Marching to Equality: The VLP Walking Tour

March through the history of Ottawa's LGBT community and discover the people, places, topics and events that helped shaped our legacy.

Text, images and videos featuring interviews from over 35 community leaders will guide you through LGBT history from before 1969, when homosexuality was decriminalized in the Criminal Code, through the liberation movement from 'We Demand', the first LGBT political demonstration in Canada held on Aug 28, 1971 on Parliament Hill, to today.

VIDEO: Hate Crimes and the Murder Spree of 1989

The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is dis-proportionally victimized by hate crimes, bullying and assault, sometimes so consistently that the victims feel death is their only escape. While estimates of LGBT population in Canada range…

Ottawa LGBT History: The 'Fruit Machine'

In the Cold War era, fears of communism and security reaches near paranoia, and queers, mainly gay men, were spied on and hunted out as so-called ‘security risks’, allegedly because of fears they could be blackmailed to tell government secrets. The…

Edge Club and Lounge - Club AWOL

The Edge was known as the largest dance bar in the 2000s and was generally popular with a younger crowd. Before it was a gay bar, it was known as the Cave for many years, and when you look at the interior, with the dark stone nooks and crannies, you…

Edge Sauna

In 2007, the owners of the Edge nightclub decided to open a bathhouse called the Edge Sauna, in the same building as the bar. There were already two bathhouses for men in Ottawa, but neither were considered very attractive or clean. The Edge Sauna…

Club Polo

Club Polo was a popular bar in the 1990s and 2000s on Bank near Sparks Street before it closed down, allegedly because the owners were busted for selling drugs in the premises. It offered a relaxed atmosphere with a wooden dance floor on its first…

AIDS Committee of Ottawa: 207 Queen Street

The AIDS Committee of Ottawa was formed in 1985 after Barry Deeprose, a board member at Pink Triangle Services, declared there was an urgent need to deal with the growing AIDS crisis in Ottawa. A first meeting on October 9th that year draw large…

Swizzles

Swizzles is a bias-free bar with a relaxed atmosphere that welcomes all. The crowd can include anyone from retired civil servants, trans youth, straight couples making out, or a table of college-aged lesbians, and everyone gets along just fine. The…

Ottawa LGBT History: Before Liberation

As challenging as life in the 70s and 80s were, the time before liberation was to live as a sexual outlaw. Remember that the LGBT movement for rights and freedoms is only 50 years young. People of our parents and/or grandparents age risked…

VIDEO: Everett George Klippert and Bill C-150

Everett George Klippert was the last person to be imprisoned for homosexuality in Canada. In 1960, he is given four years in jail on eighteen counts of ‘gross indecency’. He is arrested again in 1965, this time on four counts of ‘gross indecency’,…

Club Soda

Club Soda was a small, but chic dance and cocktail bar open for a few years in the early 2000s. The décor was primarily white and black with wood accents such as cut log high-top tables. The bar lined one wall and the small DJ booth faced it on the…

Stroked Ego

Stroked Ego is a great boutique men's clothing store that's gay owned and operated. Opening at 224 Bank in 2010, the store relocated to its current location on the second floor at 131 Bank five years later. The store offers a wide and fashionable…

Clover food | drink

Clover is a clean and bright little bistro that offers, as their Web site describes, 'humble' cuisine that's all made with local, sustainable ingredients. It opened just north of Laurier on Bank in 2014. Chef West de Casto is getting raves from…

Ottawa LGBT History: The 'Vice Ring' Case

On March 3, 1975, Michel Gravel was arrested for running two male nude modelling agencies that were used as a front for a prostitution service. Allegedly, he was getting leaned on by mafia and went to the police for help, who ended up arresting him…

Club Private

There's not much to see now, but around the space where an underground parking lot entrance now exists, Club Private was on the top floor of the former Rideau Winter Club building at 227 Laurier. A bathhouse on most nights, on Friday and Saturday…

Shades - The Vault

Shades was on the second floor of a building that was torn down, so what you'll see now the Laurier House, which occupies a much larger section of the block. Opened in Jan or Feb of 1982 by Les McAfee and Bill McBurney, it became Ottawa's first…

Klub 100 - Teo

A gay bar, called Klub 100 and Teo at different times, used to occupy this spot now dominated by a high-rise tower.If you know more details about this place, please email info@bankstreet.ca to share dates, facts, images or more.

