Blackburn – A brief history of the area

Published in The BANAR June 2021

By Francis Kenny. 

North of Blackburn runs Old Montreal Road, known today as St. Joseph Boulevard. The actual  concession where the road should have run is about a quarter mile south and runs approximately parallel to the quarry on the east-west section of what is now Bearbrook Road.  As a child growing up, I knew it as the Canada Cement Road, after the company that operated the quarry.

Old Montreal Road used to carry all traffic between Ottawa and Montreal. In the late 1940s construction began on the new Highway 17 (now Regional Road 174). This road was built adjacent to, and partially over, the old Canadian Northern Railroad that was removed in the late 1930s. The cement footings used for the railroad bridge that spanned Green’s Creek still stand, and can be viewed on one of the walking trails behind Green’s Creek Toboggan Hill.

The Canada Cement Road (now Bearbrook Road) ran straight south as far as the crusher. There was a T intersection that was part of the Concession Road, running east-west. If you went straight, you entered the Canada Cement crusher area. If you turned east, the road ran about a half of a mile up the hill. My grandmother’s family, the Harts, had a farm at the very eastern end of the Concession Road on this hill. My great uncle James Hart sold the family farm to the quarry and built a two-story stone house on the corner of Montreal Road at Hart Road, across from the school-house (now a Montessori school).

When you turned west at this T intersection, the road ran parallel to the Canada Cement property and then turned south, as it does today. The new paved road follows the old dirt road over the brook. There were farmers’ fields with new growth forest where the Hornets’ Nest soccer fields are today.

At Northpark, instead of heading south as it does today, the old road followed a path southeast, staying close to the DND perimeter fence. The old road ended at Innes Road where the child-care centre currently sits. Many of you will remember this location as a convenience store but before that it was the location of Leo Mainville’s Blacksmith Shop.

As the road crossed Innes and went past the Blackburn School (now Norman Johnston) it was called Navan Road. The Cleroux family had a house and barn here. My father knew many and worked closely with some of the farmers along this stretch. Family names such as the McNeeleys (where the greenhouses now sit), Purdy’s, Elliots, Kemps and Bradleys, are all names long associated with the Blackburn community. Farmers working together was an age-old tradition and those hard-working women and men laid the foundations for the community that we enjoy today.

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