Planning and Development of Lindenlea Garden Suburb (1919)

Source: The Canadian Engineer, Volume 47 (10), August 1924
Collected from National Archives of Canada, MG 30 C-105, File: Ottawa Town Planning 30 Sept- 1924, Date Aug 15, 1997.

Letter to the Editor: August 26, 1924
by Louis Simpson, criticizing Lindenlea Site Plan


Sir :- In your June 24th issue, you publish an article written by Thomas Adams, entitled “A Review of Town Planning in Canada.” In that article, Mr. Adams refers to “One small scheme in Ottawa,” which he claims “might have been made a model of site planning and housing for the whole country, if it had been carried out on the lines origin­ally planned.”

Ottawa citizens, who have made town planning, also economic and healthy housing a study, who also know the circumstances, totally disagree with Mr. Adams’ statement. They claim that the site was badly chosen, that the layout was most uneconomic, in fact the “small scheme” possessed the elements of disaster from the very commencement, that is as “originally planned.” They claim that appearance, alone, was considered; and further for a building site, consisting as this one did of glacial drift clay, full of large boulders, and without any municipal improvements, far too much money was paid.

Mr. Adams cannot relieve himself of his responsibility for this selection. Similar mistakes are likely to occur so long as he makes appearance (not health, comfort and econ­omy) the deciding and governing factor. When this is done the town planner prostitutes his profession and becomes simply a town planning milliner.

No town planning is worth while, unless its foundation is the economic betterment of humanity. When the money, to be expended, is a known factor, it is folly, it is worse than folly, it is a crime to expend upon the location, (includ­ing in that expenditure provision for the necessary improvements), and also upon such frills as make up what is known as the requisites of a “Garden City” such a large portion of the money available, that the balance is insufficient to provide the necessities of comfortable, durable and sanitary buildings, building suitable to the climatic conditions exist­ing. In no case must or can local conditions be ignored. To do so, is to court failure, as is evidenced in the Lindenlea, Ottawa, fiasco. Expenditures that might be justified at Bournville or at Latchworth (England) may be entirely improper, and even criminal, when undertaken in Canada or in New­foundland.

Because a certain style of clothing is considered suitable when worn on Bond Street, London, it does not follow that similar clothing must be worn in Canada, where at times the temperature is more than 30 degrees lower than zero and when with that temperature blizzards may be blowing. Mr. Adams will best safeguard his reputation by, at once, admitting that the Lindenlea town planning was a sad and grevious mistake and failure. The causes of the failure are known-also that, in future, risks of similar failures will be made impossible by remembering that appearance without comfort, is not conducive to success. It is human to err and when repentant the sinner is forgiven. The wise man will seek to profit by the results of his past mistakes so that similar mistakes may, in the future, be avoided.

The following is cut from a local paper and speaks for itself. “I think the city is going to take a shocking lose in selling these houses,” said Controller Ellis, “but we must face the fact that the longer they are left vacant the longer taxes accumulate, together with interest, and the more dilapi­dated they become. They must be sold, and sold soon.”

It is rumored that this “one small scheme” referred to by Mr. Adams will lose the city of Ottawa over $30,000, perhaps $45,000, as there are no less than 30 houses that will have to be disposed of at a considerable loss.

Economic town planning in Canada possesses features and local conditions so utterly different from those that exist in England, (I was born and brought up in England so am competent judge) that anyone who is “hide bound” to English practice is very liable to make very costly mistakes.

172 O’Connor St., Ottawa.

Source: The Canadian Engineer, Volume 47 (9), August 1924
Collected from National Archives of Canada, MG 30 C-105, File: Ottawa Town Planning 30 Sept 1924, Date Aug 15, 1997.