YMCA: 123 Metcalfe

The YMCA moved to this location on Metcalfe and Laurier (then called Maria Street) from O'Connor and Queen in 1906. A men's-only athletic club was naturally very popular with gay and bisexual men. It was equipped with a pool, billiards room, shooting…

166B - The B - La Réception

The B, as it was often called by regulars, was just around the corner from the Lord Elgin Hotel, which had just unceremoniously abandoned the queer clientele it had for years in the basement bar and 1st floor 'library' tavern in about 1981. Some of…

VIDEO: 'Lord Organ' and the Persecution of Queers

The Lord Elgin's queer history is legendary, and starts virtually at its opening in 1941. Located near the drill hall, it became a natural space for closeted gay and bisexual men, especially those working the government, to meet here. In the 50s and…

Egale Canada

Egale Canada (Egale was originally was an acronym for Equality for Gays and Lesbians Everywhere) had started in 1985 as a queer civil rights group in the living room of Jamie Robertson. Their main initial goal was to have sexual orientation protected…

Ottawa LGBT History: The Fight for Trans Rights

It's been said that trans rights are at least 20-30 years behind gay rights in the larger LGBT liberation struggle. Although there have always been trans people, just like there have always been gays, lesbians and bisexuals, its only quite recently…

Bank Street Diversity Mural

This mural, meant to recognize the history and diversity of the Bank Street community, was commissioned and painted in or around 2010 by the Bank Street Business Improvement Association. The focus is a reproduction of an archival photograph showing a…

Capital Xtra! - Xtra! Ottawa

With the increasing costs and amount of time of maintaining printing of the GO Info periodical, Gays of Ottawa, which by this time was called Association of Lesbians and Gays of Ottawa, asked Pink Triangle Press, publisher of the successful Xtra!…

Venus Envy

An awesome, clean and friendly sex shop for women and queer folks? Yes, please. Venus Envy Ottawa is one of two small Canadian sex shops, the other being Halifax, which also has a full bookstore.It first opened in 2001 on Parent Avenue in the Byward…

VIDEO: The Lesbian and Feminist Movements

The history of the lesbian community in Ottawa begins well before the modern queer liberation and feminist movements that started in the early seventies.Gay women were left with even fewer options to meet each other than gay men who had at least had…

Canadian AIDS Society

Located at 190 O'Connor Street, CAS was founded in 1986 at the height of the AIDS crisis with 16 original members, including the AIDS Committee of Ottawa, working out of a shared Edmonton office. CAS becomes a registered charity in 1988 and moves to…

VIDEO: The History of GO, 1971—1979: Baptism to Fire

Gays of Ottawa (GO) which became ALGO then ALGBO as the name reflected the realities of the diversity in the community, had a nearly 25 year history from 1971 to 1995 as a queer political, social and health services organization. Started months after…

Bruce House

Bruce House was formed in 1988 during the height of the AIDS crisis in Ottawa. A sub-committee of the AIDS Committee of Ottawa, the AIDS Housing Group, was desperately looking for funding and a home to offer housing and hospice care to predominately…

Ten Oaks Project

Holly and Julia Wagg, parents themselves, decided to found a new organization in 2004 that would offer LGBT children or children of LGBT parents, a safe, welcoming and educational and supportive summer camp program that nurtures self-worth and…

One in Ten

Now located on the second floor at 256 Bank, One in Ten is a long-standing gay-owned sex shop. The store was located further north at 216 Bank for many years. Primarily a video rental store, with sex toys, lubes and condoms, the store also boasts a…

