Sparks Street (Ottawa)
Sparks runs from Elgin Street in the east to Bronson Avenue. The Sparks Street Mall that contains a number of outdoor restaurants and also a number of works of art and fountains only runs from Elgin to Bank Street. The pedestrian only portion continues for another two blocks westward with the final two blocks west of Lyon Street being a regular road.
The mall and most of its buildings are owned and operated by the National Capital Commission.
Located one block south of Wellington Street (the home of the Canadian Parliament) Sparks Street is one of Ottawa's more historic streets with a number of heritage buildings. The street is named after Nicholas Sparks, the farmer who early in the mid-nineteenth century cut a path through the woods on his holding that would eventually become the street.
When Ottawa was selected as Canada's capital the area became even more important as the street became home to a number of government offices and homes for parliamentarians. One of these was Thomas D'Arcy McGee who in 1868 was assassinated outside his home at the corner of Sparks and Metcalfe. The street also became Ottawa's commercial hub and was home to a number of the city's banks and the lumber companies of the Ottawa Valley.
The peak of the street was in the early twentieth-century when a number of Beaux-Arts buildings that still stand were erected. As the city expanded the downtown became less centralized and commerce spread to neighbouring streets. Government ministries, requiring larger offices, also went elsewhere. In 1959 the street's streetcar line was closed, further hurting business.
In 1961 a plan to temporarily transform the street into a pedestrian mall for the summer was introduced in an attempt to revive the its fortunes. The success of these closings convinced the city to close the street permanently to vehicles. This effort has only been partly successful. Sparks street is far less central to the commerce of the city than Rideau Street or Bank Street. The lack of nearby parking reduces the amount of business and it is most frequented by the denizens of the many nearby office towers. On evenings and weekends it is thus quite empty.
In part to rectify this an attempt is being made to bring more residents to the region with the creation of nearby hotels and condominiums.
It once contained Murphy-Gamble (later Simpson's), Morgan's, C.Ross, and Bryson-Graham's department stores
The eastern section of the street sees a number of the oldest buildings, included is the Ottawa post office from 1937, the Ottawa Electric Building, home of the company that ran Ottawa's streetcars, built in 1926, Ottawa's first high-rise, built in 1910, and branches of a number of Canada's banks from the same era.
A pair of notable newer buildings are also on this section of the mall. These are the new home of the Ottawa branch of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which as of August 2004 is nearing completion. At the corner of Metcalfe and Sparks is the large Thomas D'Arcy McGee Building, one of Ottawa's more visually arresting high-rises as it is shaped somewhat like a squat "7".
West of Bank Street, outside of the mall itself, the street is overshadowed by the C.D. Howe Building, the home of Industry Canada on the south and the headquarters of the Bank of Canada to the north. West of the bank is the home of the Department of Justice in the St. Andrew's Towers and the East Memorial Building with other government departments in the West Memorial Building. West of these buildings the street becomes far less notable being home to several hotels and smaller buildings. The final block of the rather short street has the Garden of the Provinces to the north and Christ Church Cathedral, Ottawa's main Anglican church, to the south.