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Hull Landing
On the Parc Laurier shoreline

Ottawa ferry landing

From time immemorial, long before the arrival of the Europeans, Aboriginal peoples camped near the site of the E. B. Eddy tower. They would stop here before going upstream or downstream from the Chaudière Falls. European explorers and travellers of all kinds did the same. Michel Chartier de Lotbinière mentions having camped there on his way down the Ottawa River in 1749.

Philemon Wright chose this busy spot to build a quay. Travellers who did not stop and camp before the portage would moor their boats closer to the falls, near the site of the of Aboriginal encampment. Otherwise, they portaged past the falls and camped there. Larger steamboats had other technical requirements, and it was preferable for them to dock on this bank. These boats had been travelling the river for about ten years when Philemon Wright launched his first steamer, the Union of Ottawa, in 1819. In 1829, he had two other steamboats, the Britannia and the Fox, which travelled regularly between Hull and Grenville. Besides passengers, they transported merchandise and brought back equipment used on the wood cribs that travelled downstream as far as Quebec City. From Steamboat Landing, or Hull Landing, carts and carriages carried travellers and goods up to the village near the Chaudière Falls.

On a cadastral map of 1801, a dotted line indicates the location of a path. The first colonists cleared this path, probably an ancient trail, between the landing and the village. Britannia Road, as it was called, started at the quay, followed what are now Hôtel-de-Ville Street and the Promenade du Portage, and continued along Aylmer Road as far as Eardley.

In 1819, Philemon Wright wrote to his sons that the increased traffic on the Ottawa River justified the construction of a hotel or an inn near the steamboat dock. In 1863, there was still a wooden hotel, built around 1820 and sometimes called "King's Tavern", near the landing, as well as the steamboat house, a shed at the edge of the water. A woodshed and an ice house, both on stone foundations, were used by the staff of the hotel. Between 1825 and 1840, Wright added a stone barn with an adjoining shed for carriages and carts. The hotel had a cellar three metres deep, with a stone wing on either side, when Hannah inherited it from her father Ruggles Wright in 1863. The management of the hotel was contracted out. Jean Bédard (1804-1854), a clerk for Wright from 1828 to 1836, was one of the managers until the mid-1840s. He was the owner of the ferry that travelled between Hull and Bytown. Bédard moved to Bytown and in 1847 he became its first francophone alderman.

The site remained unchanged until 1868, when Hannah Wright's brother, Ruggles, and a fellow citizen named Batson built a sawmill, known under the name of "Wright, Batson & Currier." They put the former landing buildings to other uses. Part of the old hotel became a planing workshop, another part was used for carpentry, and another for storing oil. The old stone magazine housed the steam engines running the saws in the adjoining mill. Finally, the old barn was replaced by a building of similar shape for storing iron. The sawmill, which employed between 200 and 300 workers, not counting the people who transported the wood, was short-lived: in 1878 a fire razed the sawmill, but spared the other buildings. The site was abandoned until 1883, when Ezra Butler Eddy rented the land and the buildings from Hannah Wright, the widow of Joseph Merrill Currier. The rental agreement contained an option to buy, which was implemented on February 28, 1888. Eddy integrated some of the old buildings into his new sulphite pulp mill.

For a century, the banks of the Ottawa were inaccessible to the citizens, as industry monopolized the former transit and encampment site.