Icon - Top Drawer - Shadows

Icon was THE hot spot in town during the 1990s and early 2000s. Owned by Wayne Cave and Ed St Jean of CP, Steamworks and Franky's, The bar offered a multi-level lounge and dance experience for the whole community. The basement bar was frequently the…

Centretown Community Health Centre - Gay Zone

CCHC is Centretown's (and the Village's) spectacular community centre. Since 1969, they have been offering a wide variety of health and well-being services. Their team includes doctors, nurses, social workers, counsellors, dietitians, community…

Ottawa LGBT History: The Club Baths Raid

On May 22, 1976, Ottawa police raid the Club Baths at 1069 Wellington Street West and arrest 27 men. Twenty-two were charged as 'found-ins', two with 'gross indecency' and three as being 'keepers'. Although owner Peter Maloney doesn't recall the…

Ottawa LGBT History: Queer People of Colour

Like anywhere, queer people of colour in Ottawa are an intersection of minority groups and may face racism in the LGBT community, and homophobia or transphobia in their ethnic community. Visibility of queer PoC in the LGBT community has been lacking…

Centretown Pub - Central Park - Zippers - Overdraft

Whether you loved it or loathed it, CP was definitely an institution. As the longest running gay bar in Ottawa, when it closed in early 2017, the community was reeling from the news. Rumours that it was in trouble had been circulating for some time,…

Ottawa LGBT History: The Ottawa Knights

It's said that the widespread attraction to men in leather began in the Second World War when men in uniforms were everywhere, and later with films like "The Wild Ones" which featured a leather-clad Marlon Brando on a motorcycle. Ottawa's leather…

Willy's

Willy's was one of two bars opened and operated by Willy Wilgress, who was a popular bartender at Shades for many years. Her other location, called Willy's Upstairs, was in the Byward Market at 87 George Street. In recent years, this location has…

T's Pub

T 's Pub is the newest LGBT-friendly space in the Ottawa/Gatineau region. Opening in spring 2017, it fills the void left by the sudden closure of Centretown Pub just steps away. It is one of only three LGBT or bias-free bars left in Ottawa. Located…

VIDEO: The History of GO, 1979—1995: Unity to Division

Gays of Ottawa (GO) which became ALGO then ALGBO as the name reflected the realities of the diversity in the community, had a nearly 25 year history from 1971 to 1995 as a queer political, social and health services organization. Started months after…

Inn on Somerset

The Inn on Somerset was a well loved and respected gay-owned bed and breakfast that operated for many years, notably in the 2000s and 2010s. George Hartsgrove, who owned the Rideau View Inn on Frank for many years previously, needed a bigger hotel as…

Kind (formerly Pink Triangle Services)

Pink Triangle Services, which recently changed its name to Kind, has a long and interesting history. In 1984, Gays of Ottawa (GO) was recognizing that funding was hard to obtain without a charitable designation. It was decided that a new organization…

Village Inn Pub

The Village Inn Pub was a casual drinking and dining pub on Bank Street. It hosted a popular karaoke night for many years. It changed ownership and was rebranded as Connor's Pub, turning into a more mainstream space. However, with the closing of CP…

The Gilmour Inn

Located just west of Bank Street, the Gilmour Inn offers Edwardian elegance to guests in seven beautifully appointed rooms since its opening in 2012. Owner Richard Brouse purchased the property after selling the building of the former Inn on…

Club 363 - Pride Disco - Camp B - Q - Wet Lounge

This space on the NE corner of Bank and Gilmour Streets was at one time a tough biker bar, and the neighbourhood was quite dangerous. When the bar turned into a gay space, it helped transform the area and helped anchor the area as an unofficial Gay…

Ottawa LGBT History: 'We Demand'

On the corner of Bank and Gilmour Streets, a mural commissioned by the Village Committee was unveiled on the 40th anniversary of the 'We Demand' demonstration, the first ever such protest in Canada for LGBT rights. It shows a young Charlie Hill…

