Hintonburg: Ottawa’s hipster neighborhood

The first time I was in Hintonburg it was a rainy day. I really couldn’t see much but as I lived that time in the East end of Ottawa, I never had the excuse or the curiosity to come back. What a mistake.

In the past month I have rediscovered Hintonburg. What I found is a neighborhood with a very rich past, with a vibrant scene that concentrates the art and cultural movements in Ottawa and one that has become a hub for emerging trends in food, fashion, and entertainment.

The heart of Hintonburg is Wellington Street West, which gathers all the businesses and stores. You can find a hip coffee shop, a vegan bakery, a cool bistro, a gift shop boutique or a baby shop with special items and unique articles.

But what also makes Hintonburg a very interesting place is its architecture. Red brick buildings, and old stone walls fill their streets, but also more recent artistic additions, such as the marble statues of hybrid fire hydrants on the corners of each block.

Hintonburg used to be a working-class neighborhood. Many of the houses are small, cute and old; some are 100 years old or more. They say that these houses were built by lumberjacks in the 1800s. I couldn’t stop taking photos with my smartphone!

One beautiful and impressive building is the 105-year-old neo-gothic Saint-Francois D’Assise Church, founded by monks from the Order of the Capuchins, that rises at the corner of Wellington Street and Fairmont Avenue.

Hintonburg went through a process of gentrification, which is a process of changing the character of a neighborhood. Did you know that in the eighties and nineties, Hintonburg was a rough place where prostitution and drugs raged?

The violent past of Hintonburg goes back even to the early 20th century when street fights and tavern brawls were commonplace.

That started to change in the nineties thanks to the joint effort of neighbors, who created the Hintonburg Community Association, and the Ottawa Police, as well as city agencies and other stakeholders.

By 2007, Hintonburg had caught the attention of the press. enRoute magazine named it one of the top ten emerging neighbourhoods in Canada, and the Financial Times said that Hintonburg was “thriving again.”

Today it’s considered a very cool neighborhood that attracts millenials, young couples, baby boomers or empty nesters. Large residential buildings are being built in or around Wellington Street to meet the demand.

“The evolving nature of our neighbourhood is attracting many new residents, businesses and artistic events. Restaurants, art galleries, artisans and craft businesses have opened in or relocated to our neighbourhood,” the Hintonburg Community Association said.

No wonder that housing prices are rising as are commercial rents.

Hintonburg is also home to the QUAD (Quartier des Artists, or Art District), an initiative promoted by the Hintonburg Community Association, which led to the transformation of many industrial and commercial spaces into galleries and workshops.

By 2004, ArtsParks was launched in the form of an outdoor fair in the QUAD. It showcases Ottawa artists and musicians each May. This fair usually includes live music, walking tours, activities for children, arts and crafts, and food stalls.

Another Hintonburg landmark is the Parkdale Market, a public farm products market established in 1924. It is open seven days of the week, throughout the year.

The market is located north of Wellington Street West along Parkdale Avenue, and there you can find seasonal vegetables and fruits, flowers in the spring time, and Christmas trees and firewood in December.

Parkdale Market and the adjacent Parkdale Park are the center for civic and social life in Hintonburg.  Since 2018, the Parkdale Market has been run by Ottawa Markets, a non-profit municipal corporation that also manages the Byward Market.

So, as you see there’s plenty to explore and see in Hintonburg. If you want to know more about the local businesses, check out this list. https://parkbench.com/hintonburg/businesses

I think fall is the perfect time to explore the city when it’s not so hot that you get tired and thirsty, and not so cold that you freeze. As long as the weather permits, I’ll definitely keep walking! Take care.

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