Letter to the Editor: September 30, 1924
by Thomas Adams, defending Lindenlea Site Plan


Sir: I wish it were possible for me to take the criticisms of Mr. Louis Simpson seriously as I should like nothing better than to thrash out the truth of some of his ideas of appearance and economy in relation to town planning. Unfortun­ately Mr. Simpson cannot be impersonal in any discussion that relates to myself; although I wish he would realize, for the sake of such public causes as he has at heart, that he suffers from a purely imaginary grievance. It is refreshing however, to have him make his latest attack in the open, as he does in your issue of August 26th.

He claims that he writes on behalf of Ottawa citizens “who have made a study of town planning” and agree with his views. I challenge him to give the name of one disinter­ested citizen who knows the facts about Lindenlea and will disagree with any statement of mine on the subject.

The site chosen for Lindenlea was an excellent choice and the plan made for its lay-out was both practicable and economic. Instead of there being any elements of disaster in the original scheme, the only thing that has saved it from disaster has been the landscape treatment. Mr. Simpson can obtain direct evidence in support of that statement from those who were the first to take up residence on the estate and were in a position to judge the merits and defects of the plan and its administration. It was only the preservation of the trees and the setting apart of ten per cent of the area for open space, in accordance with the best commercial practice of modern real estate developers, that prevented the full fruits of mismanagement of the architectural details and administration being reaped. With regard to the cost of the site I advised that it was too high and therefore have no responsibility but on the whole the price paid for the land was not unreasonable having regard to all the circumstances. The scheme could have been made profitable in spite of this if expert advice had been followed.

On the subject of appearance it is the exact contrary of the facts to say that this was given undue consideration or that regard for appearance has contributed to any loss. In­deed the only houses that cannot be sold are those which were erected with a blind regard for false ideas of economy and without regard for the amenities that are necessary to give stability to a housing scheme.

Mr. Simpson’s analogy between clothing in England and Canada is not too happy. After all the Bond Street cut and the Hawick or Bradford woollens are not regarded as inappropriate for Canadian wear. What would be wrong, and what forms a more correct comparison, would be for an English grocer to design clothing for Canada -but after all a Canadian grocer would not be so well fitted for the task as an English tailor.

Mr. Simpson refers to a loss of $30,000 to $35,000 on the Lindenlea scheme. If he wants to know why this loss has to be met he can ascertain the facts. He will find that it is because the original plan was not carried out; that the houses erected under proper expert advice are all occupied; that those of the original purchasers whose houses were erected with some regard for the plan of the site, and who had to leave the district, have sold their houses at no loss and in some cases at a profit. He can ascertain names from the secretary of the Lindenlea Association. He will find that those who erected their own houses have only been disap­pointed because the original ideas have been ignored; or be­cause their amenities have been destroyed by careless ar­rangement of adjoining houses. I visited one house the other day that was built according to a plan prepared in my office; only because the owner persisted that he would not accept an­other plan that he was asked to accept. The house like most of those erected was placed in a wrong position on the lot but the owner was satisfied on the whole and could have sold out at a considerable profit until recently. The Commission then allowed a house to be erected on an adjoining lot in a position that caused serious depreciation of the house first erected-with the result that the owner has suffered a loss estimated at $1,500 on his investment, as is proved by his, application for reduced assessment.

The houses that cannot be sold are badly planned, and their external appearance is so unattractive that they not only do not find purchasers but destroy the values of better designed houses in their neighborhood. There are parts of the estate that have a charm equal to that in the best housing neighborhoods in Ottawa because of the preservation of trees and open spaces, and the splendid efforts made by the owners to beautify their surroundings. Failure is only partial and even now, because of the character of the plan of the site, it would be possible for the city to get rid of the defects if they were prepared to make good the administrative mistakes that have been made. Unfortunately there are influences at work that make this difficult.

Nearly all, war and post-war housing had to be carried on at a loss, and even if the loss in Ottawa need not have been incurred if the advice originally given had been follow­ed, it would still be small compared to that of cities in other parts of the world. Ottawa had an opportunity to make Lindenlea a model scheme of national importance and even now with all its administrative faults it can be rescued from an ordinary real estate development.

            Yours faithfully,

Chateau Laurier, Ottawa.
September, 1924.