Stonewall - Wilde's

Stonewall - Wilde's is a new merger of two longstanding gay-owned stores, a bookstore and a sex shop, with its own unique product line of local handmade arts and crafts and men's fashion and accessories. After Stonewall was a LGBT-specific bookstore…

The Buzz

The Buzz Restaurant is a bistro-style eatery and bar in the heart of the Village. The main features or the space are the bar area itself with a striking wall shelf for liquor, and the banquettes that line the wall with extra high upholstered seating.…

Screaming Mimi's

Screaming Mimi's was a coffeehouse beside the old location of Wilde's on the east side on Bank between Gilmour and Lewis, operating for a few years in the 1990s. The space is now the home of Thimblecakes bakery.If you know more details about this…

Lewis Street Sauna - Steamworks for Men

Lewis Street Sauna, named for much longer as Steamworks for Men, was a men's bathhouse owned by Wayne Cave and Ed St Jean, who also owned CP and Icon. The location was ideal for those who were at either of the bars, but wanted to walk over to the…

Ottawa LGBT History: The Village

On February 15, 2006, then city councillor Diane Holmes hosted a town hall meeting for the LGBT community seeking input from the community regarding the reconstruction of Bank Street. The meeting, with approximately 100 in attendance, makes clear…

VIDEO: HIV/AIDS in Ottawa

1982 sees the first cases of HIV in Ottawa. On August 24, 1982, over seventy people attend a Gays of Ottawa talk on ‘gay cancers’. In August 1983, Peter Evans comes out as Ottawa’s first AIDS patient. Evans participates briefly in the first AIDS…

Rialto Theatre

The Rialto opens in 1931 on Bank At the time of its opening it was described as beautiful and upscale, but it wasn't well-maintained and the building quickly began to show wear. In the 50s to 70s, it was known as 'The Rat Hole', because of the other…

Bottom's Up

The current Book Bazaar had quite a queer history. The basement held a bar called Bottom's Up for many years, with the upstairs having, at least for a time, a Latin restaurant. Bottom's Up closed in 2002 and eventually the entire building was taken…

Franky's on Frank - Chez Nous

Now converted back into a residential home, 303 Frank was home to first Chez Nous, owned by the owners of Icon and CP, then purchased by Karldon Okruta and renamed Franky's on Frank. The bar's main claim to fame was its male strippers, which was a…

Flamingo

In the vacant location underneath Morning Owl Coffeehouse, Flamingo was a high-end nightclub that opened with much fanfare in early 2011. Though the drinks were well-made and they offered impressive performance acts and featured world-class DJs in an…

Ottawa Women's Bookstore

The Ottawa Women's Bookstore is opened in 1982 by Peggy Harris and Lee Fleming at 380 Elgin Street at Gladstone, three years after a horrible fire destroyed the building which housed the GO Centre for a time. The store becomes a welcomed meeting…

VIDEO: Lesbian Bars and the History of LOON

For the first part of this series on the Lesbian and Feminist movements, click here. Marie Robertson, along with Rose Stanton and others such as Candis Graham, forms a separate organization called Lesbians of Ottawa Now (LOON) in June 1976, operating…

Ottawa LGBT History: Capital Pride

Ottawa gets it's first Pride event in 1986, when a small group of roughly 50 people gather in Strathcona Park for a picnic. Gabriella Goliger recalls going to the picnic, which had many colourful balloons with lesbian and gay gender symbols drawn on…

Introduction: Out of the Village

Looking for more information on the LGBT community in Ottawa? We wanted to make sure that you also take the opportunity to discover the rich and fascinating history that happened outside the Village. Check it out! Start exploring here
The Village Legacy Project is made possible by the Bank Street Business Improvement Area, the City of Ottawa, the Province of Ontario, Daily Xtra, Swirl and Twirl and other sponsors, volunteers and resources.