Street System

b. Macoun Park

c. Subdivisions

24. French Chateau, architectural transitions

a.  Chateau Laurier

[William James Topley collection, G.T.R. Hotel Château Laurier, [graphic], 1911 / Ottawa, Ont.  TA-13 Former location in PA-NL. No longer a valid location. Described by the RECON project]

b.  de Usse

c.  de Pierrefonds

d.  de Chenonceaux

25. Ottawa

a. Rapid transit in canal bed

b. Connaught Place
[ex. National Archives of Canada, PA-057454, PA-057458, PA-057587]

26. Ottawa

d. Canal to St. Lawrence

e. Rideau Irrigation scheme

f. Grand River Irrigation

g. Canals or boulevards

h. C.P.R. irrigation ditch in West

i. Irrigating land

27. Egypt

a. Nile irrigation

b. The Wise Man of the East
[ex. “Ben Hur” – NAC Ben Hur Chariot Team Horses, National Archives of Canada, PA-060182]