Ottawa The Great: Unveiling the heart and history of Canada’s capital

By Angela Lackey

A night at Beechwood National Memorial Centre to explore Ottawa’s past through stories, music, and community engagement.

On Feb. 22, 2024, the Beechwood National Memorial Centre will host “Ottawa The Great – A Historical Love Letter to Our City,” an evening dedicated to celebrating Ottawa’s vibrant history and heritage. This special event, starting at 7:00 p.m., promises to be a night filled with captivating historical tales, musical performances, and a communal appreciation for the city’s past.

The event will feature presentations by two esteemed historians, Christine Landry Matamoros and David C. Martin, who will delve into significant moments and figures in Ottawa’s history.

Accompanying the historical narratives, musician and local historian Paul Weber will enhance the evening with music that reflects the city’s cultural legacy.

Held at the Beechwood National Memorial Centre, located at 280 Beechwood Avenue in Ottawa, Ontario, attendees will also enjoy light refreshments and desserts following the insightful presentations. This gathering is not only an opportunity to learn about Ottawa’s historical journey but also to connect with others who share a passion for the city’s heritage.

This event is organized in partnership with the Capital Heritage Connexion, showcasing the collaborative effort to bring Ottawa’s history to the forefront. 

The featured speakers bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise: David C. Martin, a researcher with extensive academic and publication credentials, and Christine Landry Matamoros, a certified genealogist with a focus on historical interpretation. 

Paul Weber, known for his storytelling and musical talents, will provide a unique auditory backdrop to the evening.

A portal to Ottawa’s rich history

Nicolas McCarthy, the director of marketing communications and outreach at Beechwood National Memorial Centre, said his vision for Beechwood, Ottawa’s oldest cemetery, extends beyond its role as a final resting place — it’s a vibrant hub for historical education and community engagement.

Beechwood serves as a unique canvas, depicting the deep and diverse history of Ottawa. It’s not just a cemetery but a living history book that tells the tales of the city’s founders, its multicultural community, and the evolution of the capital city of Canada. 

From the Bytown era’s English, Irish, French, and Scottish settlers to the more recent communities like the Lebanese, Ukrainians, Polish, Japanese, Chinese and Asian communities, Beechwood mirrors the fabric of Ottawa’s society.

“It really is reflective of who Canada became.”

Under McCarthy’s guidance, Beechwood is hosting a series of historical events, including “Ottawa the Great,” aimed at debunking the myth of Ottawa as “the town that fun forgot.”

“People forget how deep and how diverse Ottawa’s history is,” said McCarthy. “And I think allowing people to come here, which is a place that has a diverse community, that really exemplifies what it is to be from Ottawa, what it is to be Canada.”

These gatherings are more than just lectures; they are immersive experiences that allow attendees to delve into the city’s past in a tangible and memorable way.

The connection between Beechwood Cemetery and Ottawa’s history is profound. As the final resting place for many of the city’s pioneers, the cemetery is a testament to the people who have shaped Ottawa and, by extension, Canada. 

This historical narrative is brought to life through meticulously planned events that highlight different aspects of the city’s past, from its architectural marvels to the diverse waves of immigration that have contributed to its rich cultural tapestry.

McCarthy said Beechwood prides itself on providing an exceptional level of service, being part of the community and giving back. 

“We provide things that are a little different,” McCarthy shares. “And in this case, these types of historical events allow us to sort of climb into our history and share a bit about Beechwood’s history as well, showing how integral we are to Ottawa and the development of Ottawa and then, by consequence, to the development of our province and the development of our country. 

“One of my favourite things is that we’re a reflection of the community that we serve, and we’re proud of that. And that’s why we look to share these evenings.”

Admission to these historical evenings is free; register online today.

This Content is made possible by our Sponsor; it is not written by and does not reflect the views of the editorial staff